World of Sound Blog

The Different Types of Hearing Solutions – Which One is Right for Me?

- Thursday, June 18, 2015

You’ve decided it’s time to act on your hearing loss. Now what do you do?

Everyone’s hearing story is unique. People experience hearing loss for different reasons and take different paths to overcome their hearing issues - which is why there are many options. Regardless of the reason or extent of your hearing loss, a good first step is to visit a hearing professional.

Many people begin their hearing loss journey with an assisted listening device like a personal sound amplifier, also known as a Personal Sound Amplifier Product (PSAP), or a personal frequency modulation system. Most of these devices are simply amplifiers, making the sound louder, but not clearer. Some assisted listening devices focus solely on specific devices, such as your phone or television.

PSAPs have become more feature-rich

Some PSAPs not only amplify sound, but they are also able to function as a Bluetooth for your phone and can stream audio including music, audio books and podcasts. Personal frequency modulation systems have a transmitter microphone, receiver, and speaker and use either headphones or a neckloop to bring sound directly to you. Personal frequency modulation systems work well in large rooms like lecture halls.

What if amplification if not enough?

If an assisted listening device is not meeting your needs, it is a good idea to visit an audiologist to fully understand the extent of your hearing loss and to rule out treatable issues like wax build up, inner ear problems or untreated Otitis Media (middle ear infection). After testing, your hearing professional might recommend a hearing aid for one or both ears. The audiologist may discuss form factors to help you determine what style would best meet your needs.

Hearing aids come in a variety of styles including:

  • Custom hearing aids
    • In The Ear (ITE)
    • In-The-Canal (ITC)
    • Completely-In-the-Canal (CIC)
  • Behind-The-Ear ( BTE) hearing aids
  • Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE) hearing aids
  • Receiver-In-The-Canal (RIC) hearing aids
  • Hearing aids with Bluetooth

Ten years ago, the majority, perhaps as much as 80%, of hearing aids were In-the-Ear (ITE) or In-The-Canal (ITC or CIC) devices and the rest were Behind-the-Ear (BTE) devices. Now the situation is reversed. Today about 70% of hearing aids are BTEs with the majority being RITEs or RICs.

All the RITEs or RICs are small BTE units. RITEs or RICs have their electronics, battery and microphone behind the ear and the speaker in the canal. This separation allows for less feedback and larger vents which makes the sound more natural and the fit more comfortable. In addition, it allows space for more sophisticated technology and bigger, more efficient batteries.

BTE design changes increase available technology

One of the most useful innovations with the BTEs is the use of rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries free users from the expense and difficulty of replacing the tiny, traditional cell batteries which can still be found in some hearing aid brands and styles.

The additional space in BTEs can also accommodate Bluetooth. The extensive use of Bluetooth with Smartphone and computers provides a huge opportunity to allow users to customize their devices using special apps designed specifically for use with personal sound amplifiers and hearing aids. Traditional hearing aids do not allow user customization. Customizing or programming in traditional hearing aids is a necessary function provided exclusively by dispensing/medical professionals, which contributes to making traditional hearing aids very expensive.

One-of-a-kind fit

One cool new option is available in custom hearing aids. These devices are designed for a specific user by making an ear mold. The final product is then built using a 3D printer. This is a fairly expensive option, and for many people, the incremental gain in function may not be worth the significant increase in cost.

Tinnitus may require a special solution

A special category is devices designed specifically for those with Tinnitus – when a person hears a consistent internal noise often described as buzzing or ringing in the ears. No one knows what causes Tinnitus but most people with Tinnitus also have some hearing loss. For those who have hearing loss, a hearing aid may be the right solution. For those who don’t have hearing loss, these special devices help mask those annoying internal sounds by creating a sound at a like frequency.

Be patient

Regardless of the solution you choose, give it a few weeks. Many people initially have trouble adjusting to hearing all the sounds that were previously lost to them. Sounds as simple as traffic noise or shuffling paper can seem painfully loud at first. Before hearing loss, the brain ignores much of the ambient noise around us. Once fitted with new devices, the brain needs time to become desensitized again to the constant barrage of everyday life.

Summary: Doing nothing is NEVER the right solution

Untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation and depression. There is no reason to miss out or give up on your life. If you or your loved ones suspect you have hearing loss, take action! High quality, low cost options are now available making hearing help accessible to all. Ready to take your next step? Click here.