Hearing Aids: How They Work, Types & Reviews


Published 2009-01-17 (Rev. 2015-07-29) -- Information regarding hearing aids including how they work what to look for when purchasing and digital hearing aid comparisons.

Contact Details: For further information please contact Ian Langtree at Disabled World

Quote: "The type of hearing aid that is best suited for you will be determined in part by the type and level of hearing loss you have."

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Hearing Aid

A hearing aid or deaf aid is defined as an electro-acoustic device designed to amplify sound for the wearer, usually with the aim of making speech more intelligible, and to correct impaired hearing as measured by audiometry. Hearing aids are incapable of truly correcting a hearing loss; they are an aid to make sounds more accessible. Hearing aids are considered medical devices and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ordinary small audio amplifiers or other plain sound reinforcing systems cannot be sold as "hearing aids" in the United States.

Main Document

If you suffer from a hearing loss like millions of other Americans, buying a hearing aid can greatly enhance your life. Buying a hearing aid can be costly and confusing, here are some tips you might want to consider before buying one.

How does a hearing aid work

A hearing aid is an electronic device with a small microphone that makes sounds louder. In order for the hearing aid to work, you must still have some hearing left. You are unique and so is your hearing, this is why there are many styles of hearing aids and brands. One hearing aid might not work as well for one person as it did for someone else.

Why do people lose their hearing

There are basically two types of hearing loss: Conductive and Sensorineural.

  • Conductive hearing loss involves the outer and middle ear and usually is due to ear-way, a punctured eardrum, birth defects, ear infections, or it may be genetic. Conductive hearing losses can generally be corrected with surgery.
  • Sensorineural or "nerve" hearing loss involves damage to the inner ear. It can be caused by aging, prenatal and birth-related problems, viral and bacterial infections, genetics, trauma (such as a severe blow to the head), exposure to loud noises, the use of certain drugs, or fluid buildup or a benign tumor in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss usually can't be repaired surgically and is usually corrected with a hearing aid.

Get a check up

First have your hearing tested by an audiologist or hearing specialist, then based upon their recommendation, see your doctor to rule out correctable causes of hearing loss such as earwax, a middle ear infection, or a tumor.

  • Ask about a Trial Period. A hearing aid should come with a trial period of at least 30 days. It may take a while to get used to them and to decide if they are useful to you. Have the seller put in writing the cost of the trial and whether this amount is credited towards the final cost of the hearing aid.
  • Check for a warranty. Most hearing aids include a warranty that includes both the parts and labor for a specific amount of time.
  • Beware of misleading sales tactics. Hearing Aids cannot restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. Beware of advertisements and salespeople that say otherwise. Also beware of sales that sound too good to be true. If they are offer you a huge discount only if you buy today, then they are just trying to sell you.

What To Consider:

  • Many people with hearing loss aren't interested in hearing aids, because they think a hearing aid will make them look older or change how strangers interact with them. Some people might think they can get by just fine using visual cues to make up for their loss of hearing.
  • Be honest with yourself. Wearing a hearing aid is much less noticeable than constantly asking people to repeat themselves or responding to a question with an unrelated answer.
  • The truth is that a well-fitted hearing aid can greatly enhance your ability to interact with others. Hearing aids can minimize many problems that go along with hearing loss, such as difficulty understanding conversations or hearing timers and beepers. And they can help fight feelings of social isolation.
  • If your hearing loss affects your ability to communicate with others or makes you feel self-conscious, it may be time to consider a hearing aid. Though it may be awkward at first, over time you'll adjust to the device and enjoy your enhanced ability to hear and communicate in a variety of situations.
  • By wearing your hearing aid regularly and taking good care of it, you'll begin to notice significant improvements in your quality of life.

Hearing Test

The first step is to get tested by a hearing professional or audiologist. The type of hearing aid that is best suited for you will be determined in part by the type and level of hearing loss you have. The professional will be able to assess your hearing needs so you can choose the correct hearing aid.

Analog vs. Digital Hearing Aids

Years ago hearing aids were all analog. Today, most hearing aids are digital. Digital hearing aids provide high quality sound amplification, advanced features and fine-tuning that was not possible with analog aids. Some companies still make analog hearing aids, however, be sure to compare these with the digital ones before making your final decision.

Styles Of Hearing Aids - There are 4 main styles of hearing aids available.

