Inner Ear & Hearing – Hearing Loss Guide

There are three parts of the ear that are responsible for hearing, these are, the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Hearing loss can be caused by problems with the middle ear, the inner ear, or both. However, majority of permanent hearing loss cases are caused by problems with the inner ear.

Hearing loss caused by problems with the inner ear is called sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent and irreversible. To understand how sensorineural hearing loss happens, it’s important to understand the functions of the inner ear first.

Function of the Inner Ear

The inner ear has two main functions: hearing and balance. The outer wall of the inner ear, known as the bony labyrinth, has three main parts: the semicircular canals, vestibule, and the cochlea. The cochlea is the part that is responsible for hearing. Inside the cochlea, in the corti, there are millions of tiny hair cells or nerve endings, which are responsible for converting sounds to electrical signals and sending them to the brain for interpretation. A healthy cochlea receives sound and amplifies it.

When the cochlea or the hair cells in the corti are damaged, sensorineural hearing loss occurs.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Some of the most common causes of damage to the inner ear include: constant exposure to loud noise, aging, head trauma, certain illnesses, infections (i.e. mumps, measles, meningitis), ototoxic medication, and meniere’s disease, among others.

The hair cells in the inner ear naturally lose function as we age. However, since there are many of them, the quantity is able to make up for the loss of function of some hair cells. Since these cells cannot regain their function, if too many hair cells are damaged overtime, our hearing deteriorates.

Sensorineural hearing loss is generally irreversible unless the underlying cause is curable. For instance, in cases where the cause of hearing loss is a tumor growth in the inner ear, removal of the tumor can possibly restore hearing.

Treatments

In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure. However, it can be managed with hearing aids, cochlear implants (in severe to profound cases), and other assistive listening devices.

While there have been much advancement in permanent sensorineural hearing loss research in recent years, there is no complete cure yet. Some scientists are researching stem cells and the possibility of turning them into hair cells to replace damaged cells in the inner ear.  While medical science is still far from an actual cure, any advancement in research is still good news for the millions of people who can benefit from a potential cure in the future.

At present, however, people who have sensorineural hearing loss can only get by with management. Properly fitted and adjusted hearing aids can significantly help with day-to-day life by amplifying sound for the wearer. Those with a T-coil function can also benefit from hearing loop systems in public places where they are installed.

If you suspect that you or a family member has sensorineural hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist right away so you can undergo a proper hearing test.

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Hearing Loss in One Ear – Causes & Treatments

Hearing loss does not always affect two ears; in some cases it only affects one ear. Hearing loss in one ear is known as unilateral hearing loss, the opposite of bilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in both ears).

People with unilateral hearing loss often have normal hearing in the other ear. However, even if the other ear works, hearing loss in one ear can still cause difficulties with hearing in general. For instance, people with unilateral hearing loss often have problems with localizing sound (determining where sound is coming from), focusing on sounds of interest in noisy places, hearing speech and other sounds from faraway or from another room.

Most children with hearing loss in one ear are able to develop speech and language normally without special intervention but some children may experience problems with language development such as speech delays and difficulty pronouncing certain words and sounds. Difficulties caused by hearing loss in one ear can vary from person to person.

Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Unilateral hearing loss is caused by a number of different factors. Some causes may be easy to determine whereas others may be difficult to detect. Some of the most common causes of hearing loss in one ear include:

  • Genetics

Hearing loss can be genetic.  To determine whether unilateral hearing loss is inherited, it is best to seek professional help from a geneticist. Gene testing is recommended for people with hearing loss in the family to determine the risk factors of passing it on during pregnancy.

  • Problems with the Middle Ear

This is a common cause of unilateral hearing loss in children. Common problems with the middle ear that may cause hearing loss include: otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear), earwax buildup, fluid buildup, and middle ear infections.

  • Aging
  • Prolonged or constant exposure to loud noises that are 85 decibels and above
  • Head injury or ear injury
  • Illnesses (e.g. measles, meningitis, HIV/AIDS, meniere’s disease, and mumps)
  • Ototoxic Medication (aspirin, loop diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics).
  • Congenital causes

The state of the mother during pregnancy can have a direct effect on the child’s hearing. Congenital causes of hearing, loss in one ear may include: illness or infection during pregnancy, drug/alcohol intake, premature birth, and birth asphyxia.

Treatments of Unilateral Hearing Loss

The treatment for hearing loss in one ear will highly depend on the causes, type, and degree of hearing loss

Majority of hearing loss cases is sensorineural, a type of hearing loss that affects the hair cells in the cochlea. In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible and as such, it cannot be treated with surgery or medication. It can, however, be managed with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive listening devices.

For sensorineural unilateral hearing loss caused by a virus, medication may work for treatment but it is not always guaranteed to be effective.

Conductive unilateral hearing loss, on the other hand, can be surgically corrected depending on the underlying problem. Since conductive hearing loss is typically caused by malformation of the ear canal and problems with the internal structure of the middle ear, surgery may be able to correct these problems.

If it is caused by fluid buildup infections, antibiotics are typically administered to treat the infection.

Management

In cases where restoration of hearing is not possible, there are ways to manage unilateral hearing loss. One common method is through the use of Contralateral Routing of Offside Signals hearing aids (CROS).

CROS hearing aids are designed specifically to manage unilateral hearing loss. It works by transferring sounds from the damaged ear to the hearing ear to help with a person’s overall hearing.

CROS hearing aids come in various types. The most common type has two units that are connected either through wires or wirelessly. They work by transferring sounds from one ear to another.

Regular hearing aids can also be used for the management of unilateral hearing loss by amplifying sound for the hearing-impaired ear.

The method of management depends significantly on the personal circumstances of the person with unilateral hearing loss. It is best to work with an audiologist to find the most suitable treatment option for your particular type and degree of hearing loss.

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects about 48 million people in the US and 360 million people worldwide, making it one of the most common health conditions in the world.

There are many factors that cause hearing loss. Some causes are genetic and some are environmental. While some causes of hearing loss can be avoided with safety precautions, others, unfortunately, are unavoidable.

Below are some of the most common causes of hearing loss in both children and adults:

Hereditary Causes

Hereditary hearing loss is inherited from the parents. Depending on the factors involved, the hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive, or mixed. Some hereditary causes are syndromic, meaning the hearing loss is caused by an underlying hereditary health condition (such as illness or malfunctions in the outer ear).

Some cases of hearing loss are inherited through genes. Genetic risk factors can often be determined with gene testing.

Ototoxic Medication

Certain drugs can be ototoxic (damaging to the ear) when taken for a prolonged period or when taken in large doses. Some ototoxic drugs include, antibiotics, loop diuretics, aspirin (in large doses), and some chemotherapy drugs (including carboplatin and cisplatin, among others),

Illness

Certain illnesses can cause hearing loss as a side effect. Some illnesses known to cause hearing loss include: meningitis, measles, mumps, otosclerosis (a disease of the middle ear), HIV/AIDS, and presbycusis, among others.

Meniere’s disease is also known to cause hearing loss in adults. The disease affects the inner ear and common symptoms include tinnitus, vertigo, and sensorineural hearing loss.  Hearing loss caused by the disease can vary from mild to severe.

Exposure to Loud Noise

Noise-induced hearing loss is very common in adults but can also affect children. In fact, about 12.5% of children in the US (ages 6 to 19 years old) have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss.

In some cases, a one-time exposure to a very loud noise (such as an explosion) can cause sudden hearing loss that may either be temporary or permanent.

Aging

Hearing loss is a common side effect of aging. As we age, a number of hair cells in the inner ear deteriorate and lose their function. 1 in 3 people aged 65 and above develop hearing loss.

Otits Media

Otitis media or inflammation of the middle ear is a common cause of hearing loss in children because the Eustachian tube (the tube that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx at the back of the throat) is not yet fully developed and is susceptible to fluid buildup. The condition itself is typically caused by ear infections and fluid buildup.

Congenital Causes

Congenital hearing loss (present at birth or shortly after birth) can be hereditary or non-hereditary.  It can also be caused by problems during pregnancy. Common causes of hearing loss that are not hereditary include: developing infections during pregnancy (e.g. syphilis, rubella), alcohol and drug use, lack of oxygen at birth (birth asphyxia), and premature birth.

Other Common Causes

Other causes of hearing loss not classified above include: chronic ear infections, head injuries or ear injury (caused by impact), and earwax buildup.

