Invisible hearing aids – Good or Bad?!
Invisible hearing aids – Good or Bad?!
“Do you sell the small Amplifon hearing aids advertised on TV?” Over the last 2 years I have heard this question many times. I get that question so often that I thought it would be a good time to give a detailed answer in a blog form.
Strictly speaking, we do not sell Amplifon hearing aids, as they can only be purchased at Amplifon. Amplifon is a large Italian owned retail hearing aid provider chain. In recent years they have purchased National Hearing Centres, Bay Audio and Attune hearing.
However, we are easily able to order in equivalent technology from world renowned hearing aid manufacturers such as Phonak, Bernafon, Oticon and Signia just to name a few.
So let’s look at the benefits of small, invisible in the canal (IIC) hearing aids:
- For some people this is important
- They don’t want the aid to be seen
Doesn’t tangle with mask
- Yes this is a real benefit
- The mask bands sit around the ears without getting into a tangle with hearing aids.
Pinna Effect Maintained
The pinna effect are the benefits the pinna gives to naturally optimise your hearing.
Specifically, there are 2 main benefits:
- The pinna contributes to localising sounds in the vertical plane. That is, is the sound above, below, or straight ahead?
- The pinna contributes to the overall ear resonance. This is the natural amplification that the head, neck/torso, concha, pinna flange and ear canal give.
Invisible in the canal hearing aids sit deep enough in the canal to help to preserve the pinna effect that contribute to localising sounds in the vertical plane.
Now let’s look at the negatives of small, invisible hearing aids:
- The occlusion effect is the sensation of increased loudness (sound pressure level), especially in the low frequencies, a person experiences to self-generated sounds (vocalization, chewing, swallowing, walking, and the like), when the ears are covered (occluded).
- The occlusion effect occurs when an object fills the outer portion of a person’s ear canal, causing that person to perceive echo-like “hollow” or “booming” sounds generated from their own voice, chewing swallowing
- It causes a blocked sensation
Technology Not as advanced
- Yes, contrary to popular belief, the small, invisible hearing aids are not as technically advanced as the modern receiver in the ear (RITE) hearing aids
- In order to achieve its size, something has to give, and that is technology
- Invisible hearing aids only have one microphone, compared to most hearing aids that have two. Two microphones are required for directional microphone technology which helps to improve hearing speech in noise.
- Invisible hearing aids generally are not able to stream audio from mobile phones like most hearing aids can
- Invisible hearing aids are not rechargeable
- Invisible hearing aids sit deep in the ear canal making them more vulnerable to wax blockage and moisture issues
- Statistically, IIC hearing aids are far more likely to require repairs and servicing over their lifetime compared to other hearing aids
Low battery life
- Again, size comes at a price. These invisible hearing aids work on small batteries (size 10). As a result, often the batteries only last 3-4 days.
Lack of power
- Small hearing aid = small amplifier = small gain
- Truly invisible hearing aids are only suitable for mild to moderate hearing losses – so if your hearing loss deteriorates then the aid may already be at its maximum and cannot be turned up any louder meaning that you are not getting optimal gain.
In conclusion, hopefully it is clear that invisible in the canal (IIC) are not the best choice if your aim is to optimise your hearing.
In my opinion you would only go with an IIC hearing aid if cosmetic appeal was at the top of your list for you to wear a hearing aid. That is, you would only wear a hearing aid if it could not be seen. If this was important to you, then an IIC would be a good option. You are better off wearing the hearing aid consistently and getting some benefit then none at all.
However, given the range of options available in the receiver in the ear (RITE) style and the fact that their design is very modern and neat, I would highly recommend putting sound quality above any cosmetic concerns.