One trend in particular is emerging strongly on the hearing aid market: the hearing aids on offer are becoming ever smaller and unobtrusive. Thus, manufacturers explicitly advertise the inconspicuousness of their hearing aids - especially in the context of online marketing, the "invisible" models are thrust into the limelight.
Should appearance be a basis for deciding on a suitable hearing aid? In this article, you will find out what lies behind the trend: are the wooed ITE hearing aids suitable for you, or would you be better off going for a BTE device? After all, even hearing aids with external receiver are basically "invisible" with a good fit and longer hair.
Size of "invisible" hearing aids
Generally two designs are traded as "invisible": CIC (Completely in the Canal) hearing aids, which are only visible from a certain angle, and IIC (Invisible in the Canal) hearing aids, which are actually not visible to outsiders. The models that fall under this are available exclusively as battery versions - usually requiring batteries in size 10, occasionally in size 312. The "invisibles" are recommended for mild to moderate hearing loss; for more severe hearing damage, other designs should be used. CIC and IIC devices are also less suitable for a very narrow ear canal.
To manufacture the "invisible" hearing aids, an ear impression must be taken, for which there are several things to consider. First of all, it should be done exclusively by professionals, preferably a master craftsman. In terms of materials, soft impression material should be used, which is inserted into the ear canal to the required depth (up to the second bend of the ear canal). Due to the anatomically determined interaction between the lower jaw and the auditory canal, the impression must take place dynamically. With the help of chewing and movement of the jaw during the execution, the fit of the hearing aid can be significantly influenced.
Current CIC and IIC devices in the hearing aid market
CIC and IIC hearing aids are sold by mainstream hearing aid manufacturers. However, not all offerings are equally recommended.
The manufacturer Phonak offers particularly subtle devices with the Virto Marvel Titanium (starting at $1,490). The thin-walled titanium shell used means the hearing aids disappear up to 2.5 mm deeper in the ear canal.
Another "invisible" Phonak device is the Phonak Lyric. This is a high-cost, disposable product that must be completely replaced when the battery dies.
Conclusion: is an "invisible" hearing aid worth it?
Ahead of time, it can be said: optics alone are not a solid basis for decision-making when choosing a suitable hearing aid! You are welcome to reach for an ITE hearing aid if you meet the requirements for one: Say, you have mild to moderate hearing loss, your ear canal is large enough, and you're willing to use a battery device.
However, if you place a lot of emphasis on comfort and technology, an "invisible" hearing aid is less advisable. This is because, in general, the smaller the hearing aid, the less technology fits inside. If you want to enjoy additional features and a high level of comfort, you should rather go for hearing aids with external receiver. These are available as battery versions, include a Bluetooth feature, remote fitting capability and directional hearing.
Here we can especially suggest the Oticon More (starting at $1,390), which is unobtrusive, yet at the same time tech-savvy and comfortable.