Why Choose Open Ear Hearing Aids?

There have been several momentous changes in the production and manufacture of hearing aids, but none so dramatic as the introduction of digital technology.

Firstly, there was the traditional ear trumpet. Then, the first proper hearing aids were introduced, in the form of the little box, which would sit around the neck or in a breast pocket. That was known as the ‘body worn’ hearing aid.

Then the first behind the ear aids were made, which were large and cumbersome, but sat behind the ear, and had the microphone pointing in the direction that the ear pointed, which in itself was a big advance.

Then analogue ‘in the ear’ hearing aids were produced, which were the first systems to pay heed to cosmetic requirements.

Hearing aids that were analogue but programmable came next, and then soon after that was the advent of open ear hearing aids. These revolutionised the hearing profession, giving extra clarity, noise filters, dual microphones and an accurate programming ability. When we look at original digital hearing aids now, they seem as antiquated as an analogue aids would have done when digital first became available, but at the time they were groundbreaking.

Technology in the hearing profession has moved at an astonishing pace in the last five years or so.

The biggest breakthrough for the hearing aid wearer is the open fit devices. The first of these was the Resound Hearing Aid called the Contact Air. This comprised of a small pod behind the ear using size 10 hearing battery, a very thin tube to carry the sound into the ear, where it connected to a soft dome, which fitted snugly in the ear canal. These were amazingly popular and successful, and were responsible for a revolution in hearing aid technology. The Delta was the first Oticon hearing system to incorporate an open fit and the Savia Art and Audeo are some of the early open fit Phonak Hearing Aids. The Delta from Oticon (which has now been superseded by the Dual Mini) introduced RITE (receiver in the ear) technology, which removed the acoustic vagaries of thin tubing, as the tubing itself was replaced by a wire which carried the sound electronically to the speaker, which was housed underneath the soft rubbery dome.

But what makes them so special?

There are several reasons why an open fitting hearing aid will always be preferable.

1. Comfort. Because there is no mould to seal the ear, the rubber dome sits snugly in the ear canal, preventing unnecessary perspiration and allowing the ear to ‘breathe’ as it would if no hearing aid was worn. I have often heard people say ‘I don’t know I’m wearing them’ as they are so light and comfortable.

2. Quality of hearing. The basis of an open ear fitting is that it allows the wearer to use the percentage of hearing he or she still has remaining, but is given a boost (usually in mid and high pitch sound) to aid clarity with the hearing of speech. This effect has given us the nearest we can achieve to normal hearing via hearing aids.

3. Cost. Open ear hearing aids are factory made and do not cost as much to manufacture as a custom-made in the ear hearing aid. Therefore, higher technology specifications are available at lower price ranges. The fact that they are factory manufactured also means the instruments are more reliable than in the ear hearing aids.

4. Discretion. Due to the very thin wire and small ‘pod’ sitting behind the ear, open fit hearing aids tend to be very discrete and largely invisible.

OK, so how do I get one?

BTE (Behind the Ear) Hearing Aids – Confused?

Behind-the-ear hearing aids or simply BTE are becoming increasingly popular these days. As are the three letter acronyms, I swear most people just make them up as they go along. The reason they are so popular is mainly because of their simple nature and the way they comfortably fit behind an individual’s ear, regardless what the shape and size of their ear is. They are suitable for people of any age, they’re often the choice for children due to their simplicity. The circuitry of this hearing aid is housed within a case that fits behind the ear. There are other reasons for their popularity as well, for example they are able to accommodate a larger battery and a bigger amplifier than the smaller in-ear hearing aids.

BTE hearing aids are suitable for any level of hearing impairment and all types of hearing losses an individual suffers from. You can consult an audiologist to determine what kind of hearing aid would suit you the best. BTE hearing aids are more powerful and less expensive than the in-ear hearing aids because they can use older technology. BTE hearing aids normally come with a plastic protective case. They fit behind the ear, and so they are not completely unnoticeable, but because of their un-rivaled ease-of-use they are extremely popular, especially for children.

There are some drawbacks of wearing Behind the Ear hearing aids, firstly they are not completely invisible. This is quite an important thing to consider for most people, as some people see wearing a hearing aid as strange. If the aid is not professionally and properly installed then the wearer may experience some feedback or echo when using BTE aids. Hearing aids if set incorrectly can also pick up too much noise, however this is a problem with all hearing aids really.

BTE hearing aids are available in both digital and analog flavors. Usually the digital ones are more expensive due to the increased range of features that they are able to offer. Digital hearing aids are easy to use and can be programmed for any kind of environment. Some analog hearing aids also come with programmable chips and can be programmed with more than one setting, but you need to operate them manually.

If your kids have hearing problems, BTE hearing aids are an excellent alternative to in-ear hearing aids that are comparatively difficult to use. The BTE hearing aids have a piece that fits inside your ear, this can be custom molded so that it is a perfect fit. The hearing aids can be customized to match hair and skin tones, as to increase the invisibility. Children’s ears change as they grow up, the BTE hearing aids ear piece can be replaced multiple times, so it always fits their ear.

The modern variety of BTE hearing aids are smaller and made according to your exact requirements. They are less visible than their predecessors, and are actually state of the art pieces of equipment. Because of their size they are able to be much more powerful than most in-ear aids, and so most audiologists recommend them for any kind of hearing loss. There can be many models of a BTE depending on your needs and the severity of your problem. Your audiologist will tell you exactly what kind of a hearing aid you require and how long you could expect it to last before you would have to look at replacing it.

HAND, no it means have a nice day. I told you I was going to start making them up!