The style you are best suited for depends on the type of hearing loss you have as well as your comfort.

Different styles of hearing aids

  • Behind The Ear (BTE): Fits over the ear and rests behind it. Typically the least expensive style.
  • In The Ear (ITE): The most common type, this sits in the ear
  • In The Ear Canal (ITC): This type fits slightly lower into the ear and is not very noticeable.
  • Completely In The Ear Canal (CIC): Fits down into the ear canal. This style requires the most fitting and is the least visible to others.

Features - Hearing aids today come with a myriad of features.

These range from the necessary, such as noise canceling, to the more luxurious, such as remote control. Digital hearing aids offer state-of-the-art technology that helps to reduce feedback and allows for clearer hearing even in situations where there is background noise. Digital hearing aids offer more options for adjustments than analog hearing aids, making it easier to adapt to a new hearing aid.


Once you know the style of hearing aid that suits you best, compare prices across various brands as they vary greatly. The prices are most expensive for hearing aids with latest technology and advanced features. Even if you don't have a lot to spend you will still be able to find a quality hearing aid with enough features to fulfill your needs.


When choosing a hearing aid it is important to ask about the warranty. Find out the warranty period and what is covered. Ask if any fitting problems are covered because this could get expensive if multiple trips are needed.

Choose One Or Two Hearing Aids

If you have hearing loss in only one ear, you will do well with only one hearing aid. However, as both ears tend to be affected by age and noise related hearing loss, wearing two hearing aids will actually help you to differentiate and determine where sounds are coming from. Most digital hearing aids require two to be worn to achieve maximum benefits.

Hearing aids have changed a lot since they were invented, now they're so small most people don't even notice when you're wearing one!

These modern day hearing aids have a lot of advanced features. There is a hearing aid suitable for everyone, regardless of your budget and hearing requirement.

Digital hearing aids offer more advantages over the older, analog version. Many hearing aid manufacturers no longer produce analog models and focus all of their attention on producing newer digital models.

Prices of digital hearing aids have fallen, which is another reason why analog hearing aids are dying out.

Digital Hearing Aids from Starkey

Starkey Laboratories is the world's largest manufacturer of hearing instruments. Starkey was the first major hearing aid provider to give product warranty and free trial period.

Starkey produces a number of digital hearing aid models, including Cierra, Aspect and Mesa.

Starkey is an innovative company and is the first to use nanoscience technology in its Destiny range. The top of the range offering from Starkey is Eli which can be used with Bluetooth phones.

Digital Hearing Aids from Rexton

There are three main categories of Rexton digital hearing aids: entry-level, mid-level and high-level.

  • The Arena is a classic digital hearing instrument in the basic range.
  • The Targa model is a mid-level hearing aid that provides programmable memories and adaptive noise reduction (ANR) as well as microphone noise reduction (MNR).
  • The Calibra model offers up to four programmable memories, which are programmed by the hearing health professional to respond to different listening environments according to user preferences.
  • The Revera is a digital wireless solution for binaural users and includes state-of-the-art features as well as a wireless remote.

Phonak Hearing Aids

Phonak is a worldwide company with headquarters in Switzerland. They offer specialized hearing instruments, which are available in a wide array of products to suit your hearing loss and budget. The 6 channel eXtra model provides a basic entry-level hearing aid. The mid-range Valeo and Elva models have 16 channels. The top of the line Savia has 20 channels and numerous features to provide the best hearing assistance available. Phonak also has wireless hearing aid solutions.

Related Information:

Assistive Hearing and Listening Devices Information - Disabled World
Making Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants Sound Clearer - Tel Aviv University provides major improvement for the hearing-impaired with new hearing-aid software application.
Using Hearing Aids - The latest hearing aids are using some incredible technology, small enough to be laid flat on a postage stamp but powerful enough to completely change the way your world sounds.
Behind the Ear Hearing Aids - BTE hearing aids have been around for many decades and with the advancements in technology not only do they look better, but they are also smaller, and often considered quite unobtrusive.
Songbird Hearing Aid - Sleek Design Great Sound Quality - Affordable and available for purchase for the first time in almost 4 years, the completely disposable Songbird Flexfit has been newly redesigned, based on the feedback of consumers, to be the ideal hearing device for virtually anyone.
• Smart Hearing Aids from Siemens Use easyTek App Control - Siemens Hearing Instruments - (2015-01-07)

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