If you’re getting your first hearing aid, you probably have many questions and a mental image of a very large and noticeable hearing aid. But often, you won’t need one of those. Your hearing care professional can tell you everything you want to know about the best and most suitable hearing aid for you. But if you want to have that first conversation confident that you are already familiar with the various possibilities, read on.
-Behind-the-ear hearing aids (BTE)
-Receiver-in-canal hearing aids (RIC)
-In-the-ear hearing aids (ITE)
-Completely-in-ear hearing aids (Lyric)
But which one is the best for you? First, let’s explain the differences.
A behind-the-ear hearing aid (BTE) is a hearing aid of which the microphone and speaker are inside the hearing aid. The hearing aid itself is positioned behind your ear, “dangling” from it by means of an earhook. Attached to this is either a flexible tube going into an earpiece, or a thin wire with an earpiece or dome.
A receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid contains the microphone itself, while the speaker is external. This allows the hearing aid to be much smaller.
An in-the-ear hearing aid (ITE) is a hearing aid that is placed inside the ear canal. Nothing is placed behind your ear. The microphone and speaker are built into a custom-made shell.
A completely-inside-the-ear hearing aid (such as the Lyric) is a hearing aid that is placed completely inside your ear canal by the hearing care professional. Usually, these hearing aids are completely invisible.
Naturally, most people want an invisible hearing aid because – even though acceptance is increasing – the taboo will be around for at least a few more years, especially among young people. Fewer young people need a hearing aid, but we do notice that people are inclined to start wearing one sooner, from the moment they decide they need one. Quality also varies strongly between different types of hearing aid. If you want to use your hearing aid as a headset to listen to music or a podcast, or have a conversation on the phone, the Lyric and ITE models often don’t allow that directly. Even though ITE hearing aids are getting smarter all the time, a Bluetooth connection requires that it is not placed to deeply inside the ear; so if you want an invisible ITE model, be sure to pick one without Bluetooth, or it will still be conspicuous. You could of course wonder what the big deal is, as everyone is walking around wearing headsets nowadays anyway… There was a time when only behind-the-ear hearing aids were available and RIC hearing aids were only available for people with very slighthearing loss.
But nowadays, RIC hearing aids are also suitable in case of substantial hearing loss. It’s always possible to connect a more powerful speaker, for example. So size isn’t everything any more – even the smallest modern hearing aids are just as powerful and strong. Your hearing care professional will often also offer a choice of colours. You may prefer a colour that is camouflaged by your hair. Or perhaps one that is decorative. The choice is yours!
That depends on what you want exactly. Just hearing? Or making phone calls as well? Would you like to control the hearing aid using your phone? Or use it to listen to music or podcasts? Wear it while sleeping? Do you want no-one to be able to see it? Do you want the area behind your auricle to remain clear? Need only one? Will you be using batteries, or do you prefer a rechargeable model? Would you prefer a basic model, or something state-of-the-art?
There are many options, which is a good thing, but that also makes choosing a hearing aid more difficult. Your hearing care professional can help! In order to help you choose, he or she will first exclude some options. That’s unpleasant, but unavoidable, because:
If your ears tend to be moist or produce a lot of earwax, or your ear needs to “get some fresh air” in order to avoid ear infections, then an ITE, RIC or Lyric is not for you. A BTE is almost always an option, as is an RIC hearing aid with a custom-made shell.
But if it’s an ITE or Lyric you want, it is important that your ear canal is not too narrow. If that’s the case, no size will fit. The problem is that the electronics won’t fit into the shell, making the ITE protrude too much from the ear canal, making it more visible compared to an RIC hearing aid. Length and mobility are also relevant. If your ear canal is too mobile, for example, your hearing aid will eventually pop out. And your type of hearing loss is of crucial importance when picking a hearing aid.
If that sounds like a lot to consider – don’t worry! That’s where your hearing care professional comes in.
So, in brief, give some thought to what a hearing aid should do for you. Then consider the options that are suitable for you and choose your new ears. Rest assured that wearing a hearing aid is the best choice you can make.
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