The popularity of mini-behind-the-ear (BTE) open ear hearing aids has increased significantly. Hearing aid wearers often prefer the open ear fit due to the natural sound quality, better physical comfort, and improved ability to hear in noisy listening environments. Additional preference for open ear hearing aids includes the ultra small size, ease of use, and same day testing and fitting of this style of hearing aid. The open ear fit significantly eliminates the sensation of occlusion (ear canal blockage causing an echo, barrel or tunnel like sensation of sound) and poor sound quality of the wearer's own voice.
The majority of open ear fittings consist of mini or ultra-small (BTE) hearing aids. There are two different types of open ear mini-BTEs: those with the speaker (receiver) in the ear (RITE) and those with the receiver in the aid (RITA). The RITA houses the receiver in the behind-the-ear portion of the hearing aid. A ultra thin acoustic tube is connected to the hearing aid which is then coupled to the ear canal with soft, non-occluding (non blocking) ear domes. The RITE houses the receiver in the ear canal. A ultra-thin wire is connected to the hearing aid which is then coupled to the speaker in the ear canal with soft, non-occluding ear dome. The thin-wire fitting (RITE) and the thin-tube fitting (RITA) are cosmetically similar.
When initially introduced, the open ear fitting was primarily successful for individuals with mild high frequency hearing loss due to feedback (whistle). To ensure adequate amplification, an open ear fitting must have highly effective digital feedback suppression to prevent "whistle". However, due to dramatic improvements in digital feedback suppression technology, individuals with mild to severe hearing loss may benefit from open ear hearing aids.
Open ear fittings provide additional benefits. In addition to natural sound quality, open ear fittings virtually eliminates the feedback or whistle when using land line phones and cell phones. Furthermore, wearers frequently report improvement in ability to hear and understand conversations when communicating with others via the phone.
To receive full benefit of the open ear hearing aid, contact an audiologist who routinely fits this type of hearing aid. Working together with the audiologist, the audiologist will help determine whether you can benefit from open ear hearing aids. If you are able to benefit from an open ear fit, the audiologist will counsel with you to select the appropriate brand, model, style and other available open ear hearing aid options to meet your communication and listening needs. Audiologists who routinely fit and recommend the use of open ear hearing aids have carefully researched and are familiar with the programming software required to fine-tune open ear hearing aids to provide maximum benefit for you.