Have you ever purchased a new pair of shoes, wore them for an entire day, and came home with sore feet?
Yes, we are talking about shoes again like we did in this article, but it's for a good reason so keep reading.
We're comparing the choices you make when you buy a new pair of shoes, to the choices you need to make when you buy a new pair of hearing aids. After all, they are both important decisions!
The Hearing Aid Style
I know some women insist that high heels are comfortable, but let's be honest…a new high heel shoe is not going to be as comfortable as a new sneaker. The high heel might look good, but you may not be happy at the end of the day.
When you are choosing new hearing aids, you will of course look at style, but it is important to also think about comfort.
The style of the hearing aid refers to what it looks like and where it sits on/in the ear. There are many different styles of hearing aids, with two main classifications:
- Custom hearing aids
- Standard hearing aids
Custom Hearing Aids
Custom hearing aids consist of a hard shell material that sits in the ear canal. Depending on the size of the hearing aid, some portion of it may protrude outside the ear canal (In-the-ear style), while others sit completely hidden with the ear canal (Invisible-in-the-canal).
Some people find custom hearing aids to be comfortable, but it will be highly dependent on the size and shape of the ear canal. Someone with an ear canal that is very small or very curvy may have more discomfort when wearing a custom hearing aid. This is because the hard shell can rub or press up against the very thin skin of the ear canal.
Custom hearing aids that sit deep in the ear canal, such as with Completely-in-the-canal and Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids, usually take more time to get used to. The depth of the hearing aid in the canal can cause some irritation or pressure on the most sensitive part of the ear canal.
Standard Hearing Aids
With standard hearing aids, the majority of the hearing aid sits behind the ear and there is a clear tube or wire connecting the hearing aid to an earmold, or dome sitting in the ear canal. Because there is not as much sitting in the sensitive portion of the ear canal, most people tend to find them less obtrusive. The earmold portion can also be made of a soft material, unlike custom hearing aids which are harder.
In general, standard hearing aids tend to be more comfortable for most people.
The Hearing Aid Size
When you go to buy a new pair of shoes, you will likely pick up the size you think you wear and try them on. You may take a stroll around the store first to see how they feel and then decide if it's necessary to go up in size or down, depending on how that shoe feels for you.
Now think about how much more delicate and intricate your ears are than your feet. When you get new hearing aids, the more custom they are to your ears, the more comfortable they will likely be. Unlike shoes, which only vary by half-size increments, hearing aids have almost unlimited sizing options.
When you choose a custom hearing aid, such as a completely-in-the-canal (CIC) or in-the-ear (ITE), or get a custom earmold for your behind-the-ear (BTE) or receiver-in-the-ear (RIC) hearing aid, they are made using an impression of your ear canal. That is why it is so important to purchase your hearing aids from a hearing healthcare professional rather than over-the-counter or online, so that the hearing aid can be custom made for you!
For standard BTE or RIC hearing aids, there is also an option for a dome to be used in the ear canal instead of a custom earmold. These domes vary in size and will be chosen based on the size of the ear.
If one fitting does not work, it is important that a new “size” be tried so that the hearing aids can be made to fit your ears most comfortably. It may be right the very first time, or it may take a few tries to get it right.
Having said that, when we're comparing new shoes to new hearing aids, there are a few things to consider.
1. No two feet or two ears are exactly the same.
You may notice that one shoe feels different than the other. In the same way, you may notice that one hearing aid feels different than the other. You may find that one fits well, while the other one needs some adjusting. Even after some adjustments, you may be more aware of one hearing aid in your ear over the other. That is because the shape and size of the ears is not exactly the same, so they will likely fit slightly different. As long as there is no discomfort, that's okay.
2. It takes time to get used to a new pair.
If you wear a new pair of shoes for the first time, they may take some getting used to. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad shoes, it may just mean that your feet aren't used to wearing them. After wearing them for a few days they are just there on your feet. It's the same way with hearing aids.
Even if there is no pain or discomfort, you may notice your hearing aids a lot the first few days. As time goes on, you may know they're there if you think about them, but otherwise they're just there.
Selecting the most comfortable hearing aids is part of the process. It may take some trial and error in the beginning, and that's okay. Hearing aids should never be uncomfortable, cause sores, or pain in the ears. If they do, be sure to talk to your hearing healthcare professional. The hearing healthcare professionals you work with are trained to help you choose the most comfortable hearing aids for your ears and preference.