Contributed by Debbie Clason, Editor, Healthy Hearing
Thanks to a small device known as a hearing aid dome, many modern hearing aids provide their users with better sound quality than ever before.
What is a hearing aid dome?
Domes are small, flexible, bell-shaped or mushroom-shaped silicone pieces that attach to the end of the hearing aid tube and fit deep into the ear canal. They are also known as tips.
The dome’s job is to shield a small speaker that delivers sound deep into the ear. They come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate the unique twists of each person’s ear canal.
Domes are typically used with behind-the-ear styles of hearing aids, referred to as receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) or receiver-in-the-ear (RITE). The domes are connected to the unit via a wire contained in a thin tube. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution: your hearing care professional determines the correct dome and tube for the width and length of your ear canal.
These styles “place the speaker deep in the ear canal and hold the processor and microphone above the ear,” said Tom Contento, Certified Hearing Aid Specialist and owner of Contentment Hearing Care in Titusville, Florida. .
Is a hearing aid dome right for me?
Hearing aids with domes are best suited for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, especially those with high-frequency hearing loss, the most common type of age-related hearing loss, known as of presbycusis.
Hearing aids with domes are generally best for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
These hearing aids are usually small, with a microphone and processor that fit in a small case and rest behind the ear. The speaker is attached to the processor by a thin tube or wire, and it’s meant to fit deep inside the ear canal.
This style of hearing aid is not recommended for people with severe to profound hearing loss; instead, a behind-the-ear device using earmolds is often more suitable. The eartips provide the most powerful amplification and are less susceptible to moisture damage to the ear canal.
But “in many cases it is the personal preference of the patient and [practitioner]”Contento said, which means people with mild to moderate hearing loss can still use earmolds, if they prefer.
What are the pros and cons of hearing aid domes?
One of the biggest benefits of wearing a dome is how well it fits inside the ear canal. They allow low frequency sounds to still get to the ear, which is called an “open fit”, making them ideal for people who can still hear lower frequencies (such as thunder or roar of a car engine).
“The important thing about hearing aids is that we have to ventilate the hearing aid so that the ears don’t be occluded,” Contento said. This allows natural sound and airflow to enter the ear. “The domes are open enough to let low frequencies through so the hearing aid amplifies higher frequencies so you can hear more clearly. This is how we get better high frequencies without acoustic feedback.
The domes are easily cleaned by wiping them down with a soft cloth every night after use. (Here’s how to gently remove earwax from hearing aids.) Because some hearing aid manufacturers share dome styles and sizes, they’re also relatively inexpensive to replace if they’re lost or damaged.
“But they don’t last forever,” Tom said. “Domes need to be changed every two to three months. And if a person is not careful, they can get stuck in their ear if they are in a hurry or too lazy. It doesn’t happen if you do it right.
To prevent problems, talk to your practitioner about how often your hearing aid domes change and how you should care for them. Never use old domes on new hearing aids. They aren’t always compatible and can get stuck in someone’s ear canal if they don’t stay attached to the receiver.
Additionally, the domes are susceptible to damage from earwax or moisture in the ear. Finally, their small size can be problematic for those with dexterity issues.
A good fit is the key to a good sound
Contento encourages users to work with a hearing care professional, such as a hearing care professional or audiologist, to find the device that best meets their particular hearing needs. A poor fit can affect your ability to hear clearly and cause pain or discomfort. It can also trigger feedback, causing a high-pitched hiss.
“No two people treat the same way, so it’s important to make that decision on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
If you are diagnosed with hearing loss and hearing aids are the prescribed treatment, work with your professional to determine which device is best for the severity of your loss as well as your lifestyle and budget.
If you need help with hearing loss, check out our directory of consumer-rated hearing loss clinics to find a center near you.