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Hearing Aids Come Of Age

Hearing aids used to be bulky, uncomfortable eyesores – but this is no longer true! Now you can treat the problem with a hearing aid so tiny, nobody will notice. Learn more below…

hearing aids

Remember those bulky, uncomfortable and rather unattractive buff-coloured hearing devices? Thankfully, they’re a thing of the past! In recent years, electronics have been miniaturised to the point where designers have been able to focus more on aesthetics. As a result, people can now lead unencumbered, fully functional lives with a solution that’s so tiny; you’d never know they were wearing one.

Nowadays, hearing solutions are technologically advanced, come packed with amazing features and are available in more styles, sizes and designs than ever before:

Behind the Ear

Custom Fit

Benefits

Most people with a hearing loss will benefit from significantly improved communication and will be able to confidently return to a full and active lifestyle. With a device, most people can hear their family and friends more easily and enjoy being in group conversations without asking people to repeat themselves all the time. They can watch TV at a normal volume, hear warning signals and more easily participate in phone conversations.

Quality of life suffers when hearing impairment is left untreated. Hearing assistance improves quality of life and reduces the negative impact of hearing loss.

An American study found that people with hearing problems who did not wear a device were more likely to report sadness and depression, anxiety, paranoia, emotional problems, insecurity and reduced social activities.

This study also found that people reported significant improvements in their quality of life. Those whose hearing loss was treated reported the following benefits:

  • General improvement in their quality of life
  • Improved relationships with their families
  • Greater independence and security
  • Better self-esteem / self-confidence
  • Improved mental health
  • Reducing the risk of auditory deprivation

Another benefit is preserving the quality of your hearing and reducing the risk of auditory deprivation. As a result of a continued lack of sound stimulation, auditory deprivation, the brain gradually loses some of its ability to process information including speech.

Auditory deprivation most often occurs when the ear goes unaided over a long period of time – so the earlier you start, the better your chances are of minimizing this risk.

The most important function of hearing devices is to compensate for your hearing loss so that you can overcome your hearing difficulties.

How to Choose a Hearing Aid

Decisions regarding which type of device is most appropriate for you may need to be based on a variety of clinical and personal factors.

Some people want their instruments to be as stylish and discreet as possible, some want to have the maximum speech clarity. Others would like theirs to be easy to use and simple to maintain.

Either way, your audiologist, after looking at your clinical needs and personal preferences, will be able to recommend the best hearing aids Australia has to offer and help you make the right choice.

Audiological Factors

The nature and severity of your hearing loss will play a large role in determining what is ultimately recommended. If, for example, you have severe hearing loss, a Behind-the-Ear (BTE) instrument might be the most appropriate choice, as it can provide more powerful amplification. This style may also minimize the likelihood of feedback (whistling).

Individuals who have hearing loss at certain frequencies (those who hear the low frequencies reasonably better, but have a high frequency hearing loss) may be better served by devices that cause less occlusion problems.

Your audiologist will examine you to determine the exact degree and type of your hearing issue. They can help you understand your unique loss characteristics, and explain the models that would best suit your hearing needs.

Size and shape of your external ears

The size and shape of the ear canals and earlobes varies from person to person and can affect the selection of your instrument. The shape and size of the outer ear and ear canal can make it difficult for some people to wear particular styles. For example, if your canal is extremely narrow or if you have deformities such as exostosis in your ear canals you may not be a good candidate for Completely In The Canal (CIC) or even for In The canal (ITC) options. On the other hand, deformed earlobes may not allow for wearing of BTE styles. Your audiologist will help determine which options are appropriate for you.

Communication needs

What are the things you do that are most affected by hearing loss? What are the things, if any, that you’re not able to do because of a hearing loss? You need to define the situations where you would like to improve your hearing and set priorities. Your audiologist requires this in order to help you find a hearing device that fulfills most of your needs. It also helps them to choose and suggest the level of technology and the necessary device features.

Technology

Today’s technology has reduced size and improved performance. Sound quality and performance, in different listening situations, depends on the level of technology used. Some of the most sophisticated instruments today are digital, running on powerful computer microchips to provide the best possible sound quality. They may come with several bands, multiple programs, directional or multiple microphones, and/or other features that control the feedback or cut the background noise.

Although all these advances can improve sound quality, hearing comfort and provide greater flexibility, not every technological advancement benefits every individual. Your audiologist will be able to help you assess the level of sophistication you need based on your unique requirements.

