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Hearing aids: How to choose the right one
Many types of hearing aids exist. So which is best for you? Find out what to consider when choosing a hearing aid.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Perhaps you've thought about getting a hearing aid, but you're worried about how it will look and wonder whether it will really help.
Knowing more about the hearing aid options available to you, what to look for when buying a hearing aid and how to break it in may
help alleviate some of your concerns.
Hearing aid styles
All hearing aids contain the same parts to carry sound from the environment into your ear. However, hearing aids do come in a
number of styles, which differ in size and the way they're placed in your ear. Some are small enough to fit inside your ear canal,
making them almost invisible. Others fit partially in your ear canal. Generally, the smaller a hearing aid is, the less powerful it is, the
shorter its battery life and the more it'll cost.
The following are common hearing aid styles.
Completely in the canal:
Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are molded to fit inside your ear canal and can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:
In the canal:
An in-the-canal hearing aid is custom molded and fits partly in the ear canal, but not as deeply as the completely-in-the-canal aid.
This hearing aid can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
An in-the-canal hearing aid:
A smaller version of the in-the-canal hearing aid, the half-shell is custom molded and fills the lower portion of the bowl-shaped area
of your outer ear. This style is appropriate for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
A half-shell hearing aid:
In the ear (full-shell):
An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid is custom made and fills most of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is helpful for
people with mild to severe hearing loss.
An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid:
Behind the ear:
Behind-the-ear hearing aids hook over the top of your ear and rest behind the ear. The hearing aid picks up sound, amplifies it and
carries the amplified sound to an ear mold that fits inside your ear canal. This type of aid is appropriate for almost all types of
hearing loss and for people of all ages.
A behind-the-ear hearing aid:
These are usually very small behind-the-ear-style devices, although larger behind-the-ear devices can be modified for a more "open"
fit. Sound travels from the instrument through a small tube or wire to a tiny dome or speaker in the ear canal. These aids leave the
ear canal open, so they're best for mild to moderate high-frequency losses where low-frequency hearing is still normal or near normal.
An open-fit hearing aid:
Hearing aid electronics:
Hearing aid electronics control how sound is transferred from the environment to your inner ear. All hearing aids amplify sounds,
making them louder so that you can hear them better. Most hearing aid manufacturers now only produce digital hearing aids —
analog hearing aids are being phased out.
With digital technology, a computer chip converts the incoming sound into digital code, then analyzes and adjusts the sound based
on your hearing loss, listening needs and the level of the sounds around you. The signals are then converted back into sound waves
and delivered to your ears. The result is sound that's more finely tuned to your hearing loss. Digital hearing aids are available in all
styles and price ranges.
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