Open Fit Hearing Aids
(AKA Open Ear Hearing Aids)


Open fit hearing aids are very similar to behind-the-ear (BTE) devices. They are much smaller, though. The part that sits behind the ear (the case) is much smaller comparing to BTE and there is a tiny tube that connects this part to the ear canal. On the other end of the tube, it is connected to a very small tip that holds the tube in place inside the canal. No earmold is involved.



So is it all about the size?

open fit hearing aid This open fit picture illustrates
why are they so popular...

No, not at all. The tip is made of a very soft material (silicon, mostly), and it keeps your ear ventilated. The whole design really reduces the occlusion effect you sometime get with regular earmold or with in-the-canal devices.

Since the tip keeps the ear ventilated, it enables low frequency sounds to flow in and out the ear without being amplified.  The open fit was originally designed for people with minor or moderate hearing loss on the high frequencies, and the low frequencies weren’t taken care of. Patients with this kind of hearing loss sometimes complain that on standard hearing aids, the lower tones are amplified for no reason (their hearing is perfectly fine for low tones!). Moreover, regular hearing aids, that seal the ear canal, make you hear your own voice, your chewing voices and coughing. In open fit it is solved because the low tones can “get loose” through the special tip, and they are not being amplified.

The bottom line is that on open fit you can amplify only what you need (the high tones) and it keeps the ear ventilated and saves you the occlusion effect.

So only folks with minor high-tone loss can enjoy it?

No, nowadays they got open fit hearing aids that can also solve moderate and severe hearing loss. Some can even dill with low tones. Does it fit your profile? You’ll have to see an audiologist to find out.

Who else can enjoy open fit hearing aids?

It is also great for people with an increased wax buildup. Since the device itself is outside the ear, the ear wax can’t harm it (this goes for BTE too, BTW). In addition, since the tip and tube are so small, they are not jammed as frequently as the BTE earmolds.

Semantics... 

Open fit devices usually refer to BTE devices with a special tip that replaces the standard earmold. However, the term "open fit" can also be used for describing other hearing aids types. For instance, a CIC device with extraordinary ventilation tunnels can also be referred as open fit.

Why are they that popular?

Open fit hearing aids are best sellers nowadays (They passed the CIC and ITC hearing aids) for a number of reasons:

Fitting procedure

You don't need ear impression to get your tailor made earmold. The fitting is done in no time. The Audiologist simply chooses  a tube and tip that fit you the most. He chooses them from his fitting kit. Since it is so easy to fit it, you can try few devices right there, on the spot. This is the case with BTE too...but only once you got the earmold. It is very different from CIC, where the entire device is especially made for you.

Aesthetics

Open fit hearing aids are almost invisible. The case behind the ear is so small that your pinna will totally hide it. The transparent tube fits perfectly and it is running attached to your skin so you can’t see it. The tip itself is also tiny and transparent and you cannot see it after you wear it.

No occlusion effect

Like I said earlier, open fit solves one of the greatest problems of other hearing aids. Since open fit keeps your ear ventilated, this feeling of talking in a sealed room with your voice amplified doesn’t exist. The overall feeling is much better.

Comfortable

Open fit devices are really small. More than that, they are soft and lightweight. It feels much better in the ear comparing to other hearing aids. People actually report that sometimes they forget they are wearing it...

So, why not everyone can enjoy it?

People with deep hearing loss usually can’t use open fit. They need high amplifying, and since open fit hearing aids aren't sealed, you’ll get feedback noises right away.

Another issue is the fine motor skills. The devices are very small and delicate, and it might get tricky to handle it for people with issues in fine motor skills.


Bottom line

Tiny, invisible, comfortable and got a fairly simple fitting procedure. It keeps the ear open, hence the name. Great if it fits your hearing loss profile, not that great for severe hearing losses.

Here is a whole site, not too big, just on open fit hearing aids...



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