Hearing Loss

Frequently Asked Questions

16. How can a hearing aid help me hear better?

A hearing aid is an electronic, battery-operated device that makes sounds louder to the wearer. Hearing aids come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Some hearing aids fit inside the outer ear or the ear canal, while others fit behind the ear.

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids consist of a hard plastic case worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss.
  • Open-fit hearing aids fit completely behind the ear with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal. This lets the ear canal remain open. Open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people with a buildup of earwax since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by earwax. Some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because they do not perceive their voice as sounding “plugged up.”
  • In-the-ear hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some in-the-ear hearing aids may also use a telecoil, which is a small magnetic coil that allows you to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through the microphone. You can use the telecoil when you use the telephone and when you are in public places that have installed induction loop systems, such as churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums.
  • Canal hearing aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of your ear canal. A completely-in-canal hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because they are small, canal aids may be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil. They usually are not recommended for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.

An audiologist or hearing aid specialist can help you determine if a hearing aid, or even two hearing aids, is the right treatment for you. Wearing two hearing aids may help balance sounds, improve your understanding of words in noisy situations, and make it easier to locate the source of sounds.