Hearing Aids and Hearables
If you’re just getting started with hearing aids, you may be curious about some of the terminology involved that’s used to distinguish all the different options available on the market. We will go over some of the basics you need to know as you consider utilizing a hearing aid to address your hearing loss.
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a device fitted in or on the ear that is designed to compensate for hearing loss and aid you in your daily communication. It’s usually made up of three components: a microphone that picks up sound, an amplifier that makes it louder, and a receiver that transmits the signal into the wearer’s ear.
Hearing aids are different from personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs), which are sold over the counter and can be used by anyone (including those without hearing loss) for general sound amplification needs, including making sounds louder whether that be a faint sound or a loud sound such as a door slamming.
Because personal sound amplifiers can’t be adjusted as precisely to the wearer’s level of hearing loss, they are not recommended for use by those who actually have hearing loss. Our professional team at Chicago Hearing Services can help identify the best option for you.
Hearing Aid Placement and Fit
Hearing aids come in a variety of fits depending on the look and function the wearer wants and needs.
In-the-Canal (ITC) hearing aids fit in the ear canal and are one of the more covert types of hearing aids. Completely-in-Canal (CIC) hearing aids are the smallest type of hearing aid, fitting entirely in the ear canal and therefore being nearly undetectable. Both of these types of hearing aids are best used for mild to moderate hearing loss.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit inside the outer ear. Because they’re slightly bigger and include more components, they be used for symptoms ranging from mild to severe hearing loss. This style is good for someone with dexterity or vision issues as well.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids utilize a processor that fits behind the ear, with either an earpiece or a thin plastic tube that goes into the ear to transmit the sound. Again, because of their larger size and components, these hearing aids can handle the entire spectrum of hearing loss.
Receiver-in-the-ear (RIE) hearing aids are the most popular model on the market. This is because they are small in size and appeal to the cosmetics while having special features to maximize a patient’s listening needs.
Hearing Aids and “Hearables”
Hearables are the newest types of hearing technology (the term only came into the public spotlight around 2014), and they’re quickly changing people’s perceptions of what a hearing aid can and can’t be. Borrowing their name from “wearables” (wearable technology), hearables are using the latest digital technology to act as hearing aids and/or personal sound amplifiers while also delivering a variety of new technological benefits.
One major factor in the functionality of hearables is the bluetooth connection of the earpiece to a smartphone or other piece of technology. For a long time, the processing power of hearing aids was limited to the size of technology that could fit reasonably within or around the ear. Now that this is no longer a limit, the processing power of hearables has increased tenfold. Each model of hearable now usually comes with a dedicated smartphone app that can be used to control the device.
Consider, for instance, having a hearable that’s linked to an app that lives on your smartphone. The processing power of your phone enables your hearing device to differentiate how it amplifies signals based on the situation the wearer is in. For instance, amplifying sound at a sports event works very differently from amplifying sound in a quiet restaurant. And, as technology advances, your phone may actually be able to automatically detect some of the settings the listener is in and make adjustments automatically, for a more seamless hearing experience.
The bluetooth link also has simpler benefits, such as the ability to seamlessly sync audio between the hearable and the phone, so users can easily make hands-free phone calls.
One secondary effect of the popularization of hearables is that the use of a hearing aid is now becoming much more accepted by general public. It is now generally accepted that technology can be used to improve the lives of everyone, not just those with disabilities. That’s why hearables are marketed just as much as hearing enhancement for those without any hearing loss, as they are as a solution for those who do have hearing loss.
Where Should I Buy My Hearing Aid or Hearable?
As hearables increase in popularity, many manufacturers are thinking of them as a general “hearing enhancement” devices rather than as devices to help those with hearing loss. Hearables tend to offer many options for adjustment, but they are most definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution for all hearing problems. If you’re looking for a hearing aid to help with your hearing loss, you should consult with a Doctor of Audiology to help to evaluate the extent of your hearing loss, and for suggestions on what type of device will work best for you.
There are many options from which you can purchase a hearing aid, but the only way to ensure that you’ll be getting a hearing aid that is best suited to your own unique needs, that fits your ear well, and that is tuned precisely for optimum hearing, is to contact a certified Doctor of Audiology for a hearing test and a personal consultation.
Think you may be ready to alleviate hearing loss by finding the hearing aid that will work best for you? Contact Chicago Hearing Services today to schedule an appointment for a consultation!