Hearing Aid Types

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Finding Your Hearing Aid Type

Your hearing is as unique as your fingerprint. Your experiences, perception and relationship with hearing loss are unlike anyone else’s. That’s why Ear Health Auckland offers multiple hearing aid types to suit your needs.

Compared to just 30 years ago, the array of products and services available has dramatically expanded. Whether you are shopping for groceries, planning a vacation, or buying a car, the choice is greater than ever before.

The hearing aid industry is no exception, with a greater selection of styles and features available today than ever before. No matter what style you choose, your hearing aid will be programmed to suit your hearing loss only. The solution unique to you may also be very discrete or almost invisible with the advanced styles available today.

6 Types of Hearing Aid Styles

Hearing aids are most useful for people with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). SNHL represents about 90 per cent of reported hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the most common form of SNHL, and noise-induced hearing loss is the second.

SNHL results from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair-cell stereocilia.

Hearing aids work by amplifying sound vibrations entering the ear and increasing the stimulation of the hair-cell stereocilia.

Of course, improving a person’s hearing is more difficult to achieve than just making sounds louder. Delivering a natural sound matched to an individual’s unique hearing loss is a complex assignment.

1. In-the-Ear (ITE)

In-the-ear hearing aids – also known as ITE hearing aids – are among the larger hearing aid styles. But don’t let that put you off straight away. The slightly larger shell has the benefit of allowing room for extra technology inside.

In-the-ear hearing aids sit entirely within the outer portion of the ear. True, this is more visible than other styles. But this allows for several components to be contained within, providing the benefit of more features and better sound quality.

Who Are They For?

In-the-ear hearing aids are helpful for any level of hearing loss from mild to severe. 

They can be suitable for people with dexterity challenges. As they have a larger shell than other types, they are easier to handle. Replacing batteries and adjusting the settings is more straightforward than in smaller in-the-canal models.

Pros

  • The larger size means bigger batteries, longer battery life.
  • Excellent sound quality. 
  • Great for glasses and hat wearers.
  • Relatively easy to put in, take out and change batteries.
  • Sit snugly in the outer ear – custom-moulded for you.

Cons

  • More visible than deeper fit in-the-ear hearing aid types.
  • Can pick up distracting sounds, such as wind noise.
  • Require more frequent cleaning and servicing than behind-the-ear models.
closeup senior woman inserting ITE hearing aid
ITE hearing aid

2. In-the-Canal (ITC)

In-the-canal hearing aids are custom-made to fit into the ear canal. They are partially hidden, but you can usually see a small portion from the outside. In some models, this contains a volume wheel to allow you to adjust the volume quickly.

It’s important to note that in-the-canal style hearing aids require a mould of the ear canal. The mould forms a hearing aid that is a custom fit for your ear canal. 

While this is great as it is a snug fit and will comfortably stay in place, some users struggle with the sensation of having something inside their ears. Other users find this doesn’t bother them at all. Models with vents can help to keep the air flowing and reduce this sensation.

Who Are They For?

They are suitable for people with a wide range of hearing loss from mild to moderately severe. Your ear canals must be large enough to accommodate them. They work on the same principles as the larger in-the-ear hearing aids but are a more discreet option. 

Pros

  • Less visible than the larger ITE.
  • Easier to handle and operate than smaller in-the-ear models.
  • Custom-designed for a snug fit in your ear.

Cons

  • Batteries are smaller and need replacing more often.
  • Require more frequent cleaning and servicing than behind-the-ear models.
  • Ear wax build-up is a common issue.
ITC hearing aid in womans ear
ITC hearing aid

3. Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)

CICs are custom-moulded to fit quite deep in your ear canal and are often regarded as “almost invisible”. All that is visible is a very small faceplate if you look closely at the wearer’s ear canal. 

Who Are They For?

They are suitable for people with mild to moderately severe hearing loss. They are an excellent choice for those who prefer a concealed hearing aid.

Due to their small size, CICs don’t have features such as Bluetooth streaming of calls, music, and other audio directly through your hearing aids.

As they are positioned quite deep in the ear canal, some users report issues with earwax, moisture and skin build-up. This can interfere with sound quality and increase the frequency of cleaning and repairs.

Your ear canals must be large enough to accommodate CIC hearing aids. 

Pros

  • One of the most discreet options available.
  • Moulded to your ear for maximum comfort.
  • Don’t interfere with eyeglasses and hats.

Cons

  • Not recommended if you have dexterity challenges.
  • Batteries are smaller and may need to be changed more frequently.
  • They may cause a blocked feeling in the ear if they get clogged.
  • Not suitable for people who produce lots of earwax.
  • Require frequent cleaning and servicing.
  • Not be compatible with Bluetooth streaming technology.
CIC hearing aid in woman's ear
CIC hearing aid

4. Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC)

As the name suggests, the invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids are genuinely invisible when viewing the ear canal. The features and functionality of IICs are almost identical to completely-in-the-canal hearing aids.

The key difference of an IIC is its miniature size. Few manufacturers have IIC hearing aids in their catalogues because the tiny components are complex to manufacture.

Who Are They For?

IICs are the smallest hearing aids available and sit deep in the ear – as far as the second bend of the ear canal. This makes them invisible from the outside. They are only suitable for users with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Pros

  • Complete discretion – nobody knows you’re wearing a hearing aid.
  • Custom-fit for your ear canals.

Cons

  • Very small – a good level of dexterity is required to operate them.
  • Prone to becoming clogged with earwax and skin cells.
  • Not be compatible with Bluetooth streaming technology.
  • Fitting and acceptance can be more challenging due to the deep fit.
  • The smallest battery size requires frequent changing.
IIC hearing aid in human ear anatomy model
IIC hearing aid

5. Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC)

Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) is the most commonly available and popular type of hearing aid.

What makes them so popular? Over the years, their design and technology have improved as manufacturers have invested in enhancing their most commonly fitted devices.

They are relatively discreet, comfortable to wear and have the best available sound quality and features. Comfort is paramount because hearing aids need to be worn for several hours a day to get the optimum benefit.

They are called RIC because the receiver (speaker) is located in the ear canal. This allows them to be made smaller than traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) models while still having enough space in the housing for every available technology.

A soft dome or tip containing the receiver sits in the ear without sealing it, allowing air to pass through easily. Sound also reaches the eardrum faster than a traditional BTE, producing a natural, pleasant hearing experience for the user.

Who Are They For?

RICs are very flexible and customisable and can accommodate individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. They also feature many options for audio streaming and connecting to devices like smartphones and remote controls. 

Pros

  • Small and lightweight – don’t notice you’re wearing it.
  • Relatively easy to handle and operate.
  • Receiver design can result in a more natural hearing experience.
  • Compatible with Bluetooth streaming.
  • Large battery sizes for power and longevity.
  • Most brands have rechargeable options.

Cons

  • The receiver can become clogged if not cleaned regularly.
  • More visible than some in-the-ear designs.

RIC hearing aid on mans ear
RIC hearing aid

6. Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

When you hear the words hearing aids, behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are probably the first ones that come to mind. 

In recent years they have become smaller, sleeker and offer the latest in hearing aid technology. 

Not quite as popular as RIC devices, BTEs still have some practical advantages, such as high powered options and easy handling for people with dexterity difficulties.

BTEs are also the most robust type of hearing aid and, as a result, may require less maintenance and servicing.

Who Are They For?

Behind-the-ear hearing aids are suitable for people with almost any level of hearing loss and people of all ages. Some models don’t require an earmould, so do not block the ear. Many users find this more comfortable.

Pros

  • Suