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.
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.
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.
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.