Hearing aids: your guide to types, brands & technology

Hearing aids use sophisticated technology to restore hearing. At Audiology South we offer a wide range of brands, including Phonak, Unitron, GN ReSound and Siemens to name but a few! While there are many types, in general a hearing aid works by capturing sounds, making them louder and brighter, and sending the sound down the ear canal. This amplified sound in turn is passed through the middle ear to the inner ear where the hearing nerve receptors convey the sound messages to the brain.

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There are many types and styles of hearing aids, but they all have similar working parts. The particular combination of your ear canal shape, its condition, your usual environments and the severity of your hearing loss are as unique as your fingerprint, so the hearing aid you choose needs to reflect this. Ultimately, your decision will come down to a combination of taste, comfort and cost. For instance, some people are more prone to wax build-up or perspiration; others will be less tolerant of a foreign body in the ear canal and so on. Our knowledgeable audiologists have the experience and knowledge to help you decide.

Hearing aids: types & brands

Just as in the world of computers and electronics, there has been a revolutionary shift in technology for hearing aids over the past 10 years. At Audiology South we’re not industry-owned, so we’re free to recommend the best hearing aid product to you from anywhere in the world and we service all the major brands.

Here at Audiology South we stock brands from around the world. Brands coming out of Europe, e.g. Phonak, GN ReSound, Siemens are stylish and research driven, compared to North American brands, e.g. Starkey, Sonic, Unitron, which are known for innovation and rapid “new growth” in the hearing aid industry.

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Three main hearing aid types

Receiver in the ear (RITE, RITC or RIC)

The key advantage of this style is its small size, which often makes it the most cosmetically appealing. It almost feels as though there is no hearing aid there at all! With the electronics behind the ear and the speaker discreetly in the ear canal, these products offer a richer/fuller sound experience. However, if you suffer from outer ear conditions, this style may not be for you, or if manual dexterity is not a strength, you may find the smaller batteries trickier to replace.

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Behind the ear (BTE)

Positioned at the back of the ear, these hearing aids connect to the ear canal through a thin tube or standard ear mould. This style has undergone a revolution over the past decade; products have become more discreet and now come in a range of trendy colours (to blend in or stand out – according to taste!) As the devices are placed away from the ear canal, they are extremely reliable and less susceptible to wax or moisture-related problems. For those requiring good power or easy handling, they really can be a great choice.

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Custom hearing aids

These devices are (as the name suggests) assembled by the manufacturer specifically for your ear and are unique to you. Some custom hearing aids can be extremely small and placed right down inside the ear canal (referred to as IIC (invisible in the canal) or CIC (completely in the canal). Both styles are extremely discreet, making them ideal for those who want to keep their devices hidden. They’re also great for people who use the telephone regularly or work outside where wind noise can be an issue for other hearing aids where microphones are more exposed. In the Canal (ITC) and In the Ear (ITE) – full- or half-shell – are slightly larger, more visible products which might be suited to those with a greater degree of hearing loss or those finding handling small products and batteries difficult. For someone more senior just starting with their hearing aids, these larger aids can often be a super option due to their ease of use.

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Specialised hearing aids

There are many more specialised hearing aids available, which are designed with a specific hearing loss or client in mind. For example CROS and Bi CROS systems are intended for people with significant hearing loss in one ear in particular. Sufferers of unilateral hearing loss typically struggle to cope well in situations with background noise. Phonak hearing aids along with other brands of CROS type systems can help overcome these difficulties by sending the sound from the wearer’s poor ear across to their good ear so sound once again becomes audible.

Cochlear Implants

A cochlear Implant is a medical alternative for loss of hearing in both ears. A surgically-implanted electronic device bypasses the damaged inner part of the ear to stimulate the hearing nerve directly, converting sound waves to electrical impulses as a healthy ear does. At Audiology South, we can advise when a cochlear Implant is the likely solution. We can help evaluate your suitability for surgery and help you with the referral process, providing appropriate medical and funding advice and even introduce you to patients who use Cochlear Implant technology.

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Hearing aids: indicative pricing

Just as there are loads of hearing aid styles, there are even more choices when it comes to picking the right level of hearing aid technology. The right features can make the difference between a good and a great hearing aid outcome. We'll also achieve a better long-term outcome, since we’ll be able to make adjustments later on should your hearing or listening needs change. In general, hearing aid manufacturers make products in 3 broad levels of technology which are generally reflected in their pricing:

  • Starter level hearing instruments: These devices offer great outcomes for those on a budget or users with quieter, more predictable lifestyles, such as those spending more time alone or watching TV without interfering background noise. Prices (before subsidies) can typically range $1,500 - $2,500 per pair.
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  • Mid-ranged hearing instruments: For hearing aid wearers that have slightly more demands on their hearing and may find themselves in tricky listening environments every now and then. This technology has often existed for 1-2 years in the hearing aid industry, has a proven track record and therefore ca offer great value for money. Prices range from $3,500 - $5,500 per pair (before subsidy).
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  • Advanced hearing instruments: These typically include the latest devices by the leading hearing aid manufacturers and automatically include state-of-the-art digital processing features for the best listening outcome for the wearer regardless of the listening situation. Prices for these instruments (before subsidies) typically range from $7,500 per pair.
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Whether you just doubt your hearing occasionally or have problems on a regular basis, if you feel you have a hearing loss, don’t delay –
make an appointment > with one of our experienced clinicians who can ascertain any degree of hearing loss and, if required, will help you select the most appropriate hearing aid style and technology level for you.