Modern technology truly is a marvel. It wasn’t long ago that people with hearing loss had no choice but to suffer in silence as their ability to communicate slowly drained away. Thankfully, hearing aids have become commonplace across the world, and they’re always being developed to become smaller, stronger, and more varied.
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that you wear behind your ear or in your ear canal. They’re used by people who have irreversible hearing loss (usually sensorineural) and help them communicate by making environmental sounds louder.
Because every person experiences hearing loss differently, there are different types of hearing aids.
This article is going to shed some light on these hearing aids and guide you on which hearing aid is best for you, how to look after your hearing aid, what to expect when you start first wearing your hearing aid, as well as where to buy a hearing aid.
Types of Hearing Aids: Which hearing aid is best?
As the image above clearly shows, there are many different types of hearing aids. Some are more outdated than others, and some are also more popular than others. You can buy a hearing aid over the counter or through an audiologist.
If you are still in the process of deciding which hearing aid is best for you, there are many options available online as well. If you are looking for the best hearing aid on market a cost friendly solution for mild to severe hearing loss you’ll love HearGift. With different analog and digital models and price points available, this hearing aid manufacturer won’t break the bank.
Analog or Digital
Over the counter hearing aids are usually (but not always) “Analog” hearing aids, while hearing aids you receive from an audiologist are usually “Digital” hearing aids. Analog hearing aids are easier to operate and mainly act as a sound amplifier. Some have different modes and features and are adjustable.
Digital hearing aids can be more complicated and may require an audiologist to program them so that they’re tailored for your needs. They’re much more expensive and have multiple modes, functions, and extra features.
It’s recommended that you have a hearing test so that you know how severe your hearing loss is, so you can determine which hearing aid is best for your needs.
If you’d like to learn more about the difference between analog and digital hearing aids and how hearing aids work, you can read the FDA’s statement here.
BTE or ITC
Two of the most common and popular types of hearing aids are behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids and in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids – both of which have analog and digital variations. There are pros and cons to each type, and the type of hearing aid you choose for yourself is dependent on the type of hearing loss you have, how you want your hearing aid to work, as well as your own personal preference.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
- Consist of a hard-plastic case that’s worn behind your ear
- Has a tube that connects the case to the hearing mold/dome
- The hearing mold/dome sits inside your ear canal
- This is the most common hearing aid
- Comes in different sizes
- (open fit) for mild to severe hearing loss
- for mild to severe hearing loss
- for moderately-severe to profound hearing loss
- They’re generally cheaper than other hearing aids which are customized and require special modifications
- BTE’s can also be rechargeable hearing aids
- Consists of a hard-plastic case only
- The entire hearing aid sits inside your ear canal
- Very small and is custom made to fit your ear canal’s size and shape
- This makes them more expensive
- Their small size makes it difficult for certain populations to operate them:
- People with poor eyesight
- People with arthritis
- People with dexterity problems
- Their small size can make them less powerful than some BTE’s
- People with severe to profound hearing loss won’t benefit from them
- Only people with mild to moderately severe hearing loss can use them
- They don’t have as many special features as BTE’s due to their size
- ITC’s can also be rechargeable hearing aids
How do hearing aids work?
How a hearing aid works relies on lots of little inside and outside components to operate effectively. You must learn what these components are so that you can operate your hearing aid correctly and receive maximum benefit.
This is the most important part of your hearing aid, as it houses:
- The microphone (which picks up the sounds in the environment and changes them into an electrical signal),
- The amplifier (which makes this electrical signal louder)
- The receiver (which converts the amplified electrical signal back into an acoustic signal and transmits it into your ear canal)
- If you’d like to watch a short video to see the process in action, you can click here.
The earmold/dome is the part of the hearing aid that goes into your ear canal. They’re designed specifically for your ear to ensure they’re as comfortable as possible and that they conduct sound properly
Also called a tone hook, this is the part of your hearing aid where you attach the tubing connected to your earmold/dome. This is an important piece of your hearing aid, as it allows the amplified sound to travel from the receiver into your ear
This is where you will insert the battery that powers your hearing aid. Batteries come in different sizes, depending on your hearing aid. Most batteries last one to four weeks before they need to be replaced, but there are now many rechargeable hearing aids that don’t rely on battery changes on the market
This switch allows you to turn on your hearing aid to use it and switch it off when you aren’t. Some hearing aids don’t have this switch, as they turn on automatically when you insert the battery. In this instance, you will close the battery compartment to switch the hearing aid on and leave it open to switch the hearing aid off
This control allows you to toggle the volume of your hearing aid to help you hear better, depending on the environment you are in. If you are watching TV at home alone, you’ll probably turn the volume up on your hearing aid, but if you’re at a family gathering with lots of noise, you’d probably turn the volume down
This selection allows you to choose from different settings programmed into your hearing aid. You’ll often change the mode you’re using when you change the volume, as some modes are made especially for noisy environments while others are made especially for quieter environments. Each mode helps you hear better in a certain environment, which makes them very handy to have!
