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Hearing Aids 101

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A hearing aid is a small, electronic device that amplifies sound. No matter what the size, style or manufacturer, all hearing aids have some of the same basic components: ​

  • Microphone to pick up sound
  • Sound processor
  • Amplifier
  • Receiver (miniature loudspeaker)
  • Battery

Internal controls are set by your audiologist. These controls determine which pitches are amplified, the amount of initial volume provided when the aid is turned on, and the loudest sound the hearing aid can process. External controls are set by the hearing aid user. Very small aids may not have external controls. The controls may include a volume button and program switch.

Styles of Hearing Aids

Behind-the-Ear hearing aids (BTE) fit behind the ear and are connected to an earpiece that delivers sound inside the ear canal. BTEs are suitable for both children and adults and for any degree of hearing loss, from mild to profound. Some BTEs are now available in miniature sizes and are cosmetically discreet. They have seen a major increase in sales because of smaller sizes, comfort in the ear, and more natural soun​d quality (especially if the ear canal is not completely plugged.) However, depending on the volume requirements and individual factors of the user, larger instruments may be necessary.

In-the-Ear hearing aids (ITE) have a custom shell case made to fit the curves of the ear canal and outer ear. It is made out of a hard plastic material. The hearing aid shell houses all of the miniature hearing aid components. ITE aids are generally not recommended for children because of safety concerns over the hard plastic cracking in their ears, and the increased number of shell re-makes due to rapid ear growth. There are several sub-styles of ITE hearing aids:

  • Full-Shell: fills entire "bowl" of outer ear
  • Half-shell: fills half of the "bowl"
  • In-the-canal (ITC): mostly in the ear canal but is still visible
  • Completely-in-the-canal (CIC): recessed deeply into the ear canal and is usually not visible

Bone-Conduction Hearing Devices provide sound through a small vibrator powered by a hearing device attached to a wearable headband, or a surgically i​mplanted attachment. These are used for patients who were born with no ear canals, and have normal inner ear function. They are also used with patients with single-sided deafness or other conditions that make it difficult to use other types of hearing devices.

Which Hearing Aid is Right for Me? 

​With so many factors involved in the process of selecting amplification, the assistance of an experienced audiologist assures you of choosing a hearing aid that best suits your needs. Request a visit with a Boys Town Audiologist today.

  • Hearing Aids 101

    Hi, my name is Natalie Lenzen. I'm an audiologist at Boys Town National Research Hospital.

    One of the most common questions that we get is how do hearing aids work? The hearing aid's job in the simplest form is to make sounds louder for those who have hearing loss.

    Another really common question is what do hearing aids look like? The hearing aid can look like a couple of different options. It can be one that goes behind the ear and attaches to a piece that goes in the ear, or it can be a one piece that's custom made for the ear.

    Regardless of the hearing aid style, it all has the same features and components. Each hearing aid has microphones that pick up the sound. The sound gets amplified by an amplifier and is produced by the receiver. Each hearing aid also has a power source whether it's regular batteries or rechargeable batteries. In every hearing aid there's also a computer chip which determines the features of the hearing aid. That computer chip will decide how adaptable the hearing aid is to the environment that you're in. The computer chip is also responsible for a very popular feature of hearing aids, where the hearing aid can connect directly to a smartphone, to listen to phone calls, stream music or use the smartphone as an advanced remote control through an app.

    ​Regardless of the type of hearing aid, your Boys Town audiologist can help you determine which hearing aid will be right for you.

Hearing Aids Hearing and Balance