There are many different styles of hearing aids; the choices can be overwhelming. Ultimately, you and your audiologist will decide which style is best for you depending on your hearing needs, lifestyle, and style preference.
Hearing aids are categorized by how they are worn. Here are several of the most common categories:
- BTEs—behind the ear—fit snugly behind your outer ear.
a. Open Fit is a variation of a BTE hearing aid with a thin tube that keeps the ear canal open.
b. RIC - receiver in the canal - are the smallest BTEs that also leave the ear canal open so you don't get that "plugged up" sensation.
- ITEs—in the ear—are custom-fitted to your outer ear’s contours.
a. ITCs—in the canal—are smaller. They fit farther into the ear canal so they are barely visible.
b. IICs—invisible in the canal—are the smallest ITEs. Cosmetically, they may be the most flattering, but their tiny size can be a real disadvantage in handling.
Pros & Cons of BTEs and ITEs
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids - BTEs fit snugly behind your outer ear and attach to the ear with either a custom mold or a thin tube with a flexible "dome" tip at the end that is inserted into the canal.
Pros: Can provide significant low- and high-frequency amplification. Comfortable. Barely visible (especially the RIC hearing aids). Prevents a plugged-up feeling. Easy to insert. Compatible with most technologies. Less feedback issues because of greater separation between microphone and receiver. Easy-to-clean custom molds. Domes are disposable to help prevent wax build up.
Cons: Wax and moisture may limit life of receiver for RIC models. More sensitive to wind noise. Custom molds need to be replaced every few years. Custom molds are more visible. Dome tips need to be replaced frequently (but come in disposable packages.)
In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids - IICs (Invisible in the Canal) are the smallest ITE hearing aids. ITCs (In the Canal) are more visible than IICs but still very discreet. ITEs (In the Ear) are the largest and fit within the outer ear's contours. Because of the various sizes of ITEs, we've included pros and cons of each category:
1. Invisible-in-the-Canal Hearing Aids - Limited to mild and moderate hearing loss.
Pros: Extremely discreet. Insensitive to wind noise. Better for phone usage. Virtually no feedback.
Cons: Ear might feel plugged up unless hearing aid is vented. No directional microphone. Vulnerable to wax and moisture. Due to its size, handling may be difficult. Battery life is relatively short.
2. In-the-Canal Hearing Aid
Pros: Molded to fit within the ear canal. Barely visible. Relatively easy to insert. Larger units can include directional microphones. Use a larger battery than IICs, so batter life is longer.
Cons: Similar issues as IICs on a less severe scale.
3. In-the-Ear Hearing Aid
Pros: Offer more features than ITCs and IICs, such as directional microphone and volume control. Less of a "plugged-up" feeling when vented. Easy to insert.
Cons: More visible. Vulnerable to wax build-up and moisture. Feedback may be an issue.
For more information about hearing aid styles, take a look at the chart on our website. We also list the categories that best fit various lifestyles. For the latest in hearing aid technologies, you may be interested in this post about the next generation, or our post, How to Talk to Your Doctor About Hearing Aids. As always, if you have questions or would like additional details on styles and new technologies, feel free to contact us.