August 3, 2011

Ask the Audiologist

By Tiffany Meier, Au.D., CCC-A
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

How do you determine what hearing aid style a patient is going to get?

Hearing aids are available in several different styles. These styles range from hearing aids that fit completely-in-the-canal (CIC) to hearing aids that set behind-the-ear (BTE). Just as hearing aids styles are varied, so too, are the factors that determine what style(s) is/are appropriate for patients.

When deciding on hearing aid style, several factors come into play. One factor is the degree of hearing loss present. Generally speaking, the greater degree of hearing loss a patient has; the greater the need for a larger hearing instrument. With that being said, hearing aid manufacturing companies have made great strides in regards to the amount of power (volume) that can be produced by smaller hearing aids. However, when a large amount of volume is produced by small circuitry, there is greater risk for feedback (whistling). Therefore, larger hearing aids are still typically recommended for greater degrees of hearing loss.

Another factor that comes into play when deciding on hearing aid style is the patient’s ear status. Ear canals vary in regards to shape and size. Some individuals may have ear canals that are too small to appropriately fit a CIC hearing aid. Also, if individuals commonly have cerumen (wax) build-up or active drainage from their ears, a hearing aid that sets in the ear, may not be recommended due to increased risk of the hearing aid becoming plugged with cerumen or debris and needing to be sent for repair more often.

Some other factors include patient amplification history, patient ease of use, and patient preference. If an individual has worn amplification before and is familiar with a specific style, the same style may be recommended again based on the patient’s benefit and satisfaction with that particular style of hearing aid. Also, some patients find it easier to use and adjust in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids. Therefore, if ease of use is a great concern for an individual, an ITE hearing aid may be recommended over a BTE hearing aid. Additionally, patient preference is an important factor in determining hearing aid style. Based on some of the other factors previously discussed such as degree of hearing loss or ear canal size and shape, some individuals may have limited choices regarding the hearing aid styles that are appropriate for them. However, if more than one hearing aid style is suitable for an individual, patient preference is a significant factor in determining the style of hearing aid fit on the patient.

Overall, there are several factors involved in determining hearing aid style. Hearing health-care professionals base their style recommendations on several, if not all, of the above mentioned factors. It is essential that patients have good communication with their hearing health-care provider to ensure that the style selected provides accurate benefit and results in patient satisfaction.