Patients should consult with an audiologist about which hearing aid is most suitable for them. Buying a hearing aid without a medical consultation is discouraged because hearing specialists need to evaluate the type of hearing loss before recommending a type of hearing aid. Furthermore, many states require a medical evaluation before the purchase of a hearing aid.
Hearing aids are an alternative to medical or surgical treatment for hearing loss. They function by amplifying sound and stimulating nerve cells in the inner ear, which then sends signals to the brain for processing.
Generally hearing aids consist of four main parts:
- A microphone to pick up sound
- An amplifier to increase the volume of the sound
- A receiver/speaker to send the sound into the ear
- A battery to power the parts
Hearing aids differ in size, shape, design, volume control and special features. They also can be worn in one or both ears. Audiologists help patients pick hearing aids that accommodate their listening needs, comfort and lifestyles.
There are three main styles of hearing aids:
- In the ear aids- These aids fill the outer part of the ear and are relatively large and visible. They are suited for people with mild to severe hearing loss. The battery lasts longer than in those of smaller hearing aids.
- In the canal/completely in the canal aids- This aid fits directly in the ear canal. It works best for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. It is very small and barely visible. Because of its size, it comes with a remote to change the settings. The battery does not last as long as the batteries in other aids.
- Behind the ear aids- The electronics of this aid rest in a case behind the ear. A clear tube reaches over the ear to connect the electronic case with an earmold, which sits inside the ear. This aid is quite visible, but it accommodates mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss. It is also recommended for children because it is easy to handle and suited for ear growth.
Hearing aids also differ based on what special features they offer. Some aids are made with a telephone setting that allows users to hear better on the phone by eliminating the surrounding sound, so that the user only picks up on sound coming from the phone. Also, aids with direct-audio input capability allow users to plug their aids into electronic devices, such as a TV or CD player.