Hearing aids are small devices that are designed in such a way that they can be fitted outside or inside the ear. They are of considerable assistance to individuals who are suffering from minor to moderately severe deafness. However, these aids cannot be of any help to those individuals who are totally deaf or whose inner ear has been damaged beyond repair.
Over the years, a variety of hearing aids have been developed and introduced in the market, each having its own set of pros and cons. However, all of them work on more or less the same principle. Each one makes use of the following basic components:
- Sound amplifier
- Speaker device
The basic function of any hearing aid is to catch the sound waves through the microphone and amplify them using the sound amplifier, so that the wearer can hear them through the speaker. When hearing aids were first introduced, all that existed was a basic model that needed to be fitted outside the ear.
However, a lot of people found these devices tacky and uncomfortable to wear. Consequently, after a lot of research and development, we are today able to see a wide range of hearing aids which provide people with a variety of choices; something that wasn't possible a few decades ago.
Types of Hearing Aids: An Overview
Different people have different requirements and preferences. This is a major factor that has been taken into consideration while coming up with the following types.
Behind The Ear (BTE) Model
This is the most basic and oldest of hearing aids. It consists of a small, semi-circular plastic unit which, as the name suggests, needs to be placed behind the ear. It is connected to an additional plastic earmold which is fitted in the ear.
The plastic unit houses the microphone and the amplifier, whereas the earmold contains the speaker which transmits the amplified sound waves towards the inner ear, thereby enabling the wearer to hear the sound. This type of hearing aid is suitable for minor to moderate hearing loss.
In The Ear (ITE) Model
This type of hearing aid consists of a single unit that is small enough to be fitted in outer ear. It is mostly made of plastic, although there exist a few silicon variants as well. This particular hearing aid is custom-built for each and every person, depending on the size of his or her outer ear. It is useful for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
In The Canal (ITC) Model
These are also custom-built according to the size of the person's ear canal. This hearing aid is placed in a manner that is similar to the way in which we cover our ears with earplugs while swimming. These are generally not recommended for children since size of a child's ear keeps on growing with age. It makes this type of hearing aid unsuitable for kids.
Completely In Canal (CIC) Model
As the name suggests, this type completely inside the ear canal. It is an advanced version of the ITC model, and is hardly visible from outside. All the new age hearing devices shown in the James Bond films and other spy movies are nothing but radical Hollywood versions of the CIC model.
However, as this hearing aid is fitted deep inside the ear, it is prone to damage due to excessive earwax or severe ear infections.
These were some common types of hearing aids that are available today. Remember, they depend highly on the type of hearing loss. You should decide upon one only after consulting an audiologist or an otolaryngologist.