If you were asked to visualise hearing aids, what image springs to mind? If you picture the ‘typical’ hearing aid style with an arm that sits behind the ear, you’re within the majority! These are known as ‘standard’ hearing aids, and around 80% of people with hearing aids, have these ones. Behind-The-Ear devices can be purchased off-the-shelf, with the settings and treatment plan personalised to the wearer.
Have you ever seen a custom hearing aid? If not, that’s probably because custom hearing aids are a lot less easy to spot!
Custom hearing aids are molded to the wearer’s unique ear shape. They tend to look a bit like flesh-coloured ‘blobs’, like in this image below.
No two custom hearing aids will ever be quite the same, just like no two ears will ever be! Custom solutions rose to popularity in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan revealed his Starkey custom hearing aids. This helped people to see that not only is it important to address and treat hearing loss, but also that there are discreet, non-stereotypical device options out there. As a result of this publicity, hearing aid purchases nearly doubled.
There are a few different types of custom hearing aids available. Your options will depend on your specific hearing loss, personal requirements and budget. The smallest on the market are Invisible-In-The-Canal hearing aids. These sit snugly in the second bend of the ear canal, and are as the name suggests, virtually undetectable. They feature a small transparent wand for placement and removal, and because they sit so close to the eardrum they are renowned for their overall sound experience.
Then there are Completely-In-Canal and In-The-Canal models, which are slightly larger, but still very discreet options. The larger size makes for easier handling and a longer battery life than the invisible models.
Finally, In-The-Ear models are the largest of the custom hearing aid styles, visible within the outer ear. These offer a longer battery life, and controls such as volume are able to fit directly on the device.
Why go custom?
Custom hearing aids offer a better and more natural sound experience because they’re closer to the eardrum. Basically, soundwaves are more easily transferred to the inner ear, with lower volumes needed.
The other defining feature of custom hearing aids is that the microphone sits within the ear, unlike standard Behind-The-Ear models. Just like natural hearing, the external ear structure itself will funnel sounds right into the microphone. This helps with your directional hearing, which is how you determine where sounds are coming from, as well as hearing high-frequency sounds.
The shape of our external ear also helps protect the microphone from picking up annoying wind noise.
How are they made?
You’ll need a simple – and painless – ear mold, which your hearing professional can take in the clinic. The mold will be sent to the manufacturer, where the outer shell and parts are built exactly to your individual measurements. Just like a bespoke suit, custom hearing aids by nature will always fit better than the standard.
Do you like the individualised approach of a custom-made solution? Check out the different models we discussed above and see how they stack up against each other in this style comparison chart.
Starkey are the pioneers of custom hearing aid technology and remain the market leaders today. If you’re ready for a hearing aid solution that is truly one-of-a-kind, reach out to your local hearing professional to book an appointment.