“Invisible” is the most desired hearing aid in the world, but – does it really exist, and is it “the best” for you?
First, some background. Hearing aids come in many shapes and sizes. The two main profiles are:
- Behind-the-ear (BTE), in which a small device sits behind the ear and directs sound into the canal through a custom made shell or silicone “dome”; and
- In-the-ear (ITE) aid, which sits in the canal opening, and is based on a cast of the ear (see also: in-the-canal, mini-canal and completely-in-the-canal profiles).
A “good fit” for an ITE depends on several factors. The first is the size and angles of your ear hole opening and canal. Some canals are so tiny, an ITE isn’t possible. Next, can you physically manage the device and it’s batteries? Do you need a volume or other useful control on the aid? These take up additional space and can broaden the visible part of the aid. Wireless connection to an app on your phone is an obvious replacement for these controls. This option is very new i.e. it became available in 2020. Finally, a more severe hearing loss will require more power, and extra space to contain the stronger electronics.
A common myth is that the smaller a hearing aid, the clearer or more superior it must be. Certainly, the microphone of a small ITE may be more shielded from wind noise, and interfere less with some glasses or when playing sports. Otherwise, the sound quality will depend upon the processing speed and features of the electronic circuitry of the device – regardless of its size. This article describes electronic features of ITE’s and BTE’s of relevance to your hearing loss and lifestyle: “Personalising Hearing Technology“.
Another myth is that ITE’s are more discrete than BTE’s. This is generally true, however there are now many exceptions. In the last decade, the behind-the-ear component and tube leading to the canal have considerably “shrunk” in size. If you are still skeptical, try this – next time you visit a crowded place such as a shopping centre, casually survey the back of people’s ears. You will see many BTE’s you otherwise wouldn’t have spotted. You may also notice that the least visible devices are a similar colour to the wearer’s hair, skin or shadowy section behind the ear. Measureable size isn’t always a good guide as to what is noticeable to the eye. Other aids are bold and signal the wearer appreciates their sophisticated little hearing helper (as many of us also do with our Bluetooth and other ear-level devices).
Returning to the topic – many ITE’s are hard to see, but rarely invisible. There is one exception, however, the Phonak Lyric. Lyric is inserted deep into the canal. Your audiologist can advise whether this device is appropriate to your degree of hearing loss, needs and skills.
When choosing a new hearing aid, size may or may not matter as much as you first thought. Sound quality, fine tuning and changes in communication style will also determine ongoing success (see “Success with Hearing Aids”, “Hearing Loss & Communication at Home”).
Looking for an invisible hearing aid option? Lyric by Phonak is the World’s only truly invisible hearing aid. Learn more below;