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Hearing Aid Styles

Styles of hearing aids are predominantly driven by two opposing factors:

1. Laws of physics (and personal experience of most amateur pub bands) in respect to speakers and microphones which dictate they should be kept some distance apart to avoid  whistling and feedback screech.

And

2. Social dynamics and stigma which dictates that hearing aids should be as small and invisible as possible, requiring these two items be placed as close together as possible.

As a consequence, the battle over the need for invisibility and the need for distance to control feedback results in a number of clever solutions; either through sound processing or physical design.

Two main approaches to hearing aid style or design exist today. These are either ‘In The Ear’ hearing aids or ‘Behind The Ear’ hearing aids. Each style has its own further sub-categories but essentially the first choice to make when looking at style is which of these to go for. As one might expect, neither one is perfect; only one style would survive the constant development cycle by hearing aid manufacturers were this the case.

Advantages and disadvantages of the two styles can be seen below:

BTE Hearing AidBehind The Ear Hearing Aids

Advantages:

•    Physical separation of speaker output and microphone input
•    Physical comfort and fitting
•    Battery life
•    ‘Actual’ cosmetic appearance

Disadvantages:

•    ‘Perceived’ cosmetic appearance
•    Wind and microphone noise

ITE Hearing AidIn The Ear Hearing Aids

Advantages:

•    ‘Perceived’ cosmetic appearance

Disadvantages:

•    Reliability/breakdown
•    ‘Actual’ cosmetic appearance
•    Occlusion (sense of being ‘blocked’ up)
•    Battery life

On balance, there can be no question that the benefits of using a Behind The Ear hearing aid significantly outweigh those of the In The Ear style. The overpowering reason that In The Ear hearing aids are chosen is ‘perceived’ cosmetics. “Surely something that goes inside my ear will be less obvious to those around me”. Apart from the fact that, in reality, many of the modern Behind The Ear styles mean that they are often less conspicuous than their In The Ear counterparts, the issue is one of hearing help rather than visibility to others. One could argue that it might be more conspicuous that you need a hearing aid than it is when one is using one. Many of our customers come to us having paid large sums of money for In The Ear hearing aids only to discover reliability and comfort issues and to try a Behind The Ear style – very few then go back to In The Ear styles.

Clearly, the decision on which hearing aid style to go for is a very personal one but when my time comes to need one, I know which option I shall be taking!

For more advice on style and choice of hearing aids, feel free to call us on the number above and speak with our audiologist.

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