Assistive Listening Devices: From Taboo To Mainstream

Did you know that Halle Berry, one of Bond’s girls, lost about 80% of her hearing capacity as a result of being struck repeatedly by an abusive boyfriend? She went completely deaf in her left ear and yet, she still managed to retain her movie superstar status without letting that unfortunate event direct the course of her life. I believe she, along with many other celebrity characters that experienced hearing loss problems in their lives, should posse as examples of how this situation should be handled. Of course, many of us, mere mortals, probably won’t be able to afford the procedures available to celebrities, but what everyone can do for their hearing is turn to the assistive listening devices.


Thanks to the advanced technology, people with hearing problems today have a large palette of assistive listening devices to choose from to ease their hearing problems. The market offers a lot of different types of aids; ones that are visible for those that don’t really care whether the device can be seen or not, and devices that are completely invisible because they are located deeply in the ear canal. Generally, there are 5 main categories of hearing aids:

  • Behind the ear or BTEs – these are large devices and as their name suggests, are placed behind the ear. Their main function is amplification of sounds by a small tube that delivers the amplified sound from the amplifier into the ear canal. As such, they are suitable for the entire range of hearing loss degrees.
  • On the ear or OTEs – these are very small and are placed on top of the outer ear. OTEs can have a speaker located in the ear canal as well, for making talking on the phone a lot easer.
  • In the canal or ITCs – these are more like a cosmetic option for people who simply do not want their device to be visible. They are small and go deep in the ear canal. However, because they are so small they can not be easy maneuvered and are not that much powerful to help people with severe hearing loss.
  • In the ear or ITEs – these are very similar to the BTEs but a lot smaller. They are custom-fitted and designed according to the contours of your outer ear. Their battery is smaller and therefore may not offer a very high amplifying capacity, which means people with a severe hearing loss will not find them very useful. These also come with telecoils which make talking on the phone a lot easier.
  • Completely in the canal or CICs – these are the smallest assistive listening devices on the market and the most expensive. Being the smallest, these devices are cosmetically the best option, because they are completely invisible. As such, they use a very small battery and have a very small circuitry which is exactly what makes them the most expensive option. There is one problem though; very small devices such as the CICs can be very hard to handle, especially because they need frequent cleaning and maintaining.