What's the deal with Open Fit Hearing Aids?

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
  • Vivatone
  • 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)
Receiver on top of the Ear (routes sound through a thin tube into the ear):
  • Phonak Micro Savia, Micro Eleva, Mini-Valeo
  • HearPod III
  • Sonic Innovation Ion
  • Siemens Centra
  • Oticon Safran
  • Micro-Tech Seneca Plus
  • Magnatone money Shadow
Although this may not cover all of the available models, this does encompass the majority of the open fit hearing aids available commercially this year. The new draw to these hearing aids have been that the instruments have become tremendously smaller, thus even though you may think a BTE hearing aid would be visible, these new open fits can often be more concealed and invisible as compared to in the ear models.

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.

Costs:

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/))
My favorite based on design and cosmetic appeal:
  • Oticon Delta ([www.oticon.com](http://www.oticon.com/))
My favorite based on cost and value:
    [*]HearPod III ([www.myhearpod.com](http://www.myhearpod.com/))
Should you have any quesitons or if you would like to add anything on this subject, please feel free to post or PM me.

Since 2 days I am trying out the Widex Inteo élan In-9é with open fittings after having tried out the Inteo élan 9 with closed fittings for several weeks.

What a huge difference ! No sense of occlusion, sounds and own voice seems so natural you aren’t even aware you wear hearing aids. The only thing I seem to miss from the closed fittings is the lack of power. The greatest disadvantage of this hearing aids set to me is the cost : around 3.600 EUR :eek:

I wonder how I will experience them at work. With the closed vent, I was not capable of anwering the phone …

It’s no surprise that Open Fit aids are popular since they work rather well.


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