Hearing Loss in Children: Signs, Treatments, & Information

Hearing loss in children can significantly affect mental development, especially in the areas of language and speech. This is why early detection and intervention is of utmost importance. The earlier a child with hearing loss receives therapy and intervention, the higher their chances of normal language and speech development in spite of the presence of hearing loss.

There are many factors that contribute to hearing loss in children. While not all causes are congenital (present at birth), many children lose their hearing at a young age due to genetic and environmental factors. When children lose their hearing before or during the age of language development, it becomes even more critical to receive early intervention. One of the most common causes of hearing loss in children is Otitis Media, characterized by inflammation of the inner ear caused by fluid buildup, which can result to conductive hearing loss.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children

For early detection and intervention to be possible, it is important for parents and caregivers to know the signs and symptoms of hearing loss as early as infancy. Below are some of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss that can be observed by age:

Infants and Toddlers

The most crucial ages for language development is from birth to 4 years of age, which is why it is important to pay extra attention for any signs that may suggest your child has hearing loss.

Infants respond to the many different sounds around them from birth. If you notice that your child does not appear startled or is not awakened in the presence of a loud noise or does not appear to respond or follow your voice when you talk, it can be a sign that there is a problem with your child’s hearing.

From 4 to 9 months, your child should be able to respond by smiling when spoken to and follow familiar sounds. At this age, they also make a lot of babbling noises and can cry differently depending on their needs.

By 9 to 15 months, most kids can say two syllable words like “mama”, understand simple words when spoken to, repeat certain sounds, and responds when called by their names or when they hear the sound of a familiar voice.

By 15 to 24 months, they are able to appreciate songs and stories, follow simple requests, and can say several words or simple sentences. If any of these milestones are absent, it may be a sign that your child has hearing loss.

While kids reach certain developmental milestones at different ages, the absence of most of the aforementioned developments may indicate a problem. Contact your doctor right away and schedule a hearing test.

Preschool and Older

It is easier to detect hearing loss in school-age children because there are more obvious signs that can suggest a problem with their hearing. Some of these signs include:

  • Listens to music or watches television at very high volumes
  • Does not respond when called
  • Speech delays and impairment
  • Speaks differently compared to other children
  • Does not respond appropriately to questions or requests for questions to be repeated several times before responding
  • Experiences head noise and ear pain
  • Poor academic performance

It is worth noting that while these are common signs of hearing loss in children, the observance of these signs alone without a proper hearing test will not confirm that your child has hearing loss. A proper hearing evaluation is what will ultimately determine whether your child has hearing loss.

Treatments

The type and degree of hearing loss will determine the appropriate treatment for your child.

Conductive hearing loss can be treated surgically but it depends on the cause and degree of the hearing loss. Not all hearing loss can be treated; however, some can be managed with electro acoustic devices like hearing aids and specialized speech and language therapy.

Depending on the type and degree of hearing loss, your child’s audiologist may suggest the use of an amplification device like a hearing aid. It is important to note that children as young as 3 weeks of age can already use amplification devices. Children with permanent hearing loss and those that experience frequent loss of hearing caused by Otitis media are all eligible candidates for amplification devices.

Children aged 1 year and above who have severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss may also be eligible for cochlear implants depending on diagnosis, the child’s hearing history, and the decision of the family.

Your audiologist can also recommend management and rehabilitation services for your child. Through frequent checkups and observation, an audiologist and other professionals can determine the ideal intervention program for a child with hearing loss.

Additional Information

While hearing loss has significant effects on your child’s language and speech development, early intervention can help your child develop speech at par with hearing kids.

Children from birth to 21 years of age are eligible for early intervention services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). Infants and toddlers fall under IDEA Part C, which offers early intervention services from birth to 2 years of age. Children and teens from age 3 to 21 are covered by IDEA Part B, which offers special education support and additional intervention programs.

You can also find information and seek assistance from your state’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (EHDI). EHDI promotes early detection of hearing loss in infants and children and helps families through intervention programs and testing services.

There are also many national organizations that can help children and their families cope with hearing loss such as, the American Society for Deaf Children and the Deafness and Family Communication Center, among many others.

Hear New York Launches Hearing Aid Prices Website

Prices are finally coming to the internet!  After a long spell in the dark ages, these industries targeting (generally) aging Americans have started to move online.  Of course we’ve been doing it for a couple years now, but local companies are starting to be more transparent with pricing as well.  That’s great for the hearing industry.

