The new trend has been the new open fitting hearing aids. What are they, what are the benefits and who are they best designed for?
I would like to discuss the answers to these and other questions in this article.
First, it is important to determine what open fit hearing aids really are. They are hearing aids that sit on top of the ear, similar to a BTE hearing aids, yet smaller in design. Yet, the biggest difference is that the part that goes into the ear does not occlude or “plug up” the ear. Thus, low frequency sounds can pass through naturally through the small tip that goes into the ear. It also allows sound pressure to relieve out of the ear, sounds such as your own voice, chewing sounds, coughing sounds, etc.
What happens with the usual hearing aids that plug up the whole ear is that the low frequency sounds are not allowed to escape out of the ear, thus your own voice and chewing sounds become exaggerated. In fact, simple sounds such as your own voice or chewing can become as loud at 85-90 db sound pressure level when completely plugging the ear with a hearing aid. Thus these sound can be come unbearable, particularly for patients with very good hearing in the low pitches.
This is why the open fit design has come about and become very popular, particularly for people who have good hearing in the low tones and poor hearing in the high pitches, which is the most common sensorineural (nerve deafness) hearing loss confiruration, particularly for persons who have worked around lots of noise in the past.
Most of the top manufacturers offer open fit hearing aids, many with some of their top of the line DSP circuitry in them. The most common are:
Receiver (speaker) in the Ear:
- Oticon Delta 6000 and 8000
- Phonak Micro Power (not exactly open fit, but can be made to be one)
- Sebo Tek (can also be fit on flat hearing losses and not always open fit)
- Phonak Micro Savia, Micro Eleva, Mini-Valeo
- HearPod III
- Sonic Innovation Ion
- Siemens Centra
- Oticon Safran
- Micro-Tech Seneca Plus
- Magnatone money Shadow
In addition, for most users, these open fit devices are much more comfortable to wear. Many of my patients tell me that they often forget they even have them on. Others say they are so light and doesn’t feel like you have your fingers stuck in your ear all day.
Clinicians like myself have also enjoyed using these new instruments, as patient satisfaction is higher, these products do not require taking molds of the ears and waiting 2 weeks to get the hearing aids and patients can get help right away.
The costs of open fit hearing aids range from $695 (HearPod III) to upwards of $3,000 or more for the top of the line instruments.
My favorites, based on performance are:
- Sonic Innovaitons ION ([www.sonici.com](http://www.sonici.com/))
- Phoank Micro Eleva ([www.phonak.com](http://www.phonak.com/))
- Oticon Delta 8000 (not the 6000) ([www.oticon.com](http://www.oticon.com/))
[*]HearPod III ([www.myhearpod.com](http://www.myhearpod.com/))