Hearing loss affects people of all ages and all walks of life, although men are more likely to report hearing loss than women. The causes of hearing loss are many and varied, and can include exposure to loud noise, impacted earwax, allergies, or head trauma. Some illnesses that affect hearing include otosclerosis and Meniere’s disease. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the cochlea is damaged by illness, loud noise, genetics, or other trauma and cannot transmit signals to the brain.
Fortunately, technology has made many advancements in hearing technology, so buying a hearing aid to fit your needs is much easier than in the past. Because of increases in digital technology, designing a new hearing aid from concept to manufacturing to market can cost between $85 million and $200 million. Currently, there are five different types of hearing aids for adults, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
The first type of hearing aid is the behind-the-ear aid that most people picture when talking about hearing loss. The earpiece is connected by clear tubing to a plastic case that rests behind the ear and contains most of the parts. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are a popular choice for seniors and children with hearing loss, as they are durable, easy to clean, and can accommodate a variety of earmold types.
If you are concerned about appearance or comfort, you may opt for a mini behind-the-ear hearing aid. Made in a similar fashion as a regular behind-the-ear aid, the mini is smaller, the tube is thinner, and offers a choice between a traditional earmold and an “open fit” ear piece, which is inserted into the ear.
In-the-ear hearing aids are made of a small shell that contains all of the hearing aid parts, and fits in the outer part of the ear. While they are smaller than behind-the-ear aids, in-the-ear hearing aids are larger than the last two types of hearing aids for adults, which may make them easier to handle and adjust.
The last two types of hearing aids for adults are in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC). Similar to in-the-ear, ITC and CIC hearing aids contain all of their parts in a tiny shell. The shell is then inserted either partially or completely into the ear canal, depending on type. ITC and CIC hearing aids can be difficult to handle due to their small size, so they may not be the best choice for everyone.
Buying a hearing aid can be a long process, similar to purchasing eyeglasses. Don’t worry if the first few you try on aren’t perfect. Everyone has differently-shaped ears, so no hearing aid will fit every person. Talking to your audiologist about your specific needs will help you narrow down the choices and find the right hearing aid for you.