Find out about hearing aids, cochlear implants and bone conduction hearing implants
Hearing aids come in all shapes and sizes. They can be worn on the body, behind the ear or completely inside the ear!
Hearing aids work by making the sounds that go into your ear louder. Your hearing aid will be programmed or set to match your hearing levels. And your audiologist will make sure your hearing aid is comfortable in shape and most importantly, sound.
Here is a guide to some of the different types of hearing aids.
Behind-the-ear hearing aids
The most common hearing aid is called behind-the-ear (BTE for short, but they are sometimes called post-aural aids too). This type of hearing aid hangs behind your ear and is suitable for anyone who needs them. You can get them in different colours too. Maybe you fancy a bright colour? Or you could get one that matches the colour of your hair. You can even get stickers to give your hearing aid an extra special touch.
More types of hearing aids
There are lots of different styles of hearing aids. Some BTE hearing aids are known as ‘open-fit’ hearing aids and can be worn without an earmould. There are also styles that fit completely inside the ear, known as in-the-ear (ITE) or in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids.
There is also a fully waterproof hearing aid that you can swim in. Don’t try this with your normal hearing aid!
Not all hearing aid styles are suitable for all types or levels of deafness. Ask your audiologist for more information if you’re interested in a different style of hearing aid.
Most hearing aids are worn with an earmould that is made of plastic or silicone. The earmould holds the hearing aid securely in place and carries the sound from the hearing aid into your ear. Your audiologist will make an impression of your ear canal so your earmould will be the perfect size and shape for you. They can be made of different materials and colours, and you can even have a picture printed inside them. So, that Manchester United earmould could soon be yours! They are unique to you in shape and style – how cool (and useful) is that!
The most powerful hearing aid is not loud enough to help some people to hear voices well. If you have severe to profound deafness and a hearing aid doesn’t help you hear voices clearly, you might be thinking about getting a cochlear implant.
Cochlear implants are made up of two parts – a part you wear on the ear that looks like a hearing aid – called a speech processor. And a part on the inside that is put into your inner ear during an operation.
Cochlear implants work differently to hearing aids. The speech processor picks up sounds, but instead of making them louder it changes them into electrical signals. The inside part picks up these signals and they activate the hearing nerves in the cochlea. The signals are carried up the hearing nerve to the brain, where the brain interprets them so that the cochlear implant wearer hears and understands the sound.
You can go to cochlear implants for teens for more information.
Bone conduction hearing implants
Most sound enters the ear canal and travels through the ear. But we also hear sound vibrations through the skull bone behind the ear. Some children are born without an ear canal and others have conductive deafness and can’t use a normal hearing aid. These children and adults may use a bone conduction hearing implant instead. During an operation a tiny metal screw is put into the bone behind the ear. A bone-anchored hearing aid clips onto this screw and sound vibrations from the hearing aid pass straight through the bone and are picked up by the inner ear.