When choosing the best hearing impairment aids, audiologists recommend that a buyer consider his or her level of hearing loss — mild, moderate, or severe —, as well as where on the ear the person would feel most comfortable wearing the amplifying device. The visibility and size of the aid are also factors many buyers consider, as some would prefer aids that are undetectable or at least not very obvious. There are four main types of hearing impairment aids: the behind-the-ear hearing aid (BTE), the in-the-ear hearing air (ITE), the body aid, and the ear canal aid. These aids, which are bought by people who prefer to be called “hard of hearing” or “deaf,” can be inserted deep inside the ear carnal so that they are nearly invisible or discreetly attached to the various external parts of the ear. Different locations and sizes affect buying decisions as consumers choose among the different levels of comfort and amplification.
Shoppers in the early stages of deafness usually choose hearing impairment aids specifically designed for mild loss, such as the ITE. ITE devices are among the tiniest hearing impairment aids and thus fit snugly and comfortably into the outer ear. Due to the small size, this type of hearing impairment aid is not visually distracting.
A tradeoff, however, is that the small size prohibits easy adjustments to controls for the volume and the cancellation of environmental noise. Still, many users report satisfaction with this device. The main appeal for buyers is that this device can grow along with the user, accommodating the wearer for years because it effectively responds to the full range of deafness, from mild, early hearing loss at high frequencies to a severe and progressed hearing loss at multiple frequencies.
People with moderate hearing loss often find that choosing a canal hearing impairment aid is most suitable. Two versions of canal hearing impairment aids exist. The first, an in the canal (ITC) device, is only partially inserted into the ear canal, leaving a tiny piece visible. It typically has two microphones, allowing buyers to reduce or raise amplification, rendering the ITC suitable for mild hearing loss as well.
Another canal hearing aid can disappear completely inside the canal and is invisible. This is the smallest and most expensive device. Some buyers complain that it magnifies the sound of their voice too much.
Hearing experts recommend that shoppers with medium to severe hearing loss consider choosing the BTE or the ITE, depending on whether they feel most comfortable with a foreign object inside the ear or behind it. Both are barely detectable to the public. The BTE is a small amplifier that attaches behind the ridge of cartilage that defines the outer ear. Attached to the amplifier is a transparent tube that curves over the ear ridge and into the external ear to deliver sound waves and electronic signals. According to hearing loss magazines, the behind-the-ear hearing aid, which can easily be hidden by a few inches or centimeters of hair, is the aid most commonly used by everyone from children to elderly people.
For buyers with the most severe hearing loss, the body hearing aid has been a standard for decades. It is the largest device, rivaling the size of a deck of cards. A harness worn over the chest holds the body hearing aid, which has tubes that connect the amplifier to ear molds. Since digital technology has reduced the size of hardware for hearing impairment aids, the bulky body hearing aid has nearly become passé. Shoppers with severe loss often find the body aid no more effective than the BTE.