Hearing Aids: A Brief Anatomy
Hearing aids are small, lightweight electronic devices that sit in the outer ear, within the ear canal, or behind the ear. Their main function is to amplify sound in a natural and comfortable way. The physical components that make up most hearing aids include one or more microphones to gather sound, an amplifier designed to process a wide range of sounds, a receiver or speaker that transmits the sound signal from the amplifier to the ear, and a battery to fuel the process.
The most advanced hearing aids are protected from the effects of daily wear by a microscopic coating that’s molecularly bonded to the inner circuitry and outer casing. This increases the life and performance of hearing aids and also reduces maintenance.
The delicate inner workings of custom hearing aids are contained in coverings known as shells. Shells come in a variety of shapes, styles and colors to better fit the user’s hearing loss, daily routine and cosmetic needs.
Types of Hearing Aids
We’ve all heard the phrase good things come in small packages, and today’s hearing aids are no exception. Twenty-first century hearing aids are so small, they’re virtually undetectable when worn. The delicate inner workings of custom hearing aids are contained in coverings known as shells. Shells come in a variety of shapes, styles and colors to better fit the user’s hearing loss, daily routine and cosmetic needs.
The tiny size of modern hearing instruments is deceiving—their ability to simulate natural hearing in numerous environments makes them true technological giants.
As with many electronic devices on the market today, from smart phones to laptop computers, hearing aids utilize sophisticated microprocessor technology. Miniature computer chips use advanced algorithms to automatically adjust sound as wearers move through the day. By acting more like human ears, hearing aids allow people to enjoy a comfortable listening experience wherever they go.
In fact, progress has been so impressive in recent years, first-time hearing aid wearers report a satisfaction rating exceeding 90%. That’s significant because in the vast majority of hearing loss cases, hearing aids are the only available remedy.
Tiny is the new small! About the size of a raspberry, Beltone Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC) hearing aids are the instruments of choice for those who desire hearing help that can't be seen.
An Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC) starts its life as an ear impression of your ear canal. The impression is turned into a 3-D computerized rendering. From there, each hearing aid component is “virtually” positioned, in order to create the tiniest finished product possible. Then, your hearing aid is built, and delicately sculpted until it matches the contours of your ear canal.
Another “tiny” offering, the CIC style hearing aid style is worn completely within the ear canal. Being a custom-crafted hearing aid, your Beltone Hearing Care Professional will take an ear canal impression to give your hearing aid a perfectly tailored fit. This ensures maximum comfort and sound quality.
CIC style hearing aids are most effective when treating mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Hearing aid wearers love them as they provide the benefit of improved hearing, with no one the wiser.
Designed to “disappear”, the main part of an MIC hearing aid hides in your ear canal. This piece is custom-manufactured based on an ear canal impression taken during your visit, so it's very comfortable. The hearing aid microphone is a separate component, and is worn within the concha, or curved groove, of your external ear—where it stays out of sight. A tiny transparent tube sends sound from the microphone in your concha to the component in your ear canal.
The ingenious construction of the MIC style hearing aid takes advantage of the ear's anatomy to provide near-to-natural sound quality, and outstanding appearance. By placing the microphone in the curved portion of your ear, it's protected from wind noise. This makes the MIH style perfect for active individuals who spend time outdoors.
In-the-Canal Style (ITC)
ITC-style hearing aids are custom-made, based on an impression taken of your ear canal and the surrounding area. They are slightly larger than completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids, but still considered cosmetically appealing. All of the components in an ITC hearing aid are encased within a lightweight plastic shell. Their medium size makes them a great choice for push button controls. ITC hearing aids offer a secure fit, easy insertion and removal, and longer battery life. They work best for mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
Also popular is the Mini ITC style hearing aid. This option is less noticeable than the standard ITC hearing aid, but offers fewer easy-to-reach controls.
ITE style hearing devices partially-to-fully fill the outer ear. They are custom manufactured to fit securely, and be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. All components reside within a lightweight plastic shell which is simple to insert and remove. Their bigger size accommodates a variety of feature options, including special controls that are easy to adjust.
In-the-Ear (ITE) style hearing aids use larger batteries which can power a bigger receiver. This makes them a superb choice for more serious hearing losses. Larger batteries also last longer, and are more “user-friendly” to handle.
Receiver-in-Ear (RIE) hearing aids are the newest BTE style devices on the market, and, the most popular. An RIE hearing aid is comprised of a very small casing that sits behind the ear. The casing houses all of the electronic components of the hearing aid except for the receiver (also called the speaker). This allows the casing to be extremely tiny, so it's barely visible. A narrow transparent tube carries very thin wires from the casing to the receiver, which rests in your ear canal.
RIE hearing aids offer exceptionally natural sound quality, and can be used with custom-made or standard ear molds, depending on your individual amplification needs. Almost all types of hearing loss can be assisted with RIE style hearing aids.
Easy-to-wear BTE devices are small, and feature a curved casing designed to nestle comfortably behind the ear. By matching flesh tone or hair color, they hide with ease. A transparent tube connects the device to a custom-created ear mold worn in your ear canal. Ear molds are lightweight and comfortable, making BTE hearing aids easy to wear all day.
BTE style hearing aids can be used by just about everyone. They assist the entire spectrum of hearing loss, from mild to severe. Additionally, they are budget friendly, and adapt to most lifestyles.