We realise that ultimatley it is what you do, day-to-day, that influences your hearing needs. Whether that be a coffee with a friend, a meeting at work or attending a concert. WIth our expert guidance, you can be assured that your interests are placed at the centre of everything we do.
We know that hearing technology, although remarkeable, is not enough by itself to get the most from your useable hearing. That is why we focus on more than your ears and the latest hearing devices. We know that choosing private hearing aids is more of a process than an immediate decision.
This is why we not only carry out detailed and accurate hearing tests, but take the time to carefully explore your listening and lifestyle needs, and any worries you may have about investing in your hearing. There are a range of different hearing device styles available, from almost invisible devices to the more traditional hearing devices which sit behind the ears.
In this blog, we will explore how hearing aids work, additional functionality avialable, why lifestyle is important to consider and why the relationship with your audiologist is crucial. If you would like to test your hearing at home, click on ‘Online hearing test’
How hearing devices work
Hearing aids receive sounds, which are converted in to a digital signal. This is then modified or processed, before being converted back to sounds via a small loudspeaker. So basically three components, a microphone (or two), a sound processor (mini-computer) and a tiny loudspeaker.
Modern hearing aids can communicate with each other if part of a pair, can communicate with mobile phones and computers and can connect to a range of other devices which all make listening easier. Imagine sitting at home, listening to your favourite music, streamed directly into your hearing aids. Your phone rings, you take the call, hands-free with your hearing aids acting as your phone without the need to even touch your phone. The call ends, and you decide to watch the news on TV. Again, the sound is streamed directly into your hearing devices.
To get additional features inside the devices requires more physical space and thus smaller devices (usually inside the ear) will not have all the features that bigger devices (outside the ear) may have. That said, as technology improves, more and more features are becoming available, even in the smallest hearing aids.
Factors to consider
Type and degree or level of hearing loss. Hearing problems are different for everyone. Is the loss conductive, sensori-neural or a combination of both. See (Describing Hearing Loss) for further discussion. The level of hearing loss, often known as the degree of loss can be from mild, moderate, severe to profound. These factors will in some cases, limit th options of devices that you can use.
Hearing aid styles (device options)
We will separate available devices into two categories. Outside the ear and inside the ear devices.
Outside The Ear
Modern devices which sit outside the ear can be split into tow categories. The first, Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE), or Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) has the microphone and the mini-computer in a small device which sits behind the ear. From there, a thin almost invisible tube containing a wire, connects to a tiny loudspeaker (typically called a receiver in hearing device language). This receiver is usually fitted into a soft dome which fits into the ear canal.
These devise are usually small, discreet and have Bluetooth connectivity, allowing for smartphone, PC and a wide range of streaming options directly to the devices.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) devices look quite similar to RITE devices. The key difference is that the loudspeaker or receiver is housed in the device and the sound travels down a narrow tube which connects to either a soft dome or a more personalised earmould. These also have Bluetooth connectivity.
Inside The Ear
There are a few different styles of hearing aids that fit in the ear.
The first is an ITE (In-the-Ear) device which usually can not only fit quite severe hearing losses, but also can have Bluetooth connectivity and features similar to the out of ear devices.
These can fill the whole of the concha (full shell) or can be smaller (half shell).
The next smallest device is an In-the-Canal (ITC) device. These again can have multiple microphones to aid speech understanding in noise and can usually connect to smartphones etc for direct streaming. They aren’t quite as powerful as ITE devices and thus, depending on your level of hearing loss, they may not be suitable.
Completely-in-Canal (CIC) devices sit almost invisibly in the ear canal. They are usually used for people with mild-moderate losses and can have a number of different sound processing strategies set up. They can’t connect to devices, however if you have a mild-moderate hearing loss, you may not need Bluetooth connectivity. They are very discreet and offer a very natural sound quality, given their position in the ear canal.
Finally, Invisible-in-Canal (IIC) devices offer the most discreet device available. Typically for mild-moderate losses, they offer excellent sound quality without visibility.
Functionality of hearing devices
There are a number of functions that modern, digital hearing devices can provide. The physical size of the device will limit the options available.
Directional microphones: these are designed to detect sounds coming from in front of the listener, while reducing sounds from other directions. They are used to improve speech understanding in noise.
Telecoils: telecoils can be used anywhere there is an induction loop system, or with telecoil-compatible telephones for improved sound. They are often used in theatres, banks etc.
Wireless connectivity: many modern hearing aids can now wirelessly connect to Bluetooth compatible devices, such as mobile phones, televisions and music players. These allow for the audio signal to be transmitted directly into hearing aids to improve listening.
Remote control: some hearing aids can be controlled with a remote control to adjust it without the need to touch the aid for more discreet adjustments. Apps on smartphones often act as remote controls.
Programs: most hearing aids can provide different programs or ‘settings’ which the user can choose from. For example, a program can be set up to provide optimal listening to music. This would give an enriched sound quality compared to the default setting, which is typically set up to improve understanding speech.
Listening in noise: hearing can be difficult in noisy environments, even with hearing aids. Many digital devices have powerful signal processing strategies that are constantly monitoring the listening environment and making changes to how the sound is processed.
Synchronisation: many people with hearing loss wear hearing aids in both ears. Devices typically communicate with each other, again to improve the overall listening experience.Lifestyle
Do you work, attend meetings, go to gigs, have a busy social life, or live a quieter lifestyle. There are many factors which should influence the decision you and your audiologist make when choosing which hearing devices are most suited to you.
More challenging lifestyles require more function. Less challenging lifestyles may allow for more discreet devices. The size and shape of your ears, whether you produce excessive earwax, these all are important factors.
Ultimately, the decision arrived at should be a shared one. With detailed listening from your audiologist, alongside careful questioning, the choice of hearing aids made will have a significant impact on your sucess with them. Investing in your hearing is a signifcant step, and one that requires trust and honesty. Choosing your audiologist carefully is as important as the choice of devices. Unfortunately a lot of the bigger hearing aid providers are driven more by the performance of their audiologists rather than the outcomes of their clients. They often offer ‘free’ hearing tests as a way to get clients through their doors.
Look at the qualifications of your audiologist and check their reviews. As with most things in life, exceptional service isn’t always guaranteed.
What our clients say.
“I would highly recommend the Hearing Space. Paul provided a very professional and thorough service, both in the initial removal of my ear wax and in the selection and fitting of my hearing aids. He explained everything clearly and sympathetically. And I got to see my eardrums!” Nick P
“I am in my nineties and Paul has just fitted my new hearing aids. I am absolutely delighted with them. He is a consummate professional and no minor detail escapes him. He has treated me with such kindness. He is also a very delightful, caring person and I would heartily recommend anybody with hearing problems to contact him. I’m so glad I found him!” Joyce M
If you are thinking of investing in your hearing, contact Paul today for an informal discussion.
T: 0113 8730444