COVID-19 Update: With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many seniors are struggling with loneliness and isolation. We’ve developed a list of products that caregivers or seniors can purchase to help older adults stay happy, healthy and connected, whether they are aging in place at home or in an assisted living community.

A hearing aid consists of three essential parts: the microphone, the amplifier and the speaker. Each hearing aid, however, has other components to help each of the main three ones communicate with each other and give the wearer better clarity of sound and the ability to hear even the smallest noise. More advanced hearing aids also have other parts to enhance the user’s ability to hear in certain environments. 

Hearing aids are small electronic devices worn in or behind the ear to make sounds louder and clearer so people with hearing loss can hear in both noisy and quiet situations.

Hearing aids receive sound through the microphone, which, in turn, converts the sound waves to electric signals processed through the amplifier. The amplifier sends these signals to the ear through the speaker, which can be controlled by adjusting the settings on the hearing aid.

Understanding the Parts of Your Hearing Aid

Knowing what the different parts of a hearing aid are and how they work can help you find the right kind for your needs. In addition to the three main components of a hearing aid, the one selected may have one or more of the following features, which are based on the lifestyle of the user and their degree of hearing loss and respective hearing needs. These features can include an ear hook or an ear mold for greater stability and fit of the device, volume control — either on the device or controlled through an app, memory control, which can adjust automatically to certain stored settings, a wax guard to reduce earwax buildup and a telecoil to link the hearing aid to other sound sources. We’ll explore each of these in more detail.

Ear Hook and Ear Mold

The ear hook is a plastic attachment that attaches to the tubing and hooks over the top of the ear, holding the hearing aid in place. Ear hooks are found on BTE (Behind The Ear) models.

An earmold is a customized attachment made to fit the user’s ear shape, which holds the hearing aid in place inside the ear. The earmold holds the hearing aid more closely, which helps contain the sound within the ear and makes the hearing aid more sensitive. These pieces are created by making an impression of the ear and are unique to each wearer.

Vent

The vent allows airflow in and out of the ear, which helps reduce the chances of infection for people with earmold hearing aids. It can also help soothe the feeling of a plugged-up ear and make wearing in-ear hearing aids more comfortable so users are more likely to keep the hearing aids in.

Wax Guard

The wax guard catches ear wax, preventing it from getting into the hearing aid itself and damaging the electronic components. Wax guards are small filters that need to be changed and cleaned periodically.

Volume and Memory Controls

Hearing aid users have a volume control to adjust the sensitivity and loudness of the hearing aid. It’s usually in a switch or button form but may not be available on the most basic models of hearing aids. Adjusting the volume may help in noisy situations or when watching TV or a movie with other people.

Memory control features allow users to switch between saved settings programmed into the hearing aid. These are usually for the user’s different settings for different environments and situations. Users can set the volume and clarity and assign each setting a name, such as “home,” “church” or “school,” for example.

Many newer hearing aids have volume and memory control available through a mobile app or another Bluetooth accessory.

Telecoil

The T-Coil, or telecoil, part of a hearing aid is a small sensor that lets users connect directly to certain electronics, such as a phone or a smart TV. T-coils can give wearers greater clarity and understanding in loud situations and allow them to hear the signal from the hearing aid and the electronic device more easily. For some hearing aid models, the telecoil can also act as a personal speaker in a public sound system, such as at a concert or sporting event.

Battery

Hearing aids are powered by a battery, either replaceable or rechargeable, and each hearing aid model has one type or the other. Hearing aid batteries may be replaced by the user or may have to be replaced by the manufacturer or a designated consultant. Rechargeable hearing aid batteries can be charged while the owner sleeps and won’t need to be manually replaced.  

Finding the Right Hearing Aid Features for Your Lifestyle

An audiologist or hearing aid professional can help users explore the features of each hearing aid and allow them to find the best one to fit their lifestyle. Insurance plans may cover different kinds of hearing aids, and a hearing aid consultant can help users explore the features of each device covered by insurance. Understanding the key features of hearing aids can help users better evaluate their choices.

Takeaway

While all hearing aids, at their core, have three main parts, different models may have different features to let users have a more customized experience. Custom-fit and volume controls may allow users to have a more natural experience with hearing aids, and in-ear hearing aids may be a preferred style for those who don’t wish their hearing aids to be as noticeable. Each user may have their own preferences, and working closely with an audiologist can help determine which hearing aid features should give the best results.