Custom hearing aids come in three basic sizes, although there are variations that exist within each category.
The primary categories are: from smallest to largest (CIC) completely-in-the-canal, (ITC) in-the-canal and (ITE) in-the-ear or full shell.
- CIC is the smallest hearing instrument available. It is the most cosmetically appealing. It provides enough amplification for someone with a mild to moderately-severe hearing loss. It requires good dexterity to insert, remove and change the battery. CIC hearing aids can limit some of the programming options that are available today of background noise reduction.
- TC sits within the bottom portion of the outer ear. It is easier to handle than the CIC. It is appropriate for mild to moderately-severe hearing losses. ITC instruments allow for more programming flexibility and can be a more comfortable fit.
- ITE sits entirely within the outer ear. This instrument provides the widest selection of features. It does not require as good of dexterity as smaller instruments. Appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss.
- BTE is placed behind the ear and are attached to the ear by a custom ear mold or in some cases a non-custom tubing. This is used for all degrees of hearing loss, from very mild to profound. There are many styles of BTEs available, depending on the listeners needs.
Most hearing aids fit today use digital sound processing.
Hearing aid features
Some of the features that come with hearing aids today can include:
- Automatic sound processing
- Directional microphone systems
- Speech and noise management technologies
- Feedback cancellation
- Multiple listening programs
- Wireless technology
- Remote controls
An audiologist or hearing aid dispenser can to help you make an educated decision.
Hearing aid technology tends to be divided into four categories:
- Basic/entry level
At each level of technology, the features and the ability of the hearing aid improve.
Choosing your type
The basic and advanced technologies were designed for affordability. As technology improves, so does the expectation of how well a person will perform with their hearing aids.
That is why lifestyle is a criteria for the selection of appropriate amplification. How many different environments are you in in one day? Are you active or sedate? Do you use the telephone a lot? Are you a musician or an armchair musician?
These are only some of the things that will be discussed to help determine what it is that will work best for you as an individual. Two people with the same hearing loss could have completely different needs and completely different success stories.
Cost will obviously be a factor in the decision making process, but be aware that, although hearing aids are expensive, they are an investment in your quality of life. Hearing aids are not a once in a lifetime purchase. Hearing aids are typically replaced every five to seven years, sooner for some, later for others.
UC Irvine Health offers full service for your hearing healthcare needs, including working with your insurance if you have a hearing aid benefit.
Most insurance companies do not cover hearing aids, although this is employer specific. Call your insurance company and ask if you have any benefits and what amount they cover.
Medicare does not cover hearing aids. If you have a Medicare supplement, it will not cover anything for hearing aids either.
When hearing aids are purchased through the audiology department at UC Irvine Medical Center, all of the items and services required to assure a successful fitting are included in the initial costs.
The following items are included in the price of the hearing aid:
- Impression of the ear for a custom hearing aid
- All visits to ensure that the fitting and programming of the hearing aids are appropriate
- Two-year warranty on the hearing aids, which include any office or manufacturer repairs
- One-year loss and damage coverage, should the hearing aids be lost or damaged beyond repair
- One package of batteries (per ear), hearing aid cases and cleaning instruments
The system cost will vary depending on the hearing aid style and technology.
Because UC Irvine Health is a nonprofit organization, the cost of hearing aids here are some of the lowest in Southern California.
Although California requires a 30-day trial period on hearing aids, we offer a 60-day trial. This ensures that the settings and amplification are appropriate, and that a successful fit has been made. We also provide a one-year battery supply at no cost.
It is important to remember that you do not make any decision on your own. It is important to work with an audiologist who can guide you through this process.
The audiologist will ask you questions to help determine which hearing aids would suit you best. You will also be encouraged to ask questions of your own.