CROS Hearing Aids
When deafness is relegated to one ear, CROS (contralateral routing of signals) hearing aids may restore the ability to fully hear and comprehend. The device picks up sound from the ear that’s affected by reduced hearing and sends those sound signals to the healthy, hearing ear.
As is the case with many of the latest audio assistance devices available today, CROS hearing aids are designed to be as discrete and comfortable as possible for wearers.
CROS System Basics
CROS hearing aids have been used since the 1970s. Early models had a wire running from one ear to the other one. It was sometimes hidden or incorporated within eyeglasses that the patient would wear. Today, most CROS systems are wireless, which eliminates the need to deal with aesthetic issues related to a wire. With newer CROS models, digital technology is used that allows for more flexibility with how settings are adjusted. These systems are also easier to use and wear for most users. Trans-cranial CROS systems use skull conductivity to transmit the sound between ears. Some newer CROS hearing aid models also have features and characteristics that include:
- Increased understanding in noise
- Better feedback management for increased speech comprehension
- Ear-to-ear streaming for better hearing during phone conversations
- Customizable tinnitus options
- Resistance to moisture, sweat, dust, and dirt
Learning Curve for Wearers
For most new CROS wearers, it usually takes some time to become accustomed to hearing sounds being transferred from one ear to the other. There may also be a lingering inclination to turn the head away from the ear with little or no hearing when being spoken to. It will still be possible to be aware of this directionality even when using the CROS system. The ability to clearly tell which direction sound is originating from will not improve, and even with the use of a system that amplifies sounds, the wearer will only be hearing sounds from the better ear.
Benefits for Patients
Whether it’s at the workplace, while on the phone, or when having discussions at home while watching television, CROS hearing aids reduce hearing stress and improve clarity in many different hearing environments and situations. The system also minimizes competing speech noise to further improve clarity and comprehension. Most models can work well in quieter and noisier settings.
CROS Hearing Aid Styles
Most CROS manufacturers make systems that are meant to be worn behind-the-ear. Another option is a custom built in-the-ear system. Both styles are deigned to be as “invisible” as possible. The advantage of an in-the-ear design is that no external parts will show. This option is sometimes preferred by younger wearers.
Typically, a CROS hearing aid system is used when there is normal hearing in the unaffected ear. If you have poor hearing in the unaffected ear instead, you may benefit from a similar solution referred to as the BICROS hearing system. It works by amplifying sounds from both sides and transferring them into the better ear. A bone-anchored hearing aid is another possible option. An audiologist can help you determine what’s right for your needs based on the results of a hearing assessment and hearing aid evaluation.