There have been a lot of advancements in hearing device technology, allowing millions of people with hearing loss to listen to sounds easily and have conversations with others. Various types of hearing aids are available in the market, offering a myriad of features – from rechargeability and Bluetooth streaming to motion sensors and waterproofing. These devices allow hearing-impaired people to improve their hearing ability by amplifying sounds. 

Many people using hearing aids generally have a question about whether it is possible using headphones with hearing aids. Although the answer is a big yes, you may want to consider using Bluetooth-capable hearing aids instead of trying to wear both sets of devices. If Bluetooth hearing aids are not a viable alternative for you at this point, then it is essential to choose headphones compatible with your specific set of hearing aids.

In this blog post, we shall discuss some of the popular options of headphones you can use with your hearing aids. 

Choosing Headphones Compatible with Hearing Aids

Choosing the best hearing aid-compatible headphones can be challenging. The choice of headphones depends on various factors, such as the type and size of your specific hearing aids, your hearing needs, and, very importantly, your comfort. It is usually a trial-and-error process. In addition, it is better to take advice or guidance from a hearing care specialist in choosing the best headphones for you. 

Types of Headphones Compatible with Hearing Aids

Each one of the following types of headphones is better suited for specific types of hearing aids, as follows:

  1. Over-Ear Headphones 

As the name suggests, these headphones fit over the ears. They are usually comfortable and provide good sound quality, but they could interfere with the hearing aid’s microphones if incorrectly positioned. 

Over-ear headphones are the best choice for the following four types of hearing aids:

  • In-the-ear (ITE)
  • In-the-canal (ITC)
  • Completely-in-canal (CIC)
  • Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC)

These headphones have ear cups that completely cover your ears, thus sealing the areas around your ears and blocking external or background noise.

If you wear BTE (Behind-the-ear) or RIC (Receiver-in-canal) hearing aids, which are worn behind the ear, you may find that over-ear headphones are your best option, but you need to be careful about the placement of the headphones with respect to the hearing aids’ microphones. The key is to find a model of headphones that completely covers the hearing aids’ microphones – to prevent external noise from coming in – while, at the same time, placing the headphone’s speaker at enough distance from the microphone to prevent feedback – or squealing.  Try a few different models until you find the right fit for your anatomy and your specific set of hearing aids.

  1. On-Ear Headphones

Unlike over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones just sit on your ears and do not cover them completely, as they come with smaller ear cups. These are breathable options, as they do not completely surround your ears. Also, they are compact and portable. 

On-ear headphones work very well with the following types of hearing aids:

  • Completely-in-canal (CIC)
  • Invisible-in-canal (IIC)

Since these hearing aids sit deep in the ear canal, potential feedback issues are less likely when using them with on-ear headphones.

ITE (In-the-ear) and ITC (In-the-canal) hearing aids may also work well with on-ear headphones, but there is a higher chance of experiencing feedback as the hearing aids’ microphones will be in closer proximity to the headphone’s speakers.

  1. Bone Conduction Headphones

These headphones work by transmitting audio vibrations through the bones of the cheeks and upper jaws directly to your inner ear and not through the eardrums. They do not cover your ear canal and usually wrap around the back of the head and sit in front of the ears. They work well with the following types of hearing aids: 

  • In-the-ear (ITE)
  • In-the-canal (ITC)
  • Completely-in-canal (CIC)
  • Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC)

Additionally, bone conduction headphones are a good option for users with single-sided hearing loss as they may allow the user to hear a stereo sound, which they are not able to hear with traditional headphones. 

Types of Hearing Aids

Basically, there are two types of hearing aids: Those that sit behind-the-ear, including RIC (Receiver-in-canal) hearing aids, and those that sit in-the-ear. Let us discuss these types in detail below. 

