If you have a hearing loss, you have may have several options to help improve your ability to hear. When we are looking at traditional hearing aids there are two main things to consider: 1) the style (the way the hearing aids look) and 2) the technology (the electronics inside). It is your job to choose the style with guidance from your audiologist and it is your audiologist’s job to choose the technology with input from you. Speak to your audiologist to discuss which options are best for you, your hearing loss and your hearing needs.
Styles of Hearing Aids
In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aid
This type of hearing aid fits in the ear canal and the concha (outer portion of the ear). This is a very popular style for adult hearing aid users but there are drawbacks for use with children who are still growing. They cannot be used with many assistive listening devices including direct audio input FM systems. This style of hearing aid cannot provide adequate amplification for individuals with severe to profound hearing losses.
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aid
With this style of hearing aid the electronics sit behind the ear and the amplified sound is then routed to the ear through the tubing and ear mould. This style of hearing aid can provide the amplification necessary for all degrees of hearing loss from mild to profound. BTE hearing aids can be used with a variety of other assistive devices including FM systems, telephone adaptors, television amplifiers and many others. Because the electronics are behind the ear, BTEs are particularly useful for those with chronic ear infections, excess cerumen (ear wax) and those with small ear canals. Behind-the-ear hearing aids and ear moulds come in a variety of colours and designs.
Open Fit Hearing Aid
Open fit hearing aids are similar to the behind-the-ear (BTE) style because the amplifier and electronics sit behind the ear. However, these hearing aids typically utilize a slim tube and small tip that sit inside the ear canal. The small tip in the ear results in an open fit without plugging the ear resulting in a more comfortable fit, and can eliminate problems with your own voice. However, the open fit hearing aids are not appropriate for severe hearing losses and are best for persons with mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss.
CROS (Contralateral Routing of Signal)
This hearing aid system is designed for people with one ear that is unaidable (i.e. insufficient hearing to benefit from traditional hearing amplification). The better ear can have normal hearing (CROS Aid) or have some hearing loss as well (Bi-CROS). A microphone is placed on the poorer ear and the sound from that microphone is routed to a hearing aid on the better ear. This provides sound from the “dead” or unusable side of the head. While this does not restore full ability to localize sounds in space, it does provide useful sound information that is not otherwise available to the individual.