Learn About Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have lots of different types and variants. We can not possibly cover every reason some are better or worse in a few paragraphs and if you ever want more information feel free to call us and speak to one of our specialists. We pride ourselves on our transparency and always do everything we can to put a patient in something that will work best with their hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget.
Why a RIC is almost always they best option
We carry several types of hearing aids but our favorite is the receiver in the canal (RIC). We prefer this type of hearing aid because most of the parts on hearing aids that tend to get damaged or go bad, can be repaired in office and we always do this for free for the life of the hearing aids. This is good because most hearing aids only have a 2 to 3 year warranty on them. This means in any other type of hearing aid you would have to pay a deductible or repair fee to have the hearing aid repaired for something extremely simple to fix. Also you tend to go several days with no hearing aids while they are off for repair. In our experience 9 out of 10 times when there is something wrong with any type of hearing aid it is the speaker/receiver. This happens because it is in your ear filled with moisture and earwax every day. Any electronics will go bad in this type of environment, which is why we love the RIC. when it has an issue we remove and replace this part. The RIC can also grow with your loss. What does this mean? As you probably know by now hearing loss only gets worse and you lose more and more every year. So lets say 5 years after you purchase your hearing aids and you have lost even more hearing, we can remove the speaker on the hearing aid and place a stronger one on there that will cover your new hearing loss. We can even take a mold of your ear and attach it to this hearing aid style to make it even more powerful to cover nearly any severity of loss. This will prevent you from having to upgrade or replace your hearing aids every time you lose more hearing. Most places never mention this to patients because they want to sell a new set every 3 to 5 years. We always explain this because we want your hearing aids to last as long as we can make them. These are not cell phones we don’t need to upgrade them every time something new comes out, unless you want to.
Custom in the Canal
We recognize that sometimes a Custom is necessary or just desired because of its ability to go down in the ear. This is a great option but keep in mind that the shape of your ear canal changes every time you have any dental work done and just as time goes on. You may need to replace this type more frequently. Also if your loss is to sever or your canal is too shallow or narrow it is likely that the hearing aid will be more visible than other models. If it is discretion of the device you are concerned about we can explore several options. We are always more concerned about the quality of sound and a full exam will allow us to make the best recommendation for you.
We also have an insta-fit style that has a silicone sleeve to secure the fit and to allow proper ventilation for sound quality. This style hearing aid that is great but has limitations on the more severe hearing losses. Again we are always focused on the proper sound quality but most people that have a moderate to moderately severe hearing loss can wear one of these devices.
BTE hearing aids look a lot like a RIC but the speaker/receiver is built in the hearing aid body and the sound travels down a clear tube. This is still a great hearing aid but it falls short in a lot of areas but is great for a power fit or just a patient who prefers the sound type. Most patients prefer the sound quality of a RIC not to mention the small wire is much more discreet than the tub from a BTE.
Amplifiers and PSAPS
Amplifiers and Personal sound amplifiers (PSAPS) have been around since hearing aids and they are very different but look very similar. They don’t have the ability to fully process each frequency that sound falls in and do it in several different ways. They typically grab several groups of frequencies and amplify those groups instead of the specific one. This is not good for people with hearing loss because the majority of the time every frequency is different than the one to the right and left of them. Hearing loss is complicated and when you try to create a simple solution like this it never works well. Also these devices are not allowed to be marketed legally to assist in hearing loss but for hearing enhancement and for good reason. They have so many limitations and can enhance frequencies in areas that don’t need to be. This means they could be more damaging to hearing than helpful.
OTC Hearing aids – Over the Counter
In 2017, the FDA created a new category of hearing aids specifically for mild-to-moderate hearing loss. These hearing aids are for people who self diagnose their hearing loss and give them the ability to fit themselves. This has a potential to be good and bad. We will do our best to unpack this.
This will make hearing aids more accessible for people who have a low level hearing loss and make many types of accessible to people who could not afford them. This will have a potentially good long term effect on the hearing aid accessibility issue. As technology advances and they begin to increase in their ability to adjust themselves and connect to devices to be remotely adjusted. This could work. But we are years from this being a good solution to hearing loss. But you have to start somewhere, why not now. This will also increase the number of people treating their hearing loss early on and preserve their hearing for a longer period of time. Often times people wait till they have a severe loss and suffer for long periods of time with a mild-to-moderate loss. (equivalent to putting your fingers over your ears) when these people with the lower level of losses start putting hearing aids on earlier they will be more receptive to the benefits to fully programmed hearing aids. It will also help with the negative stigma of hearing aids as more people wear them they will become more “normal”. They will be as common as people wearing eyeglasses.
Hearing aids are extremely complicated to fit. You don’t just turn up the sound where there is a loss, which is why there is such hard licensing programs in every state and required training for the people who have the licenses. The first several years of these devices will likely not be very good but the way technology is nowadays this has the potential in the long term. Another thing to think about is the number of people who have a severe loss who will purchase one of these devices. They will be underfitting themselves and only suffer longer. When you have a hearing loss and you are underfit it only allows the hearing loss to continue to progress rapidly and you have the same problems you had with no hearing aids, often more. But you can not let the few people who will improperly use them to make the rest suffer. Hearing aids should be more affordable but the strict requirements to maintain and train to fit them keep the cost up. These strict requirements increase the quality of care dramatically but there are still A LOT of patients who come to us with hearing aids that have terrible fittings and the wrong equipment even with the strict requirements. We are on the fence about this new law but hope for the best possible outcome.
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