According to The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 30 million Americans aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, and about 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.

However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one. If you are in the market for a hearing aid, this post will highlight the options available to you and provide tips on what to look for when buying a hearing aid.


How Hearing Aids Work

hearing aid is a small electronic device worn in or behind the ear. Hearing aids make some sounds louder, enabling you to listen and better communicate with the world around you. It can help you hear more in both quiet and noisy situations.

Hearing aids have three basic parts:

  1. Microphone
  2. Amplifier 
  3. Speaker 

It receives sound through the receiver, which then converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier, which increases the power of the signals and sends them back to the ear through a speaker.


Hearing Aid Styles

There are three main hearing aid types:

  1. Behind the ear (BTE) 
  2. In the ear (ITE) 
  3. RIC RITE 

Within those three overall categories, there are additional hearing aid types.

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom molded and fit partly in the ear canal. ITCs improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults and is less visible in the ear than other styles.

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom made in two styles — one that over most of your outer ear, and one that fits only the lower portion.

ITEs are helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss and includes features that don’t fit on smaller style hearing aids, such as a volume controls. However, it’s more visible in the ear than smaller devices

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and rest behind it. A tube connects it to an earmold that fits in the ear canal.

BTEs can help people of all ages suffering from nearly any type of hearing loss. They are traditionally the largest type of hearing aid, although some newer models are barely visible, and are capable of more sound amplification than the other models.

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids are similar to behind-the-ear hearing aids because the speaker or receiver rests in the canal or in the ear, although a small wire, connects the pieces as opposed to tubing. RICs and RITEs are less visible behind the ear than BTEs.

Open-fit hearing aids are a type of behind-the-ear hearing aids with a thin tube, keeping the ear canal open, which allows low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally and high-frequency sounds to be amplified through the hearing aid.

Open-fit hearing aids are an excellent option for those suffering from mild to moderate hearing loss, are less visible than some other options and don’t negatively affect the sound of your own voice as some other models do.


Additional Features to Consider

When shopping for a hearing aid, consider these optional features that may improve your ability to hear in certain situations:

Noise reduction: While all hearing aids have some degree of noise reduction, the amount varies.

Directional microphones: Microphones are positioned on the hearing aid making the audio signal in front of you louder than the noise from behind or beside you. This feature can help to improve your ability to hear in an environment with a lot of background noise.

Rechargeable batteries: One of the inconveniences of maintaining a hearing aid is changing the batteries. Consider opting for a rechargeable model to make things easier.

Telecoils: A telecoil is a small sensor or copper wire placed in a hearing aid to wirelessly pick up magnetic signals from compatible telephones and public address systems and converts that energy into sound. These systems can often be found in various conference rooms, concert halls, museums, taxis, and subway trains.

Wireless connectivity: More and more hearing aids feature Bluetooth connectivity, enabling a wireless connection with devices like smartphones and TVs.

Remote controls: Some hearing aids come with a remote control, allowing you to adjust features without removing the device from your ear.

Direct audio input: Plug your hearing aid directly into the audio inputs of a TV or computer via a cable.

Variable programming: This feature allows you to preprogram settings in your hearing aid for various listening needs and environments.

Environmental noise control: This can help block out background noise and reduce noise from the wind.

Synchronization: Those with two hearing aids, can program them to function together so that settings in one ear will also be made in the other.


Before You Buy a Hearing Aid

Here are a few things to do and consider before purchasing a new hearing aid:

dr-kathy-feng-ny-hearing-centerSee your doctor: Talk to your doctor who can determine whether you might have an underlying medical issue that is causing your hearing loss. Some common problems include bacterial infections, impacted earwax, tumors in the ear.

Visit an audiologist: Ask your doctor for a referral to a reputable hearing New York licensed Doctor of Audiology who can assess your needs and help you choose the most appropriate hearing aid for you.

Ask if they have a trial period: It can take a while to get used to a new hearing aid; therefore, many offer a trial period. Use this time to practice everyday activities using your new hearing aid and pay close attention to its performance. Is your hearing improved? Does your voice sound funny? Do your ears feel clogged? If you’re not sure if your hearing aid is working as well as possible, ask for an adjustment.

Find out if there’s a warranty: Warranties should cover parts and labor for your new hearing aid for a specified period. Some may also include office visits.


Improve the Quality of Your Hearing

While hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise, they can significantly improve your quality of life. Your success depends on wearing your hearing aid regularly and keeping it well maintained.

The best hearing aid for you depends on several factors, including the severity and type of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and manual dexterity. A hearing aid that’s right for one person might not be right for you, even if you have nearly identical degrees of hearing loss.

That’s why is important to get expert advice on what will provide the best hearing outcome for you.

The cost of a hearing aid can range from $1,500 to a few thousand dollars; therefore, it’s crucial to carefully choose a hearing aid that is right for you, while taking full advantage of available trial periods and warranties. Be sure to buy only what you need. While Bluetooth capability sounds cool, it can add hundreds of dollars to your bill, so skip it if you don’t plan to use it regularly. At the end of the day, the objective is to find a hearing aid you’re comfortable with that enhances your ability to hear and communicate.

Dr. Kathy Feng

Dr. Kathy Feng

Dr. Kathy Feng is a NY State licensed Doctor of Audiology with over 10 years of experience working with patients of all ages. Part of her inspiration came from watching her grandmother struggle with hearing loss during her golden years.