Handling

The smaller the instrument, the smaller the controls and batteries. So if your eyes are not what they used to be, if you have shaky hands, or if your fingers cannot cope with adjusting small controls, you will find a larger instrument easier to handle. Alternatively, some new instruments adjust automatically or via remote control. Your audiologist will advise you on the most suitable option for you.

Binaural or Monaural

Two ears are always better than one. If you have hearing loss in both ears, you need to consider wearing two devices. Not because they make things twice as loud, but because, by mimicking the natural hearing process they help you determine where the sounds are coming from, and to distinguish between competing sounds more easily. This makes it easier to understand what people are saying in noisy situations.

Binaural models give you improved overall sound quality, balanced hearing and listening ease. On the other hand, if you wear just one device, the un-amplified ear may lose its ability to hear, analyze and understand speech as a result of auditory deprivation.

Other audiological factors, which influence device selection, are: risk of acoustic feedback (whistling), past history of wax build up in the ear, and the clinical need for ventilation (in patients who are prone or have an ear infection).

Personal factors

Cosmetic appearance. Many people are overly concerned about appearance, and it’s wise to remember that others will be far less aware of your device than you. Most models are quite discreet. They come in a variety of sizes, from almost invisible, completely-in-the-canal models to those that fit behind the ear. Either way, your audiologist can help you find the style that suits you the best.

Your hairstyle and the size and shape of your ears will also affect the impact of your device/s on your appearance.

The finance issue

Better hearing means a better quality of life, therefore, purchasing should be considered an investment in yourself and your quality of life.

Devices come in different price ranges, from several hundred to a few thousand dollars. Typically, costs reflect the amount of research and development that has gone into the product as well as quality of the components, with the smallest, most technologically advanced aids at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. No matter what your budget is, you should be able to find a model that meets your hearing requirements.

As a government-accredited provider, Ear & Hearing Australia provides FREE standard hearing solutions to eligible pensioners and veterans. If you decide to “top-up” and be fitted with a more advanced model, you will only pay the gap.

If you have an established WorkCover claim for your hearing loss, you could be entitled to be fitted with an advanced device required for your hearing loss at NO COST. Ear & Hearing Australia is a WorkCover-accredited provider and therefore can provide the best solution to meet your needs.

There are additional benefits if you have private health cover, talk to one our audiologists or your private health insurance to find out more information. In addition, Ear & Hearing Australia offer interest-free payment plans to approved customers.

Remember to explore all your entitlements together with your audiologist before making your final decision.

Types and Styles

EXTENDED WEAR SOLUTIONS

Also known as ‘In the Ear’ (ITE), they are custom made based on an impression of your ear. Custom fit devices can be used to successfully treat a wide range of hearing losses. ITE models come in different styles/sizes.

LYRIC Invisible hearing aids

Lyric by Phonak is the world’s first and only extended-wear completely invisible hearing device. Lyric is worn 24/7 for up to four months at a time. It is best suited people with mild to moderate hearing losses. Lyric is placed deep in the ear canal by a Lyric-certified audiologist. The deep placement allows the outer ear to direct sounds into the ear canal resulting in natural sound quality, better directionality, and less feedback compared to other solutions.

Lyric can easily be worn while exercising, showering, talking on the phone and using headphones. Unlike others, Lyric is purchased on a subscription basis and does not require users to replace or buy batteries, pay for repairs, maintenance or technology upgrades. We are proud to be one of the few qualified Premier Elite Providers of Lyric in Australia.

DAILY WEAR: IN THE EAR STYLES

Also known as ‘In the Ear’ (ITE), these models are custom made based on an impression of your ear. Custom fit devices can be used to successfully treat a wide range of hearing issues. ITE models come in different styles/sizes.

Invisible In The Canal (IIC)

Being the tiniest custom made devices, they offer high cosmetic appeal as they are nearly invisible when worn. Like CIC devices, IIC styles fit very deeply in the ear canal, allowing the wearer to benefit from the pinna’s natural localization and resonance characteristics. They are typically fit for mild or moderate hearing losses.

Because of their small size, they don’t usually come with any Bluetooth capabilities or manual controls like volume controls or program buttons.  Unfortunately, the deep positioning also makes these styles the most susceptible to damage from ear wax and moisture in the ear canal.  IICs are only practical for people with very good dexterity because they have the smallest battery size and can be tricky to remove and insert.