Hear New York (http://www.hearnewyork.com) has launched a new website publicizing their pricing on Phonak, Siemens, Oticon, and ReSound hearing aids.  You’ll see both the retail price, as well as their prices.  As a discounted retailer, many of their products are 30-40% off retail prices.

They do not currently sell hearing aids online, just serving customers in the Rochester NY and Watertown NY areas.  If you’re in the upstate New York area and want to save on hearing aids, be sure to take a look at Hear New York and compare their prices to competitors.

A Guide to RIC (Receiver in Canal) Hearing Aids

RIC or Receiver in Canal hearing aids are very similar to behind-the-ear hearing aids in design and appearance. RIC hearing aids, like BTEs, are also worn behind the ear and have a tube connecting the case to the ear.

One major difference between the two is the placement of the receiver. In BTE hearing aids, all the components (speaker/receiver, amplifier, microphone, and batteries) are located inside the plastic case that rests behind the ear and is connected to an ear mold via a clear plastic tube.

In RIC (Receiver-in-Canal) hearing aids, on the other hand, the amplifier, microphone, and batteries are placed in a plastic case that sits behind the ear with the exception of the receiver/speaker, which is placed inside the ear canal. Instead of a clear acoustic tube seen in most BTEs, RIC hearing aids come with thin electrical wires that transmit sound from the external case to the receiver in the canal.

 

Advantages of RIC Hearing Aids          

Listening Advantages

  • Minimal Feedback Problems

While very similar to BTEs in form and design, RIC hearing aids offer several listening advantages for the user that BTEs cannot offer. Since the speaker/receiver is placed in the ear canal and is separated from the microphone, there are less feedback problems for the user typically caused by the close proximity of the microphone to the receiver.

  • Minimal Problems Associated with Occlusion

Problems with occlusion are typically caused by the blockage of the outer portion of the ear canal and are commonly experienced with hearing aid types that cover the ear canal (e.g. in-the-canal hearing aids). Since only a small portion goes inside the ear canal in RIC hearing aids, users report minimal problems associated with occlusion.

  • Offers a More Natural Listening Experience

Due to the design of RIC hearing aids, users report a more natural listening experience. RIC hearing aids are particularly good for amplifying high-pitched sounds, making it suitable for people with hearing loss in the high frequencies.

  • Suitable for Mild to Severe Hearing Loss

Cosmetic Advantage

  • Easy to Conceal

Despite having an external component, RIC hearing aids are very easy to conceal. The external part is usually very small and the wire that connects the external components to the receiver is very thin, making the hearing aids very easy to conceal. While they are noticeable if you look closely at one’s ear, they are easier to conceal than BTE hearing aids.

Disadvantages of RIC Hearing Aids

Like all other hearing aid types, RIC hearing aids carry some disadvantages.

  • Susceptibility to Moisture Damage

The location of the speaker/receiver inside the ear canal makes it susceptible to damage caused by moisture inside the ear. As such, RIC hearing aids may require periodic repairs and are less durable than BTE hearing aids.

  • Not Recommended for Young Children

Unlike BTE hearing aids, which are recommended for young children, RIC hearing aids are only recommended for older children and adults because they require extra maintenance and cleaning.

  • Difficult to Use with a Telephone
  • Reduced Size in Expense of Added Features

Most RIC hearing aids don’t come equipped with a T-Coil. Since RIC hearing aids are made smaller to make them less noticeable, there is very little room for a T-Coil to be added. Although, some RIC models may come with a T-Coil, most models don’t so make sure to check with the manufacturer beforehand.

Price Range

Compared to BTE hearing aids, RIC hearing aids are generally more expensive averaging at $1400 to $2900, depending on brand and features. However, considering the many listening advantages that RIC hearing aids offer, the benefits for a lot of users outweigh the added costs.

A Guide to ITE (In the Ear) Hearing Aids

In-the-Ear Hearing Aids or ITEs are hearing aids that fit in the outer ear (concha). The components of ITE hearing aids are contained inside a full shell, which is typically made of a hard plastic material. ITEs are custom made to fit the wearer’s outer ear and covers most of it when worn.

While not as big as Behind-the-Ear hearing aids, they are also quite visible especially when standing face to face with someone or when looking directly at the wearer’s ear.

