You may not even initially realize this when you begin your journey to find hearing aids, but several different kinds exist.
In general, hearing aids work to carry sounds from your environment into your ear and then make them louder.
Most hearing aids are digital, and a battery always powers them.
A small microphone can collect sounds from the environment around you, where a computer chip with an amplifier then converts the sounds as they come in into a digital code. A hearing aid may be able to analyze and then adjust sounds based on your hearing loss and other individual factors, like the level of the sounds around you.
Hearing Aid vs. Hearing Amplifiers
Before going into some of the specific features of hearing aids, it’s good to break down the difference between them and amplifiers.
So, what is a hearing amplifier?
A hearing amplifier is different from a hearing aid because you don’t need a prescription to buy one. Like a hearing aid, an amplifier also amplifies audio and sound. Hearing amplifiers are wearable devices using a microphone to pick up sounds that are near to you. Then, the sound is processed by the amplifier and delivered into your ear at a higher volume.
A hearing amplifier isn’t for someone with more significant hearing loss. For that, you would probably need prescription hearing aids.
The FDA regulates hearing aids as medical devices, and you have to visit a doctor or audiologist to get a prescription for them.
You might opt for an amplifier over a hearing aid if there are specific situations where you want to boost your hearing ability, such as when you’re hunting. Hearing aids are more customizable.
Hearing Aid Styles
if you decide on a hearing aid, or sometimes if you’re going with an amplifier, the big consideration that you’ll keep in mind is your style preference. The following are some of the styles of hearing aids and even amplifiers you might see:
- Completely-in-the canal or CIC: These fit inside your ear canal, and they’re very small and not visible. In fact, if visibility is your biggest concern, these may be the style you opt for.
- In-the-canal or ITC hearing aids are custom molded to your ear, and they partially go into your canal.
- In-the-ear or ITE aids can fit on your outer ear, and some styles fit the lower part of your ear. Both can help if you have severe hearing loss.
- Behind the ear styles or BTE, hook over the top of your ear and then sit behind it. There’s a tube that goes into your ear canal.
Other styles include open-fit, a variation of the behind-the-ear option, and a receiver in canal or RIC style, which is similar to behind-the-ear.
What to Do Before You Get Hearing Aids
A few things that you should do before getting hearing aids to help you make the right choice for your needs and lifestyle include:
- Go to your doctor for a checkup first if you’re experiencing hearing loss. Sometimes, hearing loss can be due to an infection or earwax, and you might be able to treat the underlying cause and restore your hearing. If it’s not due to something like that, your primary care doctor can refer you to an audiologist, who is a hearing specialist.
- You should talk to your audiologist once you go to your appointment about whether or not you can have a trial period with hearing aids. If you’ve never had them before, you really have no way of knowing what will work for you and what don’t.
- Think about not just your current needs but your future needs. Hearing aids can be expensive, so you want to choose one that will scale as you need it to. What this means is that even if you only have mild hearing loss right now, you might need to consider the possibility that it gets more severe and take that into consideration when choosing your hearing aids.
- Check for a warranty.
Finally, when you’re choosing hearing aids, prepare for the fact that they are going to be expensive, but private insurance policies may cover some or all of the costs. If you’re a veteran, you may be eligible to get hearing aids at no cost through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The costs of not doing something if you’re dealing with hearing issues will always be much more than the financial costs that come with proactively getting hearing aids or some other type of assistance.