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Invisible Hearing Aids

Since the arrival of the Starkey SoundLens nearly two years ago (June, 2010) heralded a new era in invisible hearing aids a lot has happened in the market. So it seems like a good time to discuss this subject.

The Starkey SoundLens (AKA OtoLens) was the first if its kind, a hearing aid that could truly be called invisible. Up until this point the hearingaid manufacturers and some national chains in particular had all been guilty of marketing their CIC (completely in the canal) hearing aid as invisible.

While it cannot be denied that CIC hearing aids are very neat and cosmetically attractive, it is stretching it a bit to call them invisible. You maybe able to call them invisible from some angles and very discreet from others. But that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue or seem very appealing from a marketing point of view.

Then along comes Starkey with their SoundLens, a truly invisible hearing aid that sits so deep in the ear canal that it is invisible from any angle. What a proposition! But wait … there has to be a catch, right?

The nature of the fitting of this type of product is that a very deep impression of the ear canal is needed for the manufacturing process. In fact, the impression has to reach far deeper than a standard impression – pretty much touching the eardrum.

It can be uncomfortable for the patient to take such a deep impression, and quite frankly there are a lot of audiologists out there who are incapable, unqualified or even fearful of taking a safe impression this deep. Because deep impressions are needed and more difficult to obtain, this type of device tends to be remade several times before the fit is comfortable.

Also for these invisible hearing aids to be suitable, your ear canal needs to be wide and tall enough to accept the minimum dimensions of the device. Other things can rule out being suitable, such as waxy ear canals, tight bends in the ear canal, perforated eardrums, etc. Because of the fit issues, we have found that less than half of all patients wishing to use this type of instrument are actual candidates!

Since the Starkey SoundLens was launched, a number of other manufacturers have brought to market similar invisible hearing aids to compete with Starkey. These products include the Siemens iMini, the Phonak Nano, the newly relased Oticon Intiga i, and the Unitron Micro CIC.

Generally these new hearing aids are marketed as “invisible” hearing aids or “near” invisible. And depending on space in the canal, they tend to sit so deep in the ear canal and in deep shadows that they blend right in and are difficult to see from any angle.

So is an “invisible” or “nearly invisible” hearing aid appropriate for you?

We’ve already discussed the issues of ear canal size, the shape of the canal and wax build up as potential fit issues. But since these hearing aids are so small, these devices may also not be appropriate for people who have problems with dexterity (manipulating small objects) or visual problems. And because the average life span of a hearing aid is four to six years, you must think consider this before purchasing. Based on this along, the invisible hearing aid may be more appropriate for a 40 year old than an 80 year old!

As with all hearing aids there are pros and cons to each device. And the new invisible hearing aids aren’t any different. They can be perfect for one patient, but completely wrong for the patient across the hall.

To find out more about the new invisible hearing aids, contact The Hearing Professionals today.

About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at adam@icanhearthat.com and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at www.icanhearthat.com.

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