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About Hearing Aids

• Before You Buy Hearing Aids
• Types of Hearing Aids
• Hearing Aid Features

• Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Hearing aids can be very helpful to people who have a hearing loss. The cost of hearing aids is usually returned many times over in the improvement to your quality of life through better communication with your friends and family. In purchasing hearing aids you need to get the best solution for your hearing needs and budget.

If you have a busy lifestyle, are still working or find yourself in lots of different social situations then more flexible hearing aids that incorporate the latest options may be a worthwhile investment. However if your listening needs are not so critical and you have a quieter lifestyle some hearing aid features may not be useful and so fewer options may suffice. It’s important to talk about your hearing needs when discussing what hearing aids are suitable with your audiologist, including use of the telephone or mobile phone, special interests or hobbies and difficult listening situations.

If you are on a Centrelink pension you may be eligible for free or subsidised hearing services including hearing aids. To find out more call 1800 500 726 or go to the Office of Hearing Services web site (see link "OHS" at left). Otherwise, private health cover may provide rebates on hearing aid purchases so please check with your health fund. In addition, you may be able to claim them as a health cost deduction in your annual tax return.

You should always purchase hearing aids from a qualified practitioner who is a registered member of one of the Australian hearing care professional organisations.

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• Types of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids vary greatly in appearance. Below are some of the most common types of hearing aids and a little about when they might be suitable.

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CIC – Completely in the Canal hearing aids fit totally within the ear canal. They are now suitable for hearing losses up to severe. Because they are so small they often have fewer features so please check this when considering your requirements.

ITC – In the Canal hearing aids fit mostly in the region of the ear canal. They can be used up to severe losses.

ITE – In the Ear hearing aids take up most of the bowl (concha) of the outer ear (pinna). These may be used for up to profound hearing losses. Often a larger aid is better for people who have trouble with vision or with the use of their hands and fingers.

Open Fit BTE – Open Fit Behind the Ear hearing aids are popular because of their improved comfort. They are suitable for a wide range of hearing losses where low frequency hearing is normal to a mild hearing loss.

Standard BTE – Standard Behind the Ear hearing aids are still used for those with moderte or greater hearing losses. The larger earmold allows sound to be kept in the ear canal to reduce feedback and improve amplification.

RIC BTE – Receiver in Canal Behind the Ear hearing aids (also known as Canal Receiver Technology - CRT) have a small speaker that sits in the ear canal while the rest of the electronics sits behind the ear. This split of components allows for both small ear molds and small aids. This type of aid can be used from mild to profound losses and is aesthetically ideal for many people.

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• Hearing Aid Features

Hearing aids also vary greatly in the range of features that are avaiable. Below are some of the most common features of modern hearing aids. This info is general in nature and more detail is available on manufacturers web sites (click on links at the left).

Directional Microphones – Most modern hearing aids have some way of focussing the instrument to amplify sound more in a particular direction. These may be fixed or dynamic (i.e. adjusted to focus on or reduce the volume of certain sounds). The objective is to increase desireable sounds (e.g. speech) and reduce unwanted sounds (i.e. noise). This feature is strongly recommended.

Feedback Management – Hearing aid gain is often limited by feedback, the notorious hearing aid "whistle". To reduce feedback, hearing aid manufacturers employ a wide range of processing strategies, too many to name here. Feedback management is more important to those with severe losses or with open fit aids.

Number of Channels – A major difference between top end and budget hearing aids is the number of channels that the sound is divided into across the frequency range of the aid. More channels allows better tailoring to an individuals needs as well as improved noise management capability.

Noise Management – this feature utilises the hearing aid's microphones and the number of channels as well as sophisticated noise detection and processing software to make speech sounds easier to hear in the presence of background noise

Remote Control – Many hearing aids can be controlled with a small hand-held remote control device. These can be useful for those with poor dexterity (e.g. arthritis) or vision impairments and can be a more discreet way of altering the aid settings to get the best results in a particular situation. They are often included in the purchase price of the hearing aids.

Connectivity to other devices – If you have trouble with hearing the TV, mobile or home phone or even your iPod, current model hearing aids are now being equipped with bluetooth interfaces so that they can access many of these devices. This is often achieved with a separate device which is worn around the neck.

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© Copyright Access Hearing 2009 - Last Update 1 June 2012