What are the Differences in Today’s Hearing Aid Styles?

Understanding the types of hearing aids can make it easier to choose which one is right for you

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There is a wide variety of hearing aid styles available in the market, especially in regards to their size and the way they're placed in or around your ear. When looking for hearing aids, all the information and options available can be overwhelming!

To help, we’ve listed the most common styles of hearing aids available, along with some plusses and minuses. Please note, not all styles are right for every individual, so Professional Hearing Aid Center can help you determine which style is best for you based on your needs and budget.

Hearing aids come in two categories, custom and standard.

Custom hearing aids - Custom hearing aids are hearing aids that are individually made for each patient by taking earmold impressions and “molding” the hearing aids to fit each unique ear shape. Starkey Hearing Technologies was one of the first manufacturers to introduce and perfect custom hearing aids, and is considered the industry leader in this category. 

Standard hearing aids - Standard hearing aids are hearing aids that can be fit “off the shelf” while you’re in the hearing professional’s office (impressions and earmolds aren’t always required). The fitting/programming is still customized for each patient, although the device may not be.

Custom Hearing Aid Styles

Let’s look at the four types of custom hearing aids that Starkey Hearing Technologies and other manufacturers offer, from smallest to largest:

Invisible-In-the-Canal (IIC) hearing aids rest in the second bend of the ear canal, where virtually nobody can see them.

Plusses:

  • Smallest and least visible type
  • Completely invisible in most ears
  • Deep placement of the hearing aid in the ear improves overall sound quality and the sound of the hearing aid wearer’s own voice

Minuses:

  • Uses small batteries, which can be difficult to handle for those with dexterity concerns
  • Due to small battery size, batteries need to be changed more often than those in larger hearing aids
  • Due to small size, cannot include controls (i.e., volume and memory) on the device

Completely-In-Canal (CIC) hearing aids fit deep inside the ear canal, and are slightly larger in size than an IIC.

Plusses:

  • Among the smallest and least visible type

Minuses:

  • Uses small batteries, which can be difficult to handle for those with dexterity concerns
  • Due to small battery size, batteries need to be changed more often than those in larger hearing aids

In-The-Canal (ITC) hearing aids fit partially in the ear canal, and are slightly larger than CIC hearing aids


Plusses:

  • Less visible in the ear than larger custom styles
  • Can include controls (i.e., volume and memory) that won't fit on smaller custom hearing aids

Minuses:

  • Patients with poor dexterity may experience difficulty using the controls (i.e., volume and memory) on these devices
  • Partially visible in the ear

In-The-Ear (ITE) hearing aids can be made in two styles or sizes, one that fills most of the outer ear (full shell), and one that fills only the lower portion of the outer ear (half shell).

Plusses:

  • Can include controls (i.e., volume and memory) that don't fit on smaller style hearing aids
  • Easier to handle/manipulate
  • Larger battery provides a longer battery life

Minuses:

  • May pick up more wind noise than smaller devices
  • More visible in the ear than smaller devices

Standard Hearing Aid Styles

There are two main types of standard hearing aids: Behind-the-ear and receiver-in-canal.

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of your ear and rest behind the ear. All of the mechanics of the hearing aid, including the receiver (or speaker), are housed in the device that fits behind the ear. A tube connects the device to an earpiece that fits in your ear.

Plusses:

  • Larger external controls, helpful for patients with dexterity problems
  • Useful for children because of their durability and ability to connect to assistive listening devices
  • Can offer a longer battery life 
  • Less susceptible to damage by earwax or moisture

Minuses:

  • Least discreet hearing aid style

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) hearing aids are similar in appearance to a BTE hearing aid except the receiver, or speaker, is in the ear canal. Instead of a tube, a small wire connects the hearing aid to the earpiece. Sometimes you’ll see a RIC hearing aid referred to as a Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE) hearing aid.

Plusses:

  • Because the receiver is not housed in the device, RICs are typically smaller and more discreet than BTEs
  • Offers a comfortable open-fit, allowing for a natural sound quality of the hearing aid wearer’s own voice

Minuses:

  • Susceptible to earwax and moisture clogging the speaker

Remember that the key to a good hearing aid fitting is not the hearing aid alone, but working with a professional you trust and who can help you choose and fit the right hearing aid for your unique needs. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and choose the hearing aid that's right for you!

- Content provided courtesy of Starkey

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Email: info@professionalhearing.com