Hearing aids have come a long way. One of the more recent forms of hearing devices are the hearing aids also known as open fit hearing aids. These small devices are either placed above or behind the ear. It is on this basis that they are referred to as open because unlike other hearing devices they do not block access to the ear. There are two main types of open fit hearing devices: there is the acoustic thin-tube open fit model and the speaker-in-the-ear model (SIE). In the acoustic thin-tube model, all the electrical components necessary for detecting sound are contained in a plastic container which is kept behind the ear. In this model, sound is first processed in this plastic container then transmitted into the ear through a transparent acoustic thin wire.
In the SIE model, the speaker is located at the tip of the acoustic thin wire. Therefore, sound does not have to travel through the wire to get to the ear. Because of the speaker’s location, the quality of the sound is much better and this is why the SIE model is preferred for persons suffering from high frequency hearing loss and other more niche forms of hearing difficulty. One of the key advantages of open ear hearing device is their reduced occlusion effect. This effect common in non-open aids is characterized by ‘tunnel-like’ sound transmission due to the obstruction of the ear by the device. The open hearing aid is located outside the ear and this means the user receives the sound signals in a more natural sounding form.
Persons with hearing difficulty are sometimes not comfortable with the attention their condition attracts. Open hearing devices are small and are not easily noticed once they are placed behind the ear giving the user confidentiality if they so require it. The fact that they are small and light makes them comfortable to wear. A flexible directional microphone that forms part of the entire set means that you can point it directly towards the direction the sound is coming from. To top it all and despite all these advantages, the open hearing device is inexpensive.
But there are some downsides too that one must consider when using an open ear hearing aid. For starters, they use smaller sized batteries that have a short life and require constant replacement. Another drawback is that the directional microphone does not give the user control over the volume so they cannot turn it up or down relative to the proximity and volume of the sound source.
With many hearing devices being sold in the market, it is important that you consult a hearing specialist before purchasing one. Once the hearing specialist confirms that you do need a hearing aid, some can even go as far as ordering the hearing device on your behalf directly from the manufacturer. Alternatively, you can ask him or her to offer you a list of reputable hearing aid retailers. Get a feel of an actual open hearing aid before you buy.