The Pros & Cons of Different Hearing Aid Styles

The Hearing Consultants - The Pros and Cons of Different Hearing Aid Styles


Choosing the right hearing aid is a big decision. Part of making the right choice is knowing a bit about the different styles available and what they can offer you. Hearing aid styles are designed for a wide variety of hearing needs, so here’s a handy guide to the key features of the most common styles.

RIC: Receiver in Canal

Receiver in Canal means that a unit behind the ear houses a microphone and amplifier that deliver sound to an ear mold or ear bud receiver placed in the ear canal. RIC hearing aids are some of the most discreet and powerful hearing aids on the market with great sound quality and loads of options. They are appropriate for a wide range of hearing loss, and RIC bluetooth hearing aids offer digital sound streaming capabilities from smart phones and other devices.

ITC: In the Canal

In the Canal hearing aids are small custom-molded hearing devices that sit entirely in the ear canal. ITC hearing aids pack a lot of punch for their size and they are still capable of directional microphone pickup. Their small size and placement make them hardly noticeable and but they can also be harder to manipulate. ITC devices are also more inclined to feedback issues and may not be available for all levels of hearing loss.

CIC: Completely in Canal

Even less noticeable than ITC hearing aids, hearing aids with a Completely in Canal design are positioned entirely inside the ear canal. CIC hearing aids take advantage of the natural shape of the outer ear to direct sound, as their size and placement make embedded directional microphones not possible. CIC hearing aids are virtually unnoticeable but come with some of the same concerns as ITC hearing aids – they can be hard to maneuver for people with dexterity issues, may be prone to feedback and are not available for more severe degrees of hearing loss.

IIC: Invisible in Canal

The shrinking size of digital components has led to an even further advancement in hearing aid size – the Invisible in Canal style. IIC hearing aids are custom fit to sit deep in the ear canal. These tiny devices don’t have the feedback issues of ITC or CIC designs while offering a near-invisible profile. IIC design does have some of the same limitations as other compact hearing aids – the small size can make battery life and battery changing an issue.

BTE: Behind the Ear

Behind the Ear hearing aids are comprised of a small unit that rests on the ear and delivers sound via plastic tubing to a discrete ear mold placed in the ear canal. BTE hearing aids are the workhorses of hearing aid styles: while still compact, their larger size makes them sturdier and easier to handle than other designs. BTE hearing aids are a durable and versatile option that can be used to assist most degrees of hearing loss.

Mini BTE: Mini Behind the Ear

This adaptation of the BTE design uses an earbud to deliver sound to the ear canal rather than a fitted ear mold. Because the ear bud does not fill the ear canal, mini-BTE sound delivery feels more natural. Mini-BTE design is a compact version of the BTE hearing aid style, and they are similarly built to deliver reliable sound with easy-to-use features.

ITE: In the Ear

In the Ear hearing aids are built in a shell that is worn in the outer ear. ITE designs vary in shell molding but can easily accommodate features like volume and directional microphones. Because they are positioned in the outer ear, ITE hearing aids are often more noticeable than other styles. Unlike designs that sit further into the ear canal, ITE hearing aids are easy to manipulate and position.

The Hearing Consultants

Figuring out the right hearing aid for your lifestyle and needs takes some consideration. At The Hearing Consultants we put our years of experience and personalized care into helping you find your best hearing solution. We’re always happy to help you understand the features and advantages of the hearing aids you are considering, as well as providing you the best in programming and hearing aid repair.

Going Digital with Your Hearing Aids

Going Digital with Your Hearing Aids

Over the past several decades a digital revolution has happened in the hearing aid industry creating a new generation of hearing aids with astounding power and nuance, alongside sleek and discrete design. What exactly is digital hearing technology – and what has it replaced?

Analog Vs. Digital

Whether a hearing aid is digital or analog, it has the same basic structure, although it will process sound differently. In both cases, a microphone is used to pick up sounds in the surrounding environment, it is then amplified and delivered to the ear canal via a receiver.

Analog hearing aids directly amplify the sounds they receive without digital assistance. This means that all incoming sounds undergo amplification, and it can be harder to parse speech from amplified background noise.

Analog hearing aids do offer some programmable features, such as presets that can help a user adapt to sound in distinctly noisy or quiet environments. Programmed presets have similar capabilities to an analog sound mixing board in terms of creating legible sound environments, but it functions without the responsiveness and nuance of digital processing.

The Digital Advantage

With the arrival of the first digital hearing aid by Oticon in 1995, a new frontier emerged in hearing technology. Since then, hearing aids have advanced in leaps and bounds alongside technology.

Digital hearing aids work on the same principles as analog, but add additional processing of incoming sound to make the listening experience better matched to the user’s hearing needs. A microphone still feeds incoming sound into amplification circuits which delivers sound to a receiver in the ear.  Within the amplification process, digital hearing aids truly outshine analog capabilities.