Main Components

Like other hearing aids, ITE hearing aids come equipped with the basic components like a microphone that picks up sound waves and converts it to electrical signals, an amplifier that makes the sound louder, a receiver that converts the electrical signal back to sound waves and sends it to the ear, and of course, batteries to power the hearing aids.

ITE hearing aids contain bigger batteries compared to In-the-Canal, Completely-in-the-Canal, or Invisible-in-the-Canal hearing aids. As a result, ITEs offer more amplification and are generally more durable than their smaller counterparts.

Additional Features

Modern ITE models come with additional features to make them more functional and suitable for various everyday situations.

Most modern ITE hearing aids come equipped with a telecoil, a magnetic coil that receives sounds using the circuitry of the hearing aid instead of the microphone. Telecoils are especially useful when using the telephone and can also be used with hearing loop systems installed in large public areas to allow the user to easily focus on the sound of interest.

Other ITE hearing aids also come equipped with directional microphones, which improves signal to noise ratio as it eliminates sounds from behind and amplifies sounds coming from the front.

ITEs can also come with user controls outside of the shell so that the user can adjust program settings and speaker volume manually.

Advantages of ITE Hearing Aids

  • Suitable for mild to severe hearing loss.
  • Some ITE models can be used by children (e.g. silicon type)

While ITEs are generally not recommended for children because the shell cannot accommodate the growth of children’s ears, a new type made out of a silicon material instead of a plastic shell has been designed to address this issue. It is worth noting, however, that ITE hearing aids are only recommended for children aged 10 and above.

  • Custom Made to Fit the User

ITE hearing aids are generally bigger and more visible than ITC, CIC, and IIC hearing aids but since the shell is custom made to fit the user, the size will depend on the degree of hearing loss and the shape of the user’s ear.

  • Longer battery life and provides more amplification because of its size.
  • Easier to insert and remove.

Disadvantages of ITE Hearing Aids

  • Cosmetic Disadvantages

While not as visible as BTE hearing aids, ITE hearing aids are difficult to conceal because of their size and placement in the outer ear. ITEs are easily noticeable compared to smaller varieties like In-the-Canal and Completely-in-the-Canal hearing aids.

  • Feedback Problems

Due to the proximity of the microphone and receiver, users may experience feedback problems, especially people with severe hearing loss. Many modern ITEs, however, come equipped with feedback regulation controls to address this issue.

  • Requires daily maintenance and cleaning to avoid moisture damage.

ITE hearing aids offer many listening advantages that smaller hearing aids cannot offer but like all styles of hearing aids, it carries some disadvantages as well. Consult your audiologist to find out if ITE hearing aids are suitable for your degree of hearing loss.

A Guide to ITC (In the Canal) Hearing Aids

In the Canal or ITC hearing aids are custom made to fit inside the ear canal of the wearer. Unlike Completely in the Canal (CIC) hearing aids, ITC hearing aids only fit partially in the ear canal. ITCs are bigger than CIC hearing aids because of their positioning in the ear canal. Due to their slightly larger size, they are able to carry more features than Completely in the Canal Hearing Aids.

Since ITC hearing aids are placed inside the ear canal, they are less visible than BTE (behind the ear) or ITE (in the ear) hearing aids.

How it Works         

ITC hearing aids work in the same manner as CIC hearing aids but they are bigger in size. The microphone, speaker, and batteries are all placed inside the case that fits partially in the ear canal. ITC hearing aids have all the basic features of a hearing aid: the microphone picks up sound, the amplifier makes the sound louder, and the receiver sends the sound to the ear. However, some ITC hearing aids have extra features, depending on the brand and model.

Most ITCs come with automatic volume controls that detect environmental noise to determine the volume level suitable for the user in a particular situation but some may also come with a volume wheel to allow the user to manually adjust the volume of the hearing aids.

Since ITCs are bigger compared to CICs or IICs (invisible in the canal), they have more room for a Telecoil to be added. A T-coil is extra useful when talking on the telephone and can also be used with hearing loops installed in large public places.

ITC hearing aids can accommodate mild to moderate hearing loss, although some models can also work for people with mildly severe hearing loss.

Advantages of ITC Hearing Aids

  • Cosmetic Advantages

Due to the placement in the ear canal, ITC hearing aids offer cosmetic advantages that BTEs and other in-the-ear hearing aid models cannot offer. They are less visible compared to BTEs and are generally not noticeable unless one looks in the ear bowl.

