These days, hearing aids are so tiny — about one inch or smaller — and so hip in high-tech silvers, purples and reds that they look like fashion statements. The technology is even cooler. Behind the ear sits a tiny computer, says Baltimore audiologist Lauren Epple. In one type the microphone and amplifier are in the behind-the-ear box, and the receiver is at the end of a wire that passes from the box into the ear canal.
“Having the receiver in the ear is a benefit because the closer it is to your ear drum the less volume you need,” Epple says.
Another version has all three components in the tiny bud behind the ear. From it, a plastic tube goes into the ear. “That’s better for someone with wax issues — you don’t want wax in a receiver — or extreme hearing loss because it offers higher volume,” Epple says.
Hearing aids are also now digital: The amplifier converts sound to digital signals. “So now we can hook your hearing aid up to a computer and match it to your hearing test,” says Epple. “We can program the volume to be higher in areas where you have hearing loss.”
Another optional new feature: You can wear, around your neck, a Bluetooth-equipped microphone that looks like a thin iPod, a way of sending information wirelessly. When the telephone rings, you push a button on the Bluetooth. That turns your hearing aid’s microphone off so that you get no disturbing feedback and hear the phone conversation in both ears.