Once a hearing evaluation has been completed and the patient’s type and degree of hearing loss has been determined, a treatment plan can be created. Over 90 percent of those with hearing loss can benefit from the use of a hearing aid. If a hearing device has been determined to be the best course of treatment, the patient will work with the audiologist to select the best style to fit their needs.
Determining the patient’s hearing lifestyle can help when selecting a hearing aid, as it determines the amount of technology the patient needs. There are four lifestyle categories: private, quiet, active and dynamic.
Those that fall into the private lifestyle require a device that functions well in calm, less demanding listening situations. These situations involve minimal background background noise such as the sound of a doorbell, a ringing phone or an alarm going off.
A quiet lifestyle involves occasional background noise from driving, small family gatherings and quiet restaurants. Hearing devices for this lifestyle are designed for someone who spends most of their time relaxing at home with occasional social outings in a quieter environment.
Hearing aids for those with an active lifestyle are designed to provide excellent flexibility and performance in a variety of listening environments. Those with this lifestyle enjoy many activities in less crowded environments with a moderate level of background noise, such as movie theaters and health clubs.
The most advanced lifestyle is dynamic. The devices that treat those in this lifestyle must provide optimum flexibility and performance in a wide range of demanding listening environments. Those that fall into this category typically attend meetings and social events in busy restaurants and large concert venues while still participating in quiet activities such as reading a book. The device must be able to easily switch between different levels of background noise.
Once the level of technology has been decided upon, the patient will then need to determine which device style matches their needs and personal aesthetics. There are six major styles, ranging from practically invisible to models that sit behind the ear. Completely in the canal (CIC) sits entirely within the canal. This is the smallest model, which means it has the shortest battery life and cannot contain any additional features. In the canal (ITC) sits partially within the canal and partially outside of it. Since it is slightly larger than the CIC model, it may contain a few additional features and a larger battery. In the ear (ITE) model comes in two styles, one that fills most of the outer ear and one that fills only the lower part. This is the smallest style that is appropriate for all ages with mild to severe hearing loss.
Behind the ear (BTE) is a two-part style; one piece sits within the ear canal and one sits behind the ear, and the pieces are connected with tubing. This is the largest style so it may contain the most number of additional features and uses the largest battery. Receiver in the canal (RIC) is similar to the BTE, except instead of connecting the parts with tubing they are connected with a thin wire. This leads to a less visible model. The final style is open fit. This is a variation on the RIC model, except the portion that sits within the ear canal is open. This lets low-frequency sounds enter the ear naturally, while high-frequency tones must still pass through the hearing aid.
Hearing aid batteries, often called Zinc-Air batteries last longer and drain differently than traditional mercury ones. Instead of slowly losing power, these batteries will go from seemingly full to dead in an instant.