  • Listening Advantages

ITC hearing aids are easier to use with the telephone, as they don’t get in the way of the telephone receiver. Those that come equipped with a T-coil also offer additional listening advantages especially in large public places equipped with hearing loop systems. Due to their positioning inside the ear canal, they offer a more natural listening experience compared to BTEs. There is also lesser wind noise in ITCs because the microphone is in the canal.

  • Directional Microphones

A lot of ITCs have directional microphone in them, which offers a better listening experience for the user. Directional microphones amplify sounds coming from in front of you and decrease sounds coming from behind. This makes it easier to follow conversations while simultaneously eliminating unnecessary background noise.

  • Durability and Ease of Use

Compared to CICs and IICs, ITC hearing aids are less prone to moisture damage because they don’t fit deep in the ear canal. Since they are bigger, they are also easier to remove and maintain compared to smaller models.

Disadvantages of ITC Hearing Aids

  • Battery Life

Just like completely in the canal and invisible in the canal hearing aids, ITCs have smaller batteries compared to BTEs. As such, battery life is shorter (about 10 to 12 days, depending on use).

  • Not Suitable for All Types of Hearing Loss

As previously mentioned, ITC hearing aids can only accommodate mild to moderate hearing loss. While there are some models that can accommodate mildy severe hearing loss, ITCs are not recommended for people with severe to profound hearing loss.

In addition, some people cannot use ITC hearing aids because of the size and shape of their ear canal. ITCs are also not suitable for children because of the size and placement.

Price Range

The price for In the Canal Hearing Aids can range from $800 for the basic models and $1300 to $2600 for digital hearing aids with more advanced features.

A Guide to IIC (Invisible in Canal) Hearing Aids

Advances in digital hearing aid technology has made it possible to create significantly smaller and less visible hearing aids that do not only offer cosmetic advantages but many listening advantages as well. Invisible in Canal Hearing Aids or IIC is one such product made possible by current digital hearing aid technology. IIC hearing aids are very small and are virtually invisible even if you look in the ear bowl. This is because IIC hearing aids fit completely inside the ear canal. Unlike conventional CIC hearing aids that only fit past the first bend of the ear canal, IIC hearing aids are so small that they can fit right past the second bend of the wearer’s ear canal.

How it Works

Since IIC hearing aids fit completely inside the ear canal, each one has to be custom made for the individual wearer. For optimum comfort and increased accuracy, an audiologist should take an ear impression of 10 to 12 mm past the second bend of the ear canal.

All the components of an IIC hearing aid are located inside a small plastic shell that fits right inside the ear canal. Since IICs are very small in size, they do not block the outer portion of the ear canal and allows for reduced occlusion to occur.

Some advanced IIC hearing aid models come equipped with mobile connectivity so the user can control the settings of the hearing aid from their mobile phones without having to take out the hearing aids. This is useful especially in social and public situations.

Due to their small size and positioning deep inside the ear canal, IIC hearing aids are not recommended for children. IIC hearing aids can accommodate mild to moderate hearing loss.

Advantages of IIC Hearing Aids

  • Offers Superior Cosmetic Advantages

Since they are very small and fit past the second bend of the ear canal, IIC hearing aids are virtually invisible even when one looks in the ear bowl.

  • Listening Advantages

IIC hearing aids offer the most natural listening experience for the wearer. Since sound can travel freely down the ear canal without any obstruction from large shells found in other hearing aid types, the experience can be very similar to normal hearing.

  • Reduced Occlusion

With larger hearing aid types, there is a tendency for occlusion to occur especially if the large shell covers the outer part of the ear canal. Occlusion refers to the echo or booming effect perceived when listening to one’s own voice.

  • Improved Sound Localization

Compared to bigger hearing aid types like BTEs, IIC hearing aids offers better localization of sound since the ear canal filters the sound before it travels to the eardrum. The placement of the microphone in the ear canal makes it possible for the user to maintain the function of the ears’ natural filters.

  • Comfort

IIC hearing aids don’t only offer physical comfort but also allows the user to feel more comfortable when going out. Many people refuse to wear hearing aids because they don’t want others to immediately notice their hearing loss. With invisible hearing aid types like the IIC, the user can feel much more comfortable when out in public.

