Hearing Devices, What’s the Difference?
Since the early 1900’s humans have been constantly developing newer and more innovative ways to enhance our hearing and communication abilities. We will specifically high light the revolution of automated micro electronics manufacturing all due to last 50+ years of product Research & Development. Working in Hearing Health Industry I have to say much of the drive to make these amazing products is a passion to help others hearing better.
Now let’s get into the Details of what are the deference’s and why there is such a wide range of cost for these miniature hearing devices. Believe it or not the cost to design and build these technologies is very high however due to the efficiencies of current manufacturing standards you get so much more for your money. So the question remains why are there devices that cost 200.00 and others 2,000.00 you might ask?
The answer is complex but I will try to simplify it. First let’s point out the main purchasing resources which are Retail & Online Stores, Mail Order and Health Service Practices. It should be obvious that each product outlet will definitely yield a different result and so may the price for the Product & Services. While I have to say there are some bargains out there if you know something about what you are purchasing however lets not forget about the essential Services behind the products or the lack of... So more importantly what you may not know will end up hurting you in the long run and this is why it's important to be an Informed Consumer.
What a person is to do and know is crucial to investing in the correct Hearing option. I think of the old adage "You get what you pay for", so let’s use some common sense here.. First we need to know what’s the difference in all these advertised Hearing devices before we can truly understand what we are purchasing and at what degree will it improve my situation?? So there are 3 categories of miniature device technologies to cover; Amplifiers, Hearing Aids, and Hearing Instruments
1. Basic Amplifiers (non-FDA approved, commonly sold Over the Counter, Online or Mail Order for 50 to 500.ea): Back in the early 1950's Amplifier devices were the 1st type of Hearing device available in a wallet sized electronic case with an attached single Wired Ear Speaker. Over the years these devices have become smaller due to the technological advancements of the Hearing Industry yet still typically larger over the Ear devices with a universal selection of Tubings/Domes to fit the Ear. On-board Controls consisted of a volume control and some higher end types have an option button for different modes to accommodate best guess user preferences. Some of these devices are designed for specific environments such as hunting or shooting activities to protect your hearing when sound levels exceed 100db. The Cons of universal amplifiers you should consider before purchasing: -They amplify everything from everywhere including speech & background noise while only covering less than 60% of the speech range (average: 350Hz to 4KHz) due too poor acoustics of the universal Fitting Tips and other Technical Limitations which result in a noisy squeal sound known as Feedback or the opposite plugged feeling with voice occlusion. In general they might be useful in certain situations but unpractical in real life hearing environments not to mention they could cause the listener more harm by exposing louder uncontrolled sounds resulting in more Hearing Loss.
2. Hearing Aids (FDA approved, developed in the 70's and used till 1999 cost: 400 to 1,500.each): The FDA approved Hearing Aid (H.A.) is an actual medically fit Custom Molded Hearing Aid is shaped to fit the specific user much like a pair of prescription glasses and frames. The H.A. was commonly available in 2 form factors: ITE (In The Ear) and BTE (Behind The Ear) with a custom fitted Molded/Vented Ear Piece for full-time comfortable daily use. Since the Acoustics are more specifically coupled into the Ear Canal with venting the Frequency Response could be increased to cover the speech range @ 125Hz to 8 KHz with limitations. Additional features on H.A. were a Volume Control along with specific hidden Trimmer Controls inside each device to adjust Frequency Response, Compression and MPO's. The H.A. device served Hearing Loss Suffers for over 30 years and did provide much needed corrective support in a smaller customized form factor with the following drawbacks. They only worked for 65% of the people that used them while the other 35% had some normal hearing and or specific additional complications that resulted in lower satisfaction from limitations of technology in that time.
3. Hearing Instruments (FDA approved Digital Replacement 2000 to current cost: 900 to 3,500.each): The Hearing Instrument is much more sophisticated device containing a Digital Micro-Chip Processor & Amplifier which changed everything you may have experienced before. So with the ever expanding advancements from the 60+ years of hard earned Research and Development in the Hearing Instrument Industry H.I.’s can Fit 99.99% of the cases out there with Hearing Loss. With continued advancements in Micro-Electronics every 3 years these devices became smaller and more powerful with Signal over Noise processing, Directional Microphone Strategies, Multi Band/Channel Frequency Controls, and Wireless Synchronization features... The H.I. now available in 4 Form factors; ITE (In the Ear), BTE (Behind the Ear), O-BTE (Open Behind the Ear), and the most popular RIC (Receiver In Canal). As you can imagine the word High Definition is becoming reality for many users these days with a usable Frequency Response of 100Hz to 10KHz when Fitted with proper Acoustic Couplers. The more Bands and Channels the H.I. has the more resolution the H.I. user can experience much mike Mega-Pixels to a Digital Camera, the more the better. To top it all off add the wireless features of H.I.’s that directly connect us to all our electronic devices such as TVs, PCs, and Phones. The most important thing I would relay is that the success of any Hearing Instrument user is very dependent on the professional that fits them. I often think of a musician who plays a musical instrument, if they play it well people will enjoy what they hear and if the played poorly may result in poor sound quality and even discomfort.
Summary: As you can see here I have laid out some very important information on identifying what type of Hearing Devices are out there. Ideally everyone should be looking for the 2nd and 3rd category of devices since they are the only devices that can be accurately adjusted to your Hearing similar to corrective eyeglasses. Ultimately the Hearing Instrument (3rd level) is best and only consideration since it is Infinitely Fine Tunable to all types of varying Hearing conditions not to mention the improved signal to noise processing. If you would like more specific hearing related information for you or someone you know, find an experienced trained professional for guidance. Much like the different devices out there are also different Hearing Health Care professionals. Try to find the professional that takes the time to explain the details, Knowledge is power. The more you understand the better; you are the main defender of your hearing health. Hearing is believing, David Chartrand BC-HIS
Call 719-676-4327 or 719-582-6425 for a Hearing Evaluation..