Digital hearing aids are built around digital signal processing, or DSP for short. DSP converts incoming sound into a digital signal which is processed by microcomputers within the hearing aid to amplify and deliver sound to the user. In addition to having programmable presets for sound environments, digital technology further extends the hearing aid’s ability to selectively parse specific sounds. With the development of speech recognition software, digital hearing aids now have adept abilities to suppress background noise while foregrounding directed speech and conversation.

With all incoming sound converted from sound waves to digital signals, digital hearing aids can deliver exacting performance in boosting the specific frequencies your hearing loss requires. Sound processing algorithms mean that incoming sound can be continually and fluidly adapted to –beyond basic presets. Your hearing specialist will work with you and the results of your hearing exam to ensure the digital processing is handling sound to your best advantage.

Digital hearing aids are also on the forefront of hearing assistance that integrates itself into smart phones and digital devices around your home. Bluetooth hearing aids with digital streaming can deliver sound from smart phones and digital devices directly to the ear canal, making it easier to talk on the phone, listen to shows or music, even catch the ring of your smart home doorbell. As smart technology becomes more fully built into our daily lives, digital hearing technology will be further able to make hearing more comfortable and natural.

Choose Wisely

Digital hearing aids offer a plethora of advantages in treating hearing loss, but not every digital hearing aid is built alike. Off-brand digital hearing aids offered at steeply discounted costs usually lack the technology and programming to make digital sound truly assistive to hearing loss. The result is digital hearing aids that actually underperform their analog counterparts.

When choosing a hearing aid stick to reliable brand name solutions. Hearing aids today rely on complex and remarkably tiny audio processing technology, built with an investment of research and development. Digital hearing aids should be programmable to adapt to your specific hearing challenges in addition to nuanced environmental changes. While industry leaders make hearing aid technology smaller, smarter and more durable than ever before, cheap knock-offs cut costs by severely compromising the quality of the hearing device.

Hearing Consultants

Picking the right hearing aid can change your life – we see it every day at Hearing Consultants where we help match your hearing needs to our expansive selection of the best in digital hearing technology. We work with you to find the best match for your life style budget and hearing needs, and provide custom hearing aid fitting and programming to optimize your hearing health.

Hearing Aids Are Found to Improve Depressive Symptoms

Hearing Aids Are Found to Improve Depressive Symptoms

Hearing loss is a condition of our auditory system, but the effects of hearing loss aren’t just limited to our ears. Hearing loss has repercussions for many aspects of our health and quality of life. Among the risks, untreated hearing loss diminishes our cognitive functioning, increases our risk of accidental falls and decreases our earning power. One of the most damaging effects of untreated hearing loss is an increased risk of depression.

Unfortunately, most hearing loss is permanent, but new research is uncovering how effective treating hearing loss can be. Newly emerging research is tracking the benefits of hearing aids and cochlear implants, specifically on reducing symptoms of depression.

Depression and Hearing Loss

What connects hearing loss to depression? Hearing loss makes us more susceptible to depression in the way it alters our life and communication with others. When hearing loss is left untreated, it can gradually change our life and behavior and fuel depression. Living with hearing loss can diminish our passion for events and activities we once enjoyed, when hearing makes social events more challenging than fun. Trouble hearing can even sap the joy from watching our favorite movies or listening to music.

Hearing loss can also create distance between ourselves and the people closest to us. Keeping in touch with family and friends by telephone can become difficult and frustrating with hearing loss. Big family dinners or gatherings can create sound environments that are difficult to navigate with hearing loss. Challenges with hearing and comprehending speech make it both hard to understand others and feel understood.

By pushing us away from social participation, hearing loss creates conditions where depression can flourish. Depression is a serious disease that requires attention and treatment. It is linked not only to great losses in quality of life, but also to other health factors, such as substance abuse, heart disease and suicide.

Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss, when left unchecked can greatly increase our susceptibility to depression – but can treating hearing loss help? A recent study based at John Hopkins University recently published hopeful short-term findings. In the framework of a twelve-month study, researchers looked at over one hundred older adults, tracking indicators of depression and how they corresponded to hearing treatment. The study tracked depression levels using a metric called the Geriatric Depression Scale, administered questions that rank on a scale from 0-15. The study looked at participants with untreated hearing loss who were introduced to hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Over the course of the study, both treatment protocols alleviated depressive responses, leading the research team to be optimistic about conducting longer and more in-depth studies of the treatment response. The study also bodes well for people with hearing loss hoping to mitigate side effects like depression through treatment.

Earlier the Better

Most hearing loss happens gradually, sometimes at a slow enough rate it is hard to notice that you are experiencing a significant hearing issue. However, as hearing loss progresses, it stresses our cognitive functioning and fundamentally changes the wiring of our brain. Although occasional difficulty hearing may seem trivial, it can point to the start of a larger problem.

