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Hearing aids that fit in your ear canal are popular because they're less visible. But wearers often report feeling "stuffed up" because the ear canal is blocked. The blockage also means wearers may not be able to benefit from their residual hearing. The solution: a class of hearing aids introduced in 2005 called open-ear fittings, that are very small and sit behind your ear like a traditional hearing aid.
Behind-the-ear models have always been more comfortable and easier to switch on and off than in-the-ear aids. These open-ear versions are much smaller and have a barely visible thin tube that extends into the ear canal (which is how the sound is transmitted). These devices are physically and acoustically open and comfortable. They are a boon to people with mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. One of the newer advances is fully adaptive directional microphones. These and other automated features that do not require pressing buttons. Feedback - the annoying whistle you hear when amplified sounds are picked up again by the hearing aid - has been lessened in most models, as well.
Often, people with hearing loss in both ears would have to adjust their hearing aids by hand, one at a time. But with new wireless technology, hearing aids communicate with each other and operate as one system, even if the user has more hearing in one ear than the other. The technology automatically adjusts the settings in both ears as the listening environment changes.
Many new hearing aids provide different settings for different environments such as a quiet room, for listening to music, or for a noisy restaurant. The options are preprogrammed, so all you do is adjust the aid to the proper setting typically with a remote control. One remote control is also a watch. Some models build in the adjustment capability. The hearing aid 'listens" to the environment and can choose the settings automatically.
Keep in mind that everyone's needs are unique. You should not go to your audiologist and say, "I want this type of device because my friend has one and loves it." Not all features are necessary for all people. This is why working with a licensed and experienced audiologist is so important.
Also, calibrate your expectations. It's unlikely your hearing will return to 100 percent, no matter which device you choose. But you may be surprised how much hearing aids help.
Because most hearing losses come on gradually, the new sound provided by a hearing aid mya take some time to get used to. Stanford provides an unusually long trial periods -- 45 days -- during which you can return the aids for a complete refund. So do not delay if you need adjustments or feel the aids are not helping. But if you just feel awkward, try to relax, give yourself at least six months to get used to having something in your ear.
The Stanford Medicine Online Second Opinion program offers you easy access to our world-class doctors. It’s all done remotely and you don’t have to visit our hospital or one of our clinics for this service. You don’t even need to leave home!