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Hearing Health

Hearing Aid Parts

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 1 out of every 5 men, and 1 out of every 8 women, have at least some trouble with their hearing. Among folks 65 and older, about 1 in 3 suffer from hearing loss. Age isn’t the only factor contributing to hearing loss throughout the population; other factors include excessive exposure to loud noise and related health conditions that correlate with hearing loss (such as ear infections, diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s, diabetes, hypertension, and more).

Would it surprise you to know that 28.8 million U.S. adults would benefit from the use of hearing aids, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders? With the sheer number of people who could use hearing aids, it’s no wonder that hearing aid manufacturers continue to invent new hearing aid types, catering to a diverse population that just wants to hear better.

The main types of hearing aids

Today, there are many different types of hearing aid, with the main two being Behind-The-Ear (BTE) and Receiver-In-Canal (RIC). Each of these types consists of a hard case which contains most, or all, of the electronics needed for operation. 

The most significant differences between these two types come down to size, speaker location, and amplification.

  • Size: BTE hearing aids tend to be larger than RICs, since all of their electronic parts have to be housed inside the case—behind the wearer’s ear. RIC hearing aids are generally slimmer and sleeker in design.
  • Speaker location: The speaker for a BTE hearing aid is found where everything else is—inside the hard case, behind the ear. A RIC hearing aid’s speaker goes inside the wearer’s ear canal (housed inside a flexible ear dome or earmold to fit the wearer), and is connected to the hard case by a thin electrical wire.
  • Amplification: Generally speaking, BTE hearing aids are able to accommodate larger batteries (and stronger amplifiers) than RIC hearing aids, and can magnify high- and low-frequency sounds with consistency. While still effective, RIC hearing aids don’t typically offer quite the same dynamic range.

How does a hearing aid work?

To understand how a hearing aid works, let’s look at the main parts of a hearing aid and how they support basic functions of hearing aid use.

What are the main parts of a hearing aid?

A hearing aid relies on battery power to operate. Hearing aid batteries come in different sizes, so it’s important to use the right type. They can also be rechargeable or disposable—a matter of preference. 

The hearing aid’s microphone picks up sound, and sends it to the amplifier. The amplifier takes that sound and converts it into an electrical signal that can be sent to the receiver or speaker. The more severe the wearer’s hearing loss, the more powerful amplification is needed. 

Other hearing aid parts

  • Basic controls: Hearing aids will feature an on/off button or switch, as well as volume control. Some feature automatic volume control, to amplify softer sounds more (and louder sounds less), for a more pleasant, consistent sound experience.
  • Comfort and fit: BTE hearing aids make use of an ear hook to hold the device in place. Since hearing aids are intended for relatively constant use, comfort is important. That’s why a hearing aid’s receiver is housed within a hearing aid dome or earmold. These are made of materials well-suited to provide a custom-type fit (plastic or acrylic, for example). Users can also request custom fittings to ensure maximum comfort.
  • Wire: A thin electrical wire connects an RIC’s speaker with the main casing. Newer hearing aids feature bluetooth connectivity, which enable direct streaming from an iPhone, iPad, or some Andriod devices.
  • Background noise cancellation: Some hearing aids will include a telecoil (T-coil), which basically operates to provide background noise cancellation so that wearers can more clearly hear speech or music.

Do you have questions? We hear you!

Ask anyone who relies on a hearing aid on a daily basis, and they’ll tell you how important it is for a hearing aid to function and fit properly. Ideally, the wearer will forget they’re even wearing a hearing aid at all—it’s that comfortable and works that well.

Before you make your decision, we recommend consulting with a reputable hearing care provider who can help you find the perfect hearing aid for you. If you’re currently using a hearing aid, they can help you make sure that your hearing aid is working properly, and potentially recommend hearing aids better suited to your lifestyle.

At Alpaca Audiology, we’re passionate about enabling better hearing. We work with over 200 clinics nationwide and partner with an extensive network of local providers, aiming to be your one-stop-shop for better hearing. 
Check out our website today to find a clinic or take our best-in-class online hearing screener. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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