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A Beginner's Guide to Hearing Aids

As Covid-19 rages on, the world continues to utilize vital public health measures such as mask-wearing, plexiglass screens, and virtual communication with family, friends, and even health-care providers. These factors disproportionately effect people facing hearing loss.

As many hard-of-hearing and deaf individuals rely on lipreading for effective discussion, mask-wearing cuts off an essential line of communication. Plexiglass screens, combined with masks, muffle sound, making it even harder to hear what someone is saying. Often in virtual discussions, one loses the subtle facial and hand gestures that add vital context to the words we speak.

Because of these struggles many people are considering using hearing aids for the first time, or switching their current hearing aids for different styles. We’ve compiled some resources below, to assist you in your research.

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

There are many different hearing aids on the market, but they all use the same basic components to carry and amplify sound. Most are digital and powered by a small battery or a rechargeable battery.

Microphones collect sound, then a computer chip with an amplifier converts the sound into digital code, adjusting the sound based on your particular needs and the current level of ambient noise.

Hearing Aid Styles

There are two basic styles of hearing aids: Behind the Ear (BTE) and In the Ear.

Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids (BTE)

There are two types of BTE hearing aids. A standard behind-the-ear and a receiver-in-the-canal (RIC).

The standard behind the ear is where the entire hearing aid sits over the ear and is connected to a tube that directs sound to an ear mold inside the ear canal.

The hearing aid device sits behind the ear, while a wire connects to a receiver that goes directly into the ear canal. With the various color options, the wearer can choose to have the hearing aid blend in and be inconspicuous. Due to the level of customization, BTE hearing aids are popular options.

In-the-Ear Hearing Aids (Or, Custom Hearing Aids)

An in-the-ear hearing aid (ITE) is a smaller device that sits on the outside portion of the ear canal, or inside the ear canal, depending on the size. Some have added features, such as a telecoil, which makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone, by improving the sound quality in situations where background and ambient noise is a factor.

There are pros and cons to each device, and a qualified audiologist will be able to narrow your choices down to the devices that are best aligned with your lifestyle and hearing needs.

Hearing Aids and Coronavirus

Masks can make it hard for others to communicate, due to the muffling of the sound. Hearing aids can definitely help in this situation. But which one do you choose? When it comes to wearing hearing aids, especially in the time of the Coronavirus, there are a few things to consider.

Do you want your hearing aids to be discrete? If that’s the case, you may be happiest with a receiver-in-the-canal. Alternately, do you want a customizable style to complement your unique flair? Behind the ear hearing aids are likely a solid choice for you.

However, if you're taking your mask on and off (essential workers, etc.), you may find a BTE hearing aid to be more cumbersome. One of the chief complaints from BTE hearings aids users is that they fall out with the constant use of masks. This is especially true if you wear glasses. This risks the integrity of the hearing aid and can increase your risk of losing them. If your job or lifestyle interrupts the use of BTE options, in the ear hearing aids are going to be a better choice for you.

Next Steps

When looking for a hearing aid, explore your options to determine what would be the best fit for you. Before you do anything though, schedule an appointment to see your audiologist. An audiologist will help guide you on the style that will work best for your hearing loss and lifestyle.

If you have any questions on this post, hearing aids, or hearing loss, please reach out! Our audiologists are here to help you hear so you can fully participate in your life and the lives of the people you love.

Danette Jackson

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