Hearing aids come in different sizes, colours and styles. Some hearing aids are bigger, others more discreet and some virtually invisible. The most widespread types of hearing aids are behind the ear and in the ear hearing aids. Although very small, these hearing aids are still visible from a certain angle or during a face-to-face conversation. That is why many people with a hearing impairment feel uncomfortable wearing them and want a device that is as discreet or hidden as possible.
In some cases, the problem can be solved surgically with the use of an implant, but this is a more complicated and expensive procedure. In order to make things simpler, hearing aid manufacturers have designed several specific types of devices, which are considered to be virtually too small to see – invisible in the canal, completely in the canal, in the canal and half shell.
Invisible in the canal
This hearing aid type is practically invisible and the smallest possible you can find on the market. Each one is individually designed to fit in the ear of the specific user and although it can be very challenging to pack it with the latest innovations due to its small size, the technology is constantly developing and improving.
If you are interested in this option, you can have a look at the Starkey Soundlens range, which is specialised in helping its users hear high frequency sounds and is equipped with useful features such as an advanced noise reduction and speech recognition system, as well as effective feedback suppression.
However, such hearing aid types support mild to moderate hearing loss and do not fit in every ear canal. Other challenges include:
- difficult manipulation of functions due to the tiny size
- option for manual volume control is rarely available
- not suitable for children due to growth of the ear canal
- greater chance of feedback as the speaker and microphone are very close to each other
- can be easily damaged by moisture and earwax
- a ‘blocked-up’ sensation for some users
- not suitable for people with frequent ear infections
- short battery life
Completely in the canal
The completely in the canal hearing aids are also custom fit for the individual ear and invisible to those around the wearer. Similarly to the IIC, a CIC is placed deep into the ear canal and closely imitates the normal hearing process because on one hand the speaker is near the eardrum and can improve the sound perception and on the other the microphone, sitting in the ear canal, may offer a better reception of the signal.
Siemens Eclipse, for example, is custom built and offers some impressive characteristics:
- The latest BestSound Technology that ensures a clear and natural sound
- A soft dome that is designed to feel as natural and comfortable as possible
- A trench vent that eliminates the occlusion effect and helps ventilate the ear drum
Another great option to explore is the Persona Ole Digital hearing aid, offered by Hearing Direct’s own brand. The great thing about the device is that at a competitive price it combines the advantages of an “Open Ear” hearing aid and the CIC. It offers:
- Discrete and invisible design
- Speech focus
- A unique features that will better your experience while listening to music
- Feedback and whistle management
- Background noise suppression
It should be noted though that the completely in the canal hearing aids suffer the same disadvantages as the IIC.
In the canal
In the canal hearing aids are another type of very small and hidden hearing aid. They are slightly smaller than the ITE but bigger than CIC devices. They are not visible from the front as they go in the entrance of the ear. Usually, people that do not qualify for the CIC are attracted to in the canal hearing aids as next in size.
In the canal hearing aids are recommended for mild to moderate hearing loss. They offer natural reception of sound as the microphone is placed inside the ear canal. However, they still have the same drawbacks as the CIC hearing aids due to their small size and location.
One of the best devices of this type, available on the market, is the Phonak Virto, whose main characteristics are:
- Phonak’s most advanced and popular QUEST chipset
- Some of Phonak’s best features (availability depends on the chosen level of technology) - Speech In Wind, StereoZoom, ZoomControl, SoundFlow, SoundRecover, Real Ear Sound, WhistleBlock, SoundRelax, etc.
A great choice at a very competitive price is the HD 200 Digital Hearing Aid, which is very discreet and features an adjustable volume and a digital sound technology for a crystal clear sound.
The half-shell hearing aid is a custom made hearing aid smaller than full shell ITE hearing aids as the name suggests. It sits in the lower part of the bowl shaped area of the outer ear. This type of hearing aid is suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss. It’s slightly bigger size allows easier manipulation and control and fits most ears. Still, it is susceptible to earwax and moisture and can easily be damaged by either. Its battery life is shorter than that of behind the ear hearing aids and in the ear hearing aids.
Original article date 8/2/2012, last updated 14/4/2014