Facts About Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are a commonplace device in modern society, with a few designs being instantly recognizable. They also all share a set of common characteristics: a microphone, a receiver, a battery, and electronics.
However, despite their commonality, there is actually a wide variety of designs in current use. Despite their ubiquity, they are not typically covered by most private health plans.

  1. Identification

    • A hearing aid is an electric acoustic device that fits either in or around the ear, and is designed to amplify or modulate sound. There are a wide variety of hearing aid designs in use today, and not all of the are readily identifiable as hearing aids. Hearing aids may be either analog or digital. They do not replace or correct hearing, with "aid" being the truly operative word.

    Hearing Aid Types

    • A BTE hearing aid.

      Behind The Ear (BTE) hearing aids are among the most well-known models. These consist of a small plastic device that fits behind the ear, delivering amplification through a connected earmold. They are useful for cases of mild to severe hearing loss, and especially good for children, since the earmold can be cheaply replaced as the child grows. Similar is the Open-Fit Device, which has a module placed behind the ear, but uses a small plastic tube instead of an earmold.
      Due to improvements in technology, the previously outmoded Eyeglass Mounted Hearing Aid has been making a comeback. These have the advantage of being part of something the user must already wear. The new version uses four microphones to achieve directional sensitivity. Currently these devices are only available in Europe.
      The Receiver in the Ear (RITE) hearing aid is superficially similar to the BTE, but there is one critical difference: the speaker is actually placed inside the auditory canal. This has two advantages: It has a better sound quality, and the external module can be much smaller and hidden completely behind the ear, making it the most aesthetically pleasing option.
      In The Ear hearing aids use a technology similar to the BTE types, but are custom-made to fit in the ear bowl. They are sometimes visible to observers, but are more discreet than the BTE.

    Special Case: Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA)

    • A BAHA shortly after implantation.

      This hearing aid is a surgical implant, put directly into the skull. It uses the skull itself to bypass the external auditory canal. For people with conductive hearing loss (problems in transmitting sound from the outer to the inner ear) or who are deaf in one ear, but fine in the other, it is a good option.

    Wireless Improvements

    • One of the most important general improvements in hearing aid technology in recent years has been the application of wireless technology. The application of FM systems to hearing aids is now considered fundamental to teaching children with hearing loss. This technology is also applied in cinemas, theatres, and lecture halls in the form of assistive listening systems, and it also has convenience applications for things like Bluetooth.

    Cost Considerations

    • In the US, hearing aids are not usually covered by private health insurance plans, and therefore 100 percent of the cost must be borne by the purchaser. However, the purchase of hearing aids are tax deductible as medical expenses.

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