A hearing aid is a small device that is worn in or on the ear. This electronic device amplifies sound and is used to treat hearing loss. Hearing aids can greatly improve the quality of life of someone with significant hearing loss. There are several different types of hearing aids.

The basic types of hearing aids are named by how they fit on the ear. The basic types are behind-the-ear (BTE), mini BTE, in-the-ear (ITE), in-the-canal (ITC), and completely-in-canal (CIC). The hearing aids that fit in the canal are not recommended for children or people with profound hearing loss since they are more difficult to adjust and remove. They are smaller which reduces their volume and power.

There are also hearing aids that are surgically implanted. The middle ear implant (MEI) moves the bones of the middle ear as they would for someone without a hearing impairment. The bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) delivers sound from its attachment to the skull directly to the inner ear by bypassing the middle ear.

The other way that hearing aids are divided into types is if the hearing aid is analog or digital. Whether a hearing aid is an analog hearing aid or a digital hearing aid depends on the type of electronics in the hearing aid. Analog hearing aids convert sounds to amplified electrical signals. An audiologist programs the analog hearing aid to match the needs of the user.

Digital hearing aids use binary code like computers use before amplifying the sound wave. Digital hearing aids can be programmed to amplify specific frequencies according to the user’s needs. An audiologist can program a digital hearing aid to amplify sounds from a specific direction or other specific needs of the user. Digital hearing aids are usually more expensive than analog hearing aids.

The audiologist recommends the best type of hearing aid based on the type and degree of hearing loss and the needs of the user. Other factors to consider are the purchase price, maintenance costs, warranty, and ease of use of the hearing aid. Ideally, cost considerations are secondary to the quality of the product and the benefits of the type of hearing aid. Some hearing aids have an ability to be upgraded. The person with hearing loss should feel comfortable discussing the options with the audiologist while deciding on the best possible hearing aid.