What Types of Hearing Aids Are Available?

There are many types of hearing aids today, and the style or device is dependent upon the user’s individual needs. There are in-the-ear styles as well as behind-the-ear styles. Also, hearing aid technology has advanced, with many new and improved options to choose from.

Styles of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles, thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today’s hearing aids are considered sleek, compact, and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid users. When selecting a style of hearing aid, you should consider:
The degree of the hearing loss
Power requirement
Manual dexterity and visual abilities
Patient budget
Cosmetics and aesthetics
Skin sensitivities
Anatomical and medical considerations

In-the-Ear Styles

Invisible-in-The-Canal (IIC): This style is the newest and smallest custom hearing aid available. These devices fit deep inside of the ear canal to take advantage of the natural acoustics of the ear.
Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC): These extremely small custom devices sit deep and entirely inside the ear canal. They usually require a “removal string” because of their small size and because they fit so deeply in the canal. These hearing aids work well for someone with a mild to moderate hearing loss and offer high cosmetic appeal, but are difficult for people who have limited dexterity with their fingers.
In-the-Canal (ITC): These hearing aids sit in the lower portion of the outer ear’s bowl and are slightly larger than a CIC device. Because of their slightly larger size, ITCs often have a longer battery life than CICs, and they come available with more user options, depending upon the size of ear. These devices suit people with mild to moderate hearing losses.
Half-Shell: The half shell model fills half of the bowl of the outer ear and, like ITC hearing aids, they allow more options and longer battery life. These devices are ideal for people seeking a smaller hearing aid and those who may have potential dexterity concerns.
Full Shell or In-the-Ear (ITE): The largest of custom hearing aids available, full shell hearing aids fill up the entire bowl of the outer ear. Their size allows the maximum number of controls and features, and they are able to accommodate mild to severe hearing losses.
 

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Styles

Mini-BTE with slim tubes: This type of BTE is often referred to as an “open fit” hearing aid. The small miniature hearing aid sits behind the ear and transmits sound into the ear canal via a thin plastic tube. The tubing connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal, but doesn’t occlude it. The result is a natural, open feeling as air and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip. This style of BTE is recommended for mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss and offers cosmetic appeal because of the small size of the hearing aid.
Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC): RIC hearing aids are similar to the mini-BTE. However, with the RIC, the speaker of the hearing aid sits inside the ear canal close to the eardrum versus the main body of the hearing aid going behind the ear. Although it looks like a mini-BTE when worn on the ear, the RIC style fits a higher degree of hearing loss (mild to severe), while still providing the “open” fitting.
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) with custom ear mold: These devices suit people with a wide range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They are slightly longer in shape and are contoured to sit nicely behind the ear for a sleek, compact look. This style of hearing aid typically offers a wide array of features and options, as well as more control and power than custom models. Additionally, they are connected to the ear canal via custom-made plastic tubing and an ear mold. The ear mold color and style, as well as the wearer’s hairstyle, will determine how this style looks on each person.