  1. Hearing Aids that Sit Behind-The-Ear

The most common type of hearing aid that sits behind the ear is Receiver-in-canal (RIC). RIC hearing aids are small devices worn behind the ear that uses a thin wire to connect to a receiver (speaker) inside the ear canal. The speaker sits inside the ear canal with a microphone and processor behind the ear in a small case. These aids can be a good option for people with mild to severe hearing loss.

Some slightly larger BTE (Behind-the-ear) hearing aids are connected to a tube that routes down the ear and connects to an earmold that sits in the ear. These BTE hearing aids can accommodate a wide range of hearing loss, from severe to profound.

Both RIC and BTE hearing aids are better paired with over-the-ear headphones. 

  1. Hearing Aids that Sit In-The-Ear

Hearing aids that are worn in the ear are usually compatible with on-ear and over-ear headphones. The following are the different types of ITE hearing aids: 

  • Invisible-in-Canal (IIC) and Completely-in-Canal (CIC)

Both IIC and CIC are the smallest hearing aids available on the market and are virtually invisible. They fit inside the ear canal, which can be removed by pulling out on a small string. While IIC fits deeply inside ears, CIC does not. These devices are an ideal fit for mild to moderate hearing loss. Both on-ear and over-ear headphones usually work well with these hearing aids.

  • In-the-Canal (ITC) and In-the-Ear (ITE)

These types of hearing aids are placed on the outer ear bowl. They are a bit larger in size than IIC and CIC devices. Hence, they have a longer battery life. Also, they address a broad spectrum of healing losses.  Over-the-ear is the best choice of headphones for these types of hearing aids.

Finding A Perfect Fit 

Now you know what different types of hearing aids are and what types of headphones fit best with them. So, the first step is to choose headphones that are compatible with the type of hearing aid you use. 

As mentioned earlier, finding the best headphones that go well with hearing aids is a trial-and-error process. You may visit a store and try a few headphone models. Try to listen to a few tracks from your smartphone and check for comfort. Ensure to locate headphones away from hearing aids to avoid audio feedback. 

Things To Take Into Account When Using Headphones with Hearing Aids 

Here are a few significant tips you need to focus on while using headphones with hearing aids: 

  • Don’t play audio at higher volumes because you can hear well with hearing aids without higher sound intensity. So, ensure to keep the volume at a suitable level. 
  • Choose noise-cancellation or isolation headphones. Generally, what we do is increase the volume of sound when there is noise in the background, which may cause hearing problems. So, better to go with the noise-cancellation option. 
  • Avoid listening to loud music for a long time. Adopt a healthy sound level, which is below 85 decibels. In addition, it is better to listen to music for less than an hour daily. 
  • Verify that headphones do not push hearing aids because this situation may result in audio feedback, a whistling noise from the hearing aid. Whenever you hear this whistling noise, you must understand that you need to place headphones correctly or headphones are not suitable for your auditory aids. 

Using Headphones With Hearing Aids Conclusion

Using headphones with hearing aids is possible. The primary thing to remember is that you must choose headphones compatible with hearing aids. Hearing aids that sit behind your ear work well with over-ear headphones.  Hearing aids that sit in your ear are best matched to over-ear headphones but can also work well with on-ear headphones.

It is essential to ensure that the headphones don’t interfere with the hearing aid or cause feedback.

Consulting with a hearing care specialist may make the process of identifying the best option for you a lot simpler.

Also, keep in mind that the best solution may not involve headphones at all but upgrade to Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids that stream sound from your smartphone, computer, TV, or any other Bluetooth-enabled device directly into your ears.

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In addition to being the Founder and Editor-in Chief at HearingPeople.com, Luis Zuluaga is the founder and CEO of Florida Hearing Institute, an innovative hearing health enterprise in South Florida, focused on bringing high-tech hearing devices at affordable prices to people with hearing loss. Before his latest hearing healthcare endeavors, Luis served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Zounds Hearing Inc., a US-based hearing aid manufacturer that introduced many technical innovations to the hearing aid market.

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