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Is Smaller Really Better When Getting A Hearing Aid?

Advertising related to hearing aids is not difficult to come by. While the terms “invisible”,  “micro”, “smallest” are appealing to many when considering a new hearing device, it’s important to understand that in the world of hearing aids, smaller does not mean better.  The reason is that the size of the instrument can limit the device’s capabilities.

Hearing aids come in all shapes and sizes. For a variety of reasons, patients are drawn to very small devices that fit completely in the ear canal. These devices, referred to as Completely in the Canal (CIC) instruments, while discrete, do have some limitations compared to other instruments.

  1. They are not large enough to use directional microphones.  Directional microphones are what allow a hearing device to better analyze sound in a noisy environment.  When speech is present among significant background noise, the directional microphones emphasize the speech instead of the noise to give the wearer a better chance at understanding. A slightly larger instrument (that may also be equally discrete), is likely to improve hearing in noise.

  2. The size or shape of the ear canal can limit additional features.  Many of today’s devices allow for wireless communication between the hearing device and other sources including your phone, tv, computer, etc.  The wireless antenna in the instrument is what makes the communication possible, but unfortunately, even if a CIC hearing aid is wirelessly compatible (which many are not), an individual's ear canal may require that this feature be dropped from the hearing aid in order to allow it to fit in the individual’s ear.

  3. The devices cannot work as a team.  Wireless communication between hearing aids allows the devices to send information from one ear to the other to improve overall sound. For example, If you are driving in a car and there is significant road noise on your left side, the devices will automatically emphasize the signal coming from the right side and reduce the signal coming from the left side to improve your ability to comfortably understand speech.  The ability to “talk to each other” is not available in most CIC hearing devices.

  4. Less natural sound. When a device sits completely in the ear canal, it will also essentially plug the ear canal which means all sounds will be coming through the hearing device.  When the ear canal can be left at least partially open, the device can be programmed to only amplify areas where you need help and let the sounds you hear well through naturally.  

  5. Reduced battery life.  In general, the smaller the device, the shorter the battery life.

While there are many small and discrete styles of instruments available to those with hearing loss, it is important to work with a qualified audiologist that can walk you through the pros and cons of each style of instrument. Completely in the canal (CIC) devices, when fitted properly, can be a great solution for some patients. But remember, the smaller a hearing aid gets, the likelihood is that you’ll be losing features and function.

Is Smaller Really Better When Getting A Hearing Aid  has been provided by The Hearing Center at Dallas Ear Institute.  If you’re in the Dallas Texas area and you’re looking for a hearing center, contact 972-566-7359 or thehearingcenter@dallasear.com.

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