Completely In the Canal (CIC)

These represent the smallest style in the custom-fit range. As CICs fit deep inside the ear canal, they are almost invisible and therefore, cosmetically appealing to the wearer. This style accommodates people with mild to moderate hearing loss; however, some manufactures offer power CICs for more severe losses. CIC solutions are suitable for people with ear canals large enough to accommodate the insertion of the device deep into the ear. The microphone of a CIC instrument sits in your ear canal, simulating natural sound reception.

CICs are usually not recommended for people with dexterity problems due to their small size and even smaller batteries. A tight fit in the ear canal may lead to comfort issues, occlusion (feeling plugged up), and excessive wax build-up. These devices are the most susceptible to damage from wax and moisture build-up since they fit so deep in the ear canal. This may lead to more frequent repairs and a shorter lifespan. With the success of the Receiver In The ear and slim tube mini BTEs, the popularity of CIC has dropped significantly.

In the Canal (ITC)

These fit into the ear canal. They are only slightly larger than the CIC models but smaller than ITE options. Due to a slightly bigger battery, battery life is longer lasting compared to CIC hearing devices.

The ITC style is only suitable for mild to moderately severe hearing loss due to its size. Manual options, such as a volume control or directional microphones are limited due to the size of the faceplate. Like its smaller counterpart, the ITC models are susceptible to moisture and earwax and may prove hard to handle for wearers with dexterity or visual problems.

In The Ear (ITE)

This type fills the outer ear. They are the most visible of the custom made range but can cover a wide range of hearing losses up to severe. Due to their size, they are much easier to handle than smaller custom aids and allow for optional manual features such as a volume control, program button, or telephone switch. These aids have bigger batteries which provide longer battery life.

Although they are the largest of the custom products, people with dexterity issues may still have difficulties maintaining them and managing the small volume controls or the program buttons. This may be resolved by opting for a more advanced “automatic” device. Like other custom made types, earwax and moisture problems may lead to more repairs

DAILY WEAR: BEHIND THE EAR STYLES

As the name suggests, BTE instruments sit neatly behind (or on top of) your outer ear. They direct sounds down into the ear through a tube connected to an ear tip or an earmould which keeps them secure within the ear canal.

Because of their versatility, BTE instruments suit the broadest range of hearing losses from mild to profound. They are suitable for all ages. There is a wide range of colors available for matching to hair, skin tone, and even personal style. Standard BTEs usually use larger battery sizes which are easier to handle and have a longer lifespan compared to smaller batteries. Repairs are typically fewer than custom products and some BTE models may come with a moisture resistant coating and features.

As they’re worn outside the ear canal, BTEs do not need to be repaired as often as custom-fit styles. Brilliantly advanced, these devices provide superior amplification to custom fit models and can be fitted with connections to external sound sources including auditory training equipment and infrared listening systems. Many models are now Bluetooth compatible.

Function meets fashion

Like mobile phones, your hearing aid can be personalised to match your personal style. Because they come in many different sizes, BTE hearing devices come with a wide range of controls, battery types and degrees of power.

Available in a range of colours and contemporary designs, BTE models are great for any age. They can be customised to complement your hair/skin tones or even fashion sense!

Slim tube Mini BTE

Designed to hide behind the outer ear, the mini BTE has a discreet, ultra-thin tube which directs sound into the ear. It’s held in place by an equally discreet dome shaped, soft tip inside the ear canal. Sounds enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip itself. Wearers appreciate the natural unplugged feeling this type of ‘open fitting’ provides. Recommended for mild to moderate high frequency hearing losses.

Receiver In The Ear (RITE)

Commonly known as RITE , RIC (receiver-in-canal) or CRT(Canal Receiver Technology), this style looks like the slim tube mini BTEs but contains a speaker inside the ear tip rather than the main body of the instrument. This provides a smoother amplification and improves the sound quality significantly. As an ‘open fitting’ option, RITE products can provide the most natural sound quality, least occlusion, better localization and better speech clarity in noisy situations.

This newer style has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Although originally designed for high-frequency hearing losses, newer models can now accommodate a wider range of hearing loss from mild to severe. This style is the most cosmetically appealing type but may not be suitable for people with moisture or wax build-up problems.

hearing aids

BTE with ear-mould

BTE hearing solutions fit behind-the-ear and are attached to a soft custom ear-mould. With BTE models, the electronics are housed in a case that fits behind the ear. Sound is directed from the device, through the tubing, and through the ear-mould to the ear. Ear moulds are custom made to fit the contours behind the ear. They come with many more features, control options and battery power than the custom-fit models. The earmold is matched to suit the wearer’s hair colour, skin tone or personal style.

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