  • Functionality

Advanced models allow the user to control the hearing aids using their mobile phone; this can be very functional in social situations and while traveling.

Disadvantages of IIC Hearing Aids

While IIC hearing aids offer many cosmetic and listening advantages, they also carry some disadvantages:

  • Shorter Battery Life

Due to the small size of IIC hearing aids, they can only accommodate small batteries. Smaller batteries usually don’t last as long as the bigger batteries found in BTEs and other models. Most IIC models have batteries that only last a maximum of five days.

  • Current models are not suitable for severe to profound hearing loss
  • May require frequent repairs

IIC hearing aids are exposed to moisture and fluid in the ears, which may affect the internal components in the hearing aid.

  • Cost

Due to the smaller components of IIC hearing aids, they are generally more expensive to make. Advanced models that offer mobile connectivity are also very expensive so they may not be accessible to everyone especially since hearing aids aren’t usually covered by most health insurance plans.

Despite its drawbacks, IIC hearing aids have come a long way especially in terms of strength and features. They also remain the best option for people with mild to moderate hearing loss who aren’t comfortable with wearing visible hearing aids.

A Guide to CIC (Completely in the Canal) Hearing Aids

Completely in the Canal hearing aids or CIC are hearing aids that fit completely in the ear canal. As such, they are the least visible and smallest aids available in the market. Since they are placed completely in the ear canal, they offer several advantages when it comes to aesthetics and listening experience.

CIC Hearing Aids Compontents

In CICs, all components (microphone, speaker, batteries, and vent) are placed inside a tiny plastic case that sits right in the ear canal. Since they are placed quite deep in the ear canal, CIC hearing aids come with a removal thread/cord to help the user in pulling out the device.

CIC hearing aids are custom made for the user since they have to be placed inside the canal. Many people prefer CICs as they are virtually unnoticeable unless one looks inside the ear.

CIC hearing aids are not recommended for children, as they are difficult to remove and maintain. They are also not recommended for people who have good low-frequency hearing.

Completely in the Canal Hearing Aids are recommended for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Advantages

CIC hearing aids offer many advantages compared to other hearing aids.

  • A major listening advantage to CIC hearing aids is that it offers a similar experience to normal hearing since the microphone is placed in the ear canal.

 

  • Ideal speaker location

In CIC hearing aids, the speaker is located very close to the eardrums when worn. The location does not only offer better reception but it also requires less amplification. Users also experience less feedback problems.

  • Easy to Use with a Telephone

Unlike BTEs (Behind the Ear) hearing aids, CIC hearing aids make it easier to talk on the phone because they don’t impede the positioning of the phone against the ear. With CICs, users can talk on the phone like they would if they weren’t wearing hearing aids.

  • Provides adequate ventilation to the ear
  • Reduced Occlusion Effect

Users report a reduced occlusion effect when using CIC hearing aids since it is deeply placed in the ear canal. The positioning eliminates that ‘hollow’ perception of sound and reduces echoes when hearing one’s own voice.

  • Offers Wind Protection

 

Disadvantages

As with any other type of hearing aid, CIC hearings aids also have some disadvantages especially when it comes to features, some of these disadvantages include:

  • Smaller batteries

As the all the components of CIC hearing aids are placed in a tiny case that fits inside the ear canal, smaller batteries are used. As such, they don’t last as long as the larger batteries of BTEs.

  • Removal and Adjustments

While CIC hearing aids come with a  removal cord, it can still take a bit of practice before users get used to removing it. Making adjustments is also much more difficult as you have to completely remove your hearing aids before you can apply any adjustments.

  • Less Space for Additional Features

Due to its small size, CIC hearing aids don’t offer much space for additional features like a telecoil, volume controls, and directional microphones.

  • Not Suitable for Severe to Profound Hearing Loss

Another major disadvantage to CIC hearing aids is that they can only accommodate mild to moderate hearing loss. Their small size means that their capacity for volume and power is also decreased.

  • Not recommended for people prone to ear wax build up and ear infections.

Despite the disadvantages when it comes to power and features, CIC hearing aids are still very popular due to their cosmetic and listening advantages. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss and you want hearing aids that are “barely there”, CIC hearing aids are worth considering. Consult your audiologist to find out if CICs can accommodate your degree of hearing loss.