If you have received a diagnosis of hearing loss, finding the right pair of hearing aids can be a scary task. There are dozens of different styles and manufacturers to choose from. And the truth is there is no one size fits all solution. There are large hearing aids, small hearing aids, and even invisible hearing aids. But does the size of the hearing aid need to increase along with the degree of hearing loss? Or are small hearing aids still effective for those with all levels of hearing loss? In this article, we’ll delve a little deeper into these questions.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
But before we do that, why don’t we talk a little bit about how hearing aids work. While there are several different types of hearing devices available, they all have the same 5 key components; the microphone, the microchip, the amplifier, the battery, and the receiver. The microphone is located on the outside of the hearing aid. This is the portion of the aid that picks up the sound and converts the sound waves into digital signals. The microchip is a teeny tiny computer that allows you to customize your hearing experience. The amplifier helps to strengthen digital signals, and the receiver converts these signals into vibrations. These vibrations are then passed through the inner ear and into the brain. And obviously, the battery is what powers to aid to do the miracle work that it does.
That is the simple version of how invisible, large, and small hearing aids work (yes, they’re all very similar)! Here is a more detailed breakdown:
• Sound waves travel into the hearing aid
• The microphone picks up sound waves.
• The microphone converts sound waves into an electrical current
• The amplifier increases the strength of the current
• The receiver converts currents into vibrations
• These vibrations get passed through the inner ear and into the brain where they translate as sound
Pretty cool right? But does the size of the hearing aid matter, aside from them being simpler to fit? Do those with greater degrees of hearing loss require larger aids? And are small hearing aids effective at all? These are all extremely common questions.
What About Small Hearing Aids?
Not surprisingly, most people want small sized hearing aids. And small hearing aids can be just as effective as large ones – for some people. The question, however, remains whether or not they are effective for all degrees of hearing loss. To answer this, there are a few different factors that you need to consider. The first thing to take into consideration is that the more power someone needs from a hearing aid, the larger the receiver needs to be. So while small hearing aids may be sufficient for someone with low grade hearing loss, larger hearing aids may be required for advanced loss. This is the kind of thing you can figure out by talking to your audiologist.
Secondly, you need to consider how many different features and functionalities you want to add to your device. Do you use telecoil function? Do you need a wireless ITE? Or do you use a Roger hearing aid? All of these will affect the size of your hearing aid.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Of course, like anything else, there are benefits and disadvantages to small hearing aids. The most obvious benefit is that they are attractive and discreet. In many cases, you can’t even tell that you are wearing them. And because they are lightweight and custom molded, most people find smaller hearing aids extremely comfortable. Other benefits of small hearing aids? Their small stature makes it easier to use headphones and telephones. They are also less likely to pick up wind sounds and whistling noises.
But like everything else in the world, small hearing aids come with trade-offs. Firstly, they don’t fit in everyones ear canal. If you have a short or differently shaped canal, smaller aids could fall out. In addition, they aren’t suitable for everyone. Smaller hearing aids are most effective in mild to moderate hearing loss. Those in the more advanced stages may find Behind-the-Ear models more effective. In additional, smaller models mean trade offs. The smaller your earplugs, the more often you will have to change your batteries. In addition controls can be trickier to feel, and features can be limited. For example, smaller hearing aids don’t leave room for directional microphones which are often used to reduce background noise.
So do small hearing aids work? For some, they are the perfect option. They do the job well, yet are still small and compact enough to be comfortable and barely visible. Others, however, will find that smaller hearing aids don’t work as well. If you have a differently shaped ear canal, they may not fit. And if you have advanced hearing loss, they may not have the power to amplify sound enough. With that said, everyone is different and you will only know if they will work for you if you try them.
Speak to your Healthcare Professional
If small hearing aids don’t work for you, don’t become discouraged. They are not the only type of hearing aid that can be discreet. Behind-the-Ear hearing aids and Receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids can also be very discreet and inconspicuous. Such devices fit snugly behind your ears and attach to the ear canal with an extremely thin tube. They come designed to blend in with hair and skin colour so they can also barely be seen. Like small hearing aids, behind-the-ear and receiver-in-the-canal aids are also very comfortable and lightweight. They are easy to handle and can be worn by those with more advanced hearing loss.
The best way to determine which type of hearing aid is the best for you is to speak with your healthcare professional. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are many different types, styles, costs and brands of hearing aid. And each of these will have their own benefits and downfalls. It is up to you to decide whether small hearing aids are the best for you, or if you may be better suited to a larger, yet still discrete, pair. Speak to your healthcare professional today to try the different types so you can get a sense of what works best for your needs.