Hearing Aid Styles and Technology

There are various styles of hearing aids and levels of technology available. The hearing aid style and technology that is recommended for you is dependent upon a number of factors, including the type and severity of your hearing loss, your listening needs, the size and shape of your ears, your manual dexterity and any cosmetic concerns you may have.

The technology level and style of hearing aid play a role in the cost of the aid. Different styles of hearing aids are described below.

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) and Receiver-in-Canal (RIC)

Behind-the-Ear hearing aids fit securely behind the ear and are used for many types of hearing loss. A BTE aid comes in a variety of styles and sizes and can be fitted with a custom ear mold or with an open-fit style which does not require an ear mold and is coupled to the ear with a very thin tube with a soft tip or dome that fits into the ear.

A RIC aid looks very similar to other BTE aids, but with this style of aid the speaker or receiver is placed inside the ear canal and is connected to the unit behind the ear.

These aids also offer cosmetic and listening advantages and are typically used for adults.

Hearing aids which fit behind the ear are typically the most durable style hearing aid and have a longer life expectancy because the electronic components of the aid are not exposed to as much body heat, moisture and wax as aids that fit in the canal.

In-the-Ear (ITE)

In-the-Ear hearing aids are custom-made to fit inside the ear, filling most of the visible “bowl” portion of the outer ear. All of the electronic components are housed within the plastic shell of the hearing aid. ITE hearing aids may be used for people with a mild to a moderately-severe hearing loss.

In-the-Canal (ITC)

In-the-Canal hearing aids are also custom-made to fit inside of the ear. This style fits deeper inside the ear canal and does not take up as much of the “bowl” portion of the outer ear as do ITE hearing aids. Again, all of the electrical components are housed within a plastic shell that fits down in the ear canal. Because of the smaller size restrictions, it is typically only recommended for those who have a mild to moderate hearing loss.

Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)

Completely-in-the-Canal hearing aids are custom designed to fit all of the way down in the ear canal. Because this style fits down inside the ear canal, they are the least noticeable. CIC aids may often be used with the telephone without any special telephone device and can reduce the complaint of wind noise. There are, however, several drawbacks due to the small size of this hearing aid: 1) people with very small or curved ear canals may not be able to wear this style due to size limitations; 2) people with manual dexterity issues may have difficulty manipulating the hearing aid; 3) this style is more prone to wax-related breakdowns; 4) this size may require additional appointments for re-casing to achieve a snug but comfortable fit. This type of hearing aid is usually only recommended for patients with mild to moderate hearing loss.