Stay aware of your hearing and watch for hearing concerns. If a friend or family member talks to you about your hearing, consider their concern – they may be noticing things you are missing. Similarly, if you find speech often sounds muffled or mumbling it is a sign that you are experiencing hearing loss and a hearing exam should be your first step.

When you seek treatment for hearing loss, the earlier the better. Cognitive strain can significantly change your hearing and your overall health, worsening your hearing and making it harder to adapt to treatment.  Stay on top of your health, and connected to the people most important to you – treat hearing issues when they arise.

Hearing Consultants

Have you noticed recent changes in your hearing? Have you altered your behavior in the past month because of hearing-related anxiety? When hearing concerns arise, Hearing Consultants is here to help. We specialize in all aspects of hearing treatment and care from testing and diagnosis to fitting and programming hearing aids. Our team of hearing specialists brings a personal approach to every situation. Remember, the earlier you seek help for a hearing concern, the better, so set up an appointment with Hearing Consultants today!

Hearing Loss Could Restrict Mobility & Quality of Life

Hearing Loss Could Restrict Mobility & Quality of Life

Nobody wants a disability to hold them back, yet untreated hearing loss can do just that. A new study conducted in Finland has found that hearing loss can limit a person’s movement and mobility in the world. Hearing loss, when left unchecked can make people uncomfortable in new and unfamiliar environments, including transportation. Often this can result in a person’s day-to-day life becoming limited to a local and familiar area.

Studying Hearing Loss and Mobility

In order to thoroughly study the impact of hearing loss and mobility researchers from two Finnish universities teamed up, the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Tampere, to conduct a survey of individuals over a two year period. Researchers looked at over 800 subjects, aged 75-90 and tracked their everyday movements and activities. When the research was parsed the results were striking – subjects who had some degree of hearing loss were more than twice as likely to limit their activities to nearby local areas.

While a limited radius of activity isn’t innately negative, it can be linked to other health and quality of life risks. Limited mobility can be a contributing factor to social isolation, and play a role in anxiety and depression. A reduced sphere of mobility is a limit for access to resources and social events, and it can keep a person away from activities and pastimes they once enjoyed.

Hearing Loss and Isolation

Untreated hearing loss has effects that ripple throughout a person’s life. An example of this is how hearing loss can promote social isolation through negative feedback. When our ability to hear is compromised, the world is a harder place to navigate. Detecting the source of sounds and deciphering their meanings involves added time, effort and energy which can be frustrating and uncomfortable.

The discomfort brought on by hearing challenges can manifest as anxiety, and often gradually pushes people away from activities they once loved. Events like dinner parties or sports games can become more confusing than pleasurable. Difficulty hearing can make traveling harder and more exhausting. Public places like restaurants, shops and churches can easily be too noisy to distinguish relevant speech and sound from background noise. A common response to this discomfort is avoidance, but this avoidance simultaneously shrinks a person’s mobility and contracts their social sphere.

When hearing challenges are unaddressed it also creates barriers in personal relationships. When there is trouble hearing, people seldom feel they are being understood. Hearing loss can create misunderstanding and detachment even from close family and friends. Hearing loss can wither a person’s desire to use a telephone and in turn harm long-distance relationships and friendships that are maintained through phone calls.

All this contributes to a highly increased likelihood that a person with untreated hearing loss will be affected by social isolation. Isolation is a huge health concern for people, especially as they age. It can impede a person’s quality of life and their access to care and resources.

Hearing Loss and Quality of Life

When hearing loss is allowed to go unchecked, it diminishes overall quality of life.  Not only does hearing loss place additional challenges on mobility, it affects earning power, stress levels, mental acuity and physical health. Workers with untreated hearing loss earn less than their counterparts with normal hearing, and people with hearing loss have a higher unemployment rate. Additionally, hearing loss taxes our normal cognitive functioning producing extra stress and reducing our ability to perform other mental tasks. Cognitive strain often shortchanges functions like balance and coordination and leads to an increased risk of falling and household accidents.

When hearing loss is left untreated it detracts from our physical health. In addition to a greater risk of anxiety, depression and isolation, untreated hearing loss and dementia share a link, and heart health could be at risk as well. The best way to mitigate these quality of life and physical health factors is to address hearing loss when it happens. If you notice changes in your hearing, be sure to have it examined by a hearing specialist, and establish good habits with an annual hearing exam.

Hearing Consultants

While most hearing loss is permanent, there are ways to treat hearing loss that can help maintain confidence, mobility and connection with the world. Treating hearing loss with the latest hearing aid technology makes hearing easier and reduces the mental strain and anxiety that loud and unfamiliar settings can produce.

If you are looking for hearing solutions, Hearing Consultants can help. Our team of hearing specialists works with you to find the best hearing options for your lifestyle and helps you live a life without limits. Contact us today to get started on better hearing health.