Open fit hearing aids are simply the smaller or 'mini' behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-the-ear (RIC) hearing aid styles, which hide behind your outer ear seamlessly. The sound is transmitted straight to the ear canal through a thin plastic tube that is attached to a tip that comfortably sits within your ear canal.
The 'open' refers to the earpiece not fitting tightly inside your ear canal, unlike the older style BTE's, CIC's, ITC's and ITE models. This type of earpiece is much smaller, softer and therefore more comfortable. This style of hearing aid is more commonly successful with those who have mild to moderate hearing loss.
This type of hearing aid tip does not obstruct the ear canal like traditional hearing aids, giving you a more natural sound experience and an 'open' feeling. The sound and air can still enter your ear as normal, whilst amplified sound from your hearing aid goes through the tip.
BTE digital hearing aids have had bad press for years, people can't shake off the 'brown banana' of devices gone by. In reality, this particular style has developed and evolved over time and there are so many slimmer and more sophisticated BTE hearing aid designs available today. Since the open fit hearing aids were introduced to the audiology industry and consumers, we believe that the number of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids being sold has naturally increased. A decades-long negative attitude towards this style of device has been reversed.
We believe this new renaissance of popularity is mainly due to consumers being impressed with the natural sound of the open fit hearing aid technology, as well as the style being more comfortable on the ear.
In addition to this style of hearing aid being a more modern alternative, and therefore more cosmetically appealing - they are also more comfortable to wear all day, they are lighter, they remove complaints related to occlusion and also decrease feedback.
People also like that the fitting time is a lot quicker because your audiologist has no need to take impressions of your ears to create ear molds to suit you and your ear shape. You could effectively walk away with your hearing aids on the day, rather than wait a week for your unique ear molds to arrive and then be fitted.
Can you get open fit hearing aids on the NHS? In short, yes you can get open fit hearing aids from your local audiology department. The NHS offers a commendable service for those with hearing loss, but like with most styles the NHS provides, the choice and technology would be limited.
An open fitting means that the waves of sound get to your eardrum more naturally and because the hearing aids tip doesn't fill your entire ear canal - it is common that you will hear your louder soundscape more naturally too. An open hearing aid design also gives your ear canal more ventilation.
On the other hand, a closed hearing aid fitting fills most of your ear canal with either an earpiece or an ITE hearing aid. With this fitting, sound transmits to you directly to allow for a full range of hearing aid features.
In my experience, our own patients have always loved the natural sound of the Oticon hearing aids range and below we discuss the main features of one of the top open fitting hearing aid ranges - Oticon OpnS.
So, what makes this open fit hearing aid range so special? Well, it's all really down to Oticon's OpenSound Optimiser within this device, which challenges traditional technology with an advanced approach to feedback management. The OpenSound Optimiser almost predestines feedback before it appears. It analyses amplified sound roughly 56,000 times per second and it offers up to 6dB more gain in this open fitting design - without the common risk of feedback. You'll also gain from improved speech understanding with no reduction in clarity or sound quality too.
And it's this speech and sound intelligibility that attracts consumers and the Oticon OpnS practically builds and improves on the Oticon Opn, an already successful design. The improvement you see in the OpnS is mainly due to the combination of the OpenSound Navigator and OpenSound Optimiser - giving wearers a crisp and clear speech signal in challenging environments and with less listening effort.
Call one of our audiologists for free on 0800 567 7621 to find out more about open fit hearing aids or other ranges on the current market.
Read Next: Hearing Aid Styles
When we refer to a product as 'New', we mean that the product is new to the market.
When we refer to a product as 'Superseded', we mean that there is a newer range available which replaces and improves on this product.
When we refer to a product as an 'Older Model', we mean that it is has been superseded by at least two more recent hearing aid ranges.