Open Ear Hearing Aids

Kalpana Kumari May 6, 2019
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Open ear hearing aids keep the ear canals open and enable the wearers to hear more natural-sounding voices. They are ideal for those who suffer from mild to moderate low-frequency hearing problems. Here, we provide some information regarding the same.
The most common annoyance for hearing aid users is the occlusion effect. The occlusion effect is described as the sensation of the ears being plugged. The users hear their voice sounding like they are talking in a barrel. The reason behind the occlusion effect is that the ear canals get blocked by these devices.
This alters the natural resonance in the ear canals and the voice sensing capacity of an individual. Another problem with the use of conventional hearing aids is their big size, which gets easily noticed, making many wearers feel embarrassed and frustrated.
Both the aforementioned problems can be solved with the use of open ear hearing aids as they minimize the occlusion effect and are too small to be observed. 
Therefore, they provide a valuable service to the users as mentioned:
  • They are small devices that are set up either on top of or behind the ear. They do not block the ear canal as the tubes are very thin.
  • They are so light that the users don't feel any weight after a few minutes of putting them on.
  • They are available in two models: acoustic thin tube open fit model and speaker in the ear (SIE) model.

Acoustic Tube Open Fit Model

In this model, all the electronic components are contained in a plastic shell. This is kept behind the ear. The sound first gets processed in this plastic shell, and then moves through the acoustic thin wire to enter the ear.

Speaker in the Ear Model

The SIE model moves the speaker from the plastic shell to the tip of the acoustic thin wire. Therefore, this model requires less gain in amplification at the ear level to generate the same output in the ear canal. This enables it to be used for a broader range of hearing disabilities. 
The fitting range is a maximum of 60dB in low-frequency and 80dB in high-frequency. This is an advantage over the acoustic tube open fit model, which is more suitable for high-frequency hearing impairment. In the SIE model, as the sound does not have to move through a thin wire, the quality of the signal gets improved.
People who are affected by severe hearing loss can benefit from an SIE model by wearing it with a dome-tip ear plug, or a custom ear mold.

Advantages

  • The open ear hearing aid diminishes the occlusion effect to a great extent.
  • It is extremely small, light in weight, and easy to fit.
  • It is ideal for normal low-frequency hearing impairment. Hearing aids which leave the ear at least partly open are appropriate for high-frequency hearing disability.
  • They are equipped with directional microphones. This allow the users to point directly to the speaker and get better sound clarity, even in a noisy and crowded place.
  • They are available in quite an affordable price range.

Disadvantages

  • These devices have small batteries with short battery lives.
  • The directional microphones available with them are automatic and cannot be adjusted for volume control.
  • There is a limit to the amplification of sound frequencies in these devices.
The aforementioned information would help you decide whether the open ear hearing aids are appropriate for you or not. Always consult an audiologist to get one according to your needs.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.
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