Custom Hearing Aids
Within the past decade, the open-fit hearing aid has soared in popularity. However, custom hearing aids actually have a much longer history, can work just as well, and are still incredibly popular hearing aids. The difference between custom hearing aids and open-fit behind the ear hearing aids is that custom hearing aids are built “customized” for your individual ear, whereas open-fit hearing aids usually don’t need an ear-mold and are sort of one-size-fits-all. While open-fit hearing aids are lauded for there comfort, quality of sound, and ability to be instant-fit, custom hearing aids have many benefits as well, and can many times be a much better option than an open-fit hearing aid.
So what is a custom hearing aid?
As the name suggests, custom hearing aids are hearing aids which are built for a specific ear, and they will only fit that individual. When a custom hearing aid is ordered, ear molds are taken of the ear to be fit (usually a 5 minute process in your providers office), and the ear molds are then sent to the manufacturer for the hearing aids to be made. The manufacturer then builds an exact replica of your ear on a computer (usually using 3d technology), and then begins to assemble the architecture of the hearing aid. What this means is the manufacturer creates a rendering of your ear and the hearing aid in your ear, and begins to figure out how to best fit the hearing aid to your ear, where to place the important pieces inside the hearing aid, etc. This is a very neat process using very sophisticated technology. The end result is a hearing aid which is expertly crafted to fit your ears perfectly, with incredible precision. This hearing aid will not fit anyone else’s ears, and will be acoustically optimized to sound good for you and only you.
What kinds of custom hearing aids are available?
Generally speaking, there are 3 different types of custom hearing aids which are available. These hearing aids (like all hearing aids), are identified via acronyms. ITE stands for in-the-ear and usually refers to the largest of the custom hearing aids. ITE’s are also called full-shell hearing aids, because the shell of the hearing aid fills up the entire ear. This means it is not a very discrete hearing aid, but it’s also very easy to control since it is large. Changing the battery, cleaning and maintenance, and inserting ITE hearing aids is much easier than other hearing aids. In fact, the ITE hearing aid is probably the easiest hearing aid to operate if you have dexterity or vision issues. ITE hearing aids typically operate off a size 13 battery, and will generally get 10-14 days from each battery. In the past, ITE hearing aids were kind of limited in how much power they could output, or how much volume they could give a person, but today manufacturers are able to make many full shell ITE’s that are very powerful, with up to 65+ db of gain with no feedback. In the past, the full-shell hearing aid was not an option if you had a really bad hearing loss, today, it just might be an option.
What kinds of custom hearing aids are available?
Next up is the ITC or in-the-canal hearing aid. These hearing aids are usually about half the size of the full shell ITE’s. ITC hearing aids are sometimes also referred to as half-shell hearing aids, as they fill up half of the ear, usually the canal and half of the concha or “bowl” portion of the ear. This size hearing aid is pretty discrete, yet still large enough to easily control the hearing and make volume adjustments, etc. The ITC custom hearing aid can be a great option if you want something small, yet large enough that it’s easy to maintain and use. Most ITC’s use the size 312 battery and will get 10-18 days per battery. In general, ITC hearing aids are best for people with mild to moderate losses. ITC’s just aren’t able to put out enough power without feedback for severe or profound losses.
Lastly, and a bit smaller than the ITC is the CIC or “completely-in-canal” custom hearing aid. These hearing aids are very popular due to their tiny size and discrete fit. They fit completely in the canal, no part of the hearing aid extends past the ear canal. In some cases, this hearing aid can be almost completely invisible. CIC hearing aids use a size 10 battery and will only last about 3-5 days on each battery. They are bit trickier to adjust, clean, maintain, insert and remove, and handle in general. However, if your dexterity and vision is good and you want a discrete fit with nothing outside the ear visible, the CIC is a good custom hearing aid for you.
Finally, I lied. There are now actually 4 types of custom hearing aids. The last type, which is only a few years old and already very popular, is the IIC style, which stands for invisible-in-canal. There is a lot to learn about this new style, and this post about iic hearing aids will get you started!
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.