Understanding the Various Parts of a Hearing Aid
Today’s hearing aids are a lot like mini computers for your ears. There’s a lot of technology packed inside! And while you don’t need to understand how the technology works as long as you can hear when you turn the device on, it’s always a good idea to have a basic understanding of the various parts. The following components are common parts of a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid.
Microphone and Amplifier
Every hearing aid has a microphone that picks up sound and sends it to the amplifier. In a BTE, both of these components are located in the hard case that fits on the outside of your ear.
It’s important to keep this part of your hearing aid clean and dry. Most manufacturers recommend you wipe your hearing aids with a soft, dry cloth before putting them away for the night. This helps keep the microphone screen clean, free of debris and working properly.
Just like your eyeglass frames, your BTE hearing aid hooks over the outside of your ear. This hook, sometimes called an Elbow, also connects the microphone and amplifier casing to the tubing and ear mold that fits inside your ear canal. It’s natural for this part of your hearing aid to wear out and need replacement as perspiration and body oils break down the plastic. Wiping the ear hook thoroughly with a soft cloth or tissue will prolong its life.
It’s important to make sure the ear hook fits snugly, but not uncomfortably, on your ear and that it’s connected securely to the casing and tubing. Your audiologist or hearing center professional can help determine the best fit for you.
The plastic tubing that fits onto the end of the hear hook transmits the electronic sound from the microphone into the ear mold. The length of this tubing varies according to the make and model of your hearing aid and can be adjusted for the best fit. Like the ear hook, these tubes are made of plastic and will need replacement long before your hearing aid wears out. Be sure to inspect these tubes daily to make sure they’re securely fastened to the ear hook and ear mold as well as for signs of breaking or splitting.
These form-fitting plastic or acrylic components fit snugly inside your ear canal and concha bowl (the outer ear closest to your ear canal) to provide an acoustic seal for the electronic sound your microphone is piping inside. The shape and fit of your earmold depends upon the model of hearing aid you’ve chosen and the severity of your hearing loss. Four common types of ear molds include:
- Canal earmolds fit only into the ear canal and do not extend into the concha bowl.
- Full-shell earmolds extend into the concha bowl and are sculpted for a natural appearance. This design is helpful in reducing feedback and work well for moderate to severe hearing loss.
- Skeleton and semi-skeleton earmolds are similar to full-shell earmolds but are aesthetically designed with a cutout portion.
- Half-shell earmolds only cover the bottom half of the concha bowl and are recommended for those with mild hearing loss.
It may sound silly to explain this basic function but, believe it or not, it’s a common reason hearing aid users think their devices aren’t working properly. In BTE models, this switch is located on the casing that fits behind your ear. If your hearing aid isn’t working, check to make sure it’s turned on. It’s also a good idea to switch your hearing aids off when you’re not wearing them.
In most BTE models, the battery compartment is located close to the on/off switch on the casing that fits behind your ear. Most manufacturers recommend you remove the batteries and keep this compartment open each night, to allow any accumulated moisture to evaporate.
The average life span of a hearing aid battery ranges anywhere from 5 to 14 days. If your hearing aid isn’t working properly, check to make sure your battery is inserted properly. If that doesn’t work (and you’ve turned the unit on!) try inserting a new battery.