How To Put Your Hearing Aid In: Orientation
Once you have selected your hearing aid and have had it fitted, you’ll need to know how it works, how to use it and, and how to take care of it. The best person to “orientate” you with your hearing aid is an audiologist, however, if you’ve got your hearing aid over the counter, then the hearing aid dispenser or pharmacist will be able to help you as well.
Make sure that you know the following before you leave your appointment:
- Where the volume control is and how to operate it
- Where the mode selection is and how to operate it
- What all the buttons and switches on the hearing aid are for
- How to insert and remove batteries or, how to recharge your hearing aid if you own a rechargeable hearing aid
- The type of battery that your hearing aid needs, as well as how long the batteries last for and where you can buy new ones
- How to insert and remove your earmold/dome
- How to use the Dry and Store and air blower
- How to prevent wax build-up and how to remove wax that is on your earmold/dome
- How long your hearing aid warranty is
Caring For Your Hearing Aids And Your Hearing Aid Accessories
There are several things that you need to do to keep your hearing aid in good working condition. Some of these things you have to do every day, while others you can do once a month or even once a year.
Read on to learn how to make sure your hearing aid lasts longer, remains beneficial, and doesn’t get damaged.
Cleaning your hearing aid
One of the most important parts of owning a hearing aid is keeping it clean so that you prevent ear infections and ensure that it works properly.
The way you clean a BTE hearing aid is different from an ITC hearing aid, so make sure you know which hearing aid you have and how to clean it correctly.
You should clean your hearing aid at the end of each day by following these directions:
Cleaning your Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid
- Check your hearing aid case for wax or dirt
- Use a dry cloth and brush to remove any wax and dirt that you find
- This step differs depending on the type of BTE hearing aid you own:
Cleaning the earmold
Use the cleansing wire loop to remove wax and dirt from the tip of the earmold/ear dome Wash your hearing aid occasionally by: Removing the ear mold off of the tone hook of the hearing aid Pouring water into the cleansing beaker (you can use a bowl of water if you don’t have a cleansing beaker) and inserting the cleansing tablet (you can use regular dish soap if you don’t have a cleansing tablet) Placing the earmold/dome into the sieve and inserting it into the cleansing beaker Waiting 15 – 30 minutes Rinsing the earmold/dome under clean water Drying it off with a dry cloth Using the air puffer to remove moisture from the hearing aid openings Reattach the tube to your hearing aid case by pushing it back onto the ear hook If you’d like to watch this process in action, you can watch this video
Cleaning the ear dome
Use the cleansing wire loop to remove wax and dirt from the tube Turn anticlockwise to detach it Insert and push the cleansing wire through the entire tube Reattach the tube by turning it clockwise If you’d like to watch this process in action, you can watch this video
Take the battery out to dry your hearing aid using the Store and Dry overnight to extract moisture
Cleaning your ITC hearing aid safely:
- Check your hearing aid for wax or dirt
- Use a dry cloth and brush to remove any wax and dirt you find
- If your hearing aid has a vent (a special hole that relieves pressure), insert the vent cleaner through the vent to remove wax and dirt
- If the wax guard looks dirty, change it (you can find a video on changing the wax guard here)
- Take the battery out to dry your hearing aid (you can find a video on how to take the battery out here)
- Use the Store and Dry overnight to extract moisture
Using your hearing aid’s Dry and Store
It’s very important to use your hearing aid’s Dry and Store, especially if you are physically active.
When you exercise or even go about your daily routine, you sweat. This sweat gets on your hearing aid and makes it dirty. Worse, the moisture can actually build up and damage your hearing aid, the way water damages a cell phone. Of course, that means that you shouldn’t swim with your hearing aid in, and you should never wear your hearing aid while showering or bathing.
By using your Dry and Store every night, you make sure that all that excess moisture goes away so that your hearing aid works optimally and for as long as possible. This is also a good habit to get into, as there is no need to wear your hearing aid while you sleep because you won’t be awake to benefit from it. If you wear your hearing aid while you sleep, then you’ll drain your battery unnecessarily, accumulate wax, and risk damaging it should it fall out.
A note on the topic of exercise, you should avoid contact sports when wearing your hearing aid, as aggressive contact could cause your hearing aid to getting hit or knocked out, which will damage it, especially if it gets trampled on.
Changing the dome on your hearing aid
If your hearing aid has a dome, then you’ll need to learn how to change it and recognize when a change needs to happen.
As you can see in the picture below, there are different types of domes. Luckily the method you use to change your dome is the same for all types.
It’s recommended that you replace your dome a least once a month (or every 4 weeks). To change your dome, you should:
- Hold the speaker and thin tube firmly and pull off the old earpiece
- Clean the speaker with a clean cloth to remove any earwax
- Place the new dome exactly in the middle of the earpiece where the old one was
- Push the new dome in place firmly to make sure that it’s secure and won’t fall off
Changing a dome really is that easy! If you’re hesitant to change the dome yourself or you’re experiencing some difficulty, you can go to your nearest pharmacy, and the hearing aid dispenser or pharmacist should be able to give you a hand. You can also watch this video
Changing the wax guard on your hearing aid
A wax guard is a small plastic screen that you insert in the speaker of your hearing aid (which sits in your ear canal) to protect it from wax build-up. The wax guard is a great little tool, as it also prevents moisture and other debris from getting into the speaker and damaging it.
You should change your wax guard once a month. If you feel your hearing aid isn’t working and the sound is distorted or has stopped completely, then you should check the wax guard and replace it if necessary. It’s difficult for sound to travel from the speaker into your ear canal if there’s wax blocking the way.
If your ear produces a lot of wax, then you may have to change your wax guard more often. Don’t be alarmed by this. Everyone’s ears are different, and some produce more wax than others.
To replace your wax guard, you should:
- Remove the tool from the package. It should have a new wax guard on one end and a wax guard removal hook on the other
- Insert the removal hook into your current wax guard and pull it out slowly while keeping the tool straight
- Turn the tool around and push the new wax guard into place and pull the tool out slowly while keeping it straight
- Throw the tool with the old wax guard away.
- These tools are for single use only for infection control purposes
You can buy more wax guards at any clinic or pharmacy, and you can ask your audiologist, hearing aid technician, or pharmacist for assistance with changing your wax guard should feel that you need help. You can also watch this video.
Using your hearing aid’s battery holder and carrying case
You must use your battery holder and carry case because storing your batteries and hearing aid is the best way to ensure that they stay safe and in good condition. Think about it, your battery holder and carrying case will protect your batteries and hearing aid from:
Dirt: Infection control is very important when it comes to hearing aids, and you can ensure your ear health by storing your hearing aid correctly and preventing it from getting dirty
Moisture: Moisture build-up on hearing aids is bad and has the potential to make them stop working. If you Dry and Store your hearing aid correctly, then you won’t run the risk of having a moisture build-up ruin your hearing aid
Pets: Lots of people can’t imagine their lives without their furry friends. Unfortunately, some pets tend to play and chew on hearing aids because of the high-frequency noise they make when their battery is left in. By storing your batteries and hearing aid away properly, you can save yourself from having to replace your hearing aid (and possibly a visit to the vet too!)
Children: Young children, especially toddlers, like to explore their environment and put objects in their mouths. To them, your hearing aid is just another object to explore, so it’s best to keep it packed away safely when you’re not using it
Extreme temperatures: Extreme cold and extreme heat can damage the case of your hearing aid. By keeping it in its carrying case, you’ll ensure that the temperature remains neutral and that your hearing aid stays safe
Managing your expectations
While hearing aids are wonderful modern inventions, they aren’t magic devices that you plug in, so your hearing loss goes away. Hearing aids can’t cure hearing loss, and they can only manipulate the sounds around you to make them easier for you to hear.
Adjusting to your hearing aid is a complicated process that isn’t quick and easy, and you’re bound to stumble over a few bumps after you’ve been fitted with a hearing aid, and you’re used to it.
Here’s what to do if:
Your hearing aid is uncomfortable
It’s normal to find your hearing aid uncomfortable at first. You’re not used to them, and it will take some time. The key is to persevere and keep wearing them. If you find that you’ve worn them for about two weeks and they’re still uncomfortable, then it’s probably a good idea to go speak to your audiologist, hearing aid technician, or pharmacist.
Your voice sounds too loud
This is called the “occlusion effect” and is very common for new hearing aid users. You’ll get used to this sensation over time, and it won’t bother you. If you find the sensation distracting and feel like it isn’t going away, then you should speak to your audiologist, hearing aid technician, or pharmacist.
There’s a whistling sound
This is known as “feedback” and usually occurs when your hearing aid isn’t fitting inside your ear canal properly, or it’s blocked with earwax or fluid. You’ll need to speak to your audiologist, hearing aid technician, or pharmacist, to get this problem fixed.
There’s background noise
Because a hearing aid primarily acts as an amplifier, it can’t always separate the sounds that you want to hear from the sounds that you don’t want to hear. You just need to give yourself time get used the presence of background noise, or you can speak to your audiologist, hearing aid technician, or pharmacist to see if any adjustments can be made.
There’s a lot of information in this article, and using a hearing aid for the first time can be nerve-wracking, and even a bit scary, but the benefits you’ll experience are worth all the effort.
The best way to help yourself adjust to your hearing aid is to become familiar with its features and practice putting it in and taking it out, as well as cleaning it, replacing its batteries, and how to care for it.
Remember, using a hearing aid is a steep learning curve that you aren’t going to master overnight. Be patient with yourself and keep trying. The only way to get used to it is actually to wear it.
If you feel that you’re still struggling with your hearing aids after a couple of weeks, book an appointment with your audiologist, hearing aid technician, or pharmacist so that they can assess the hearing aid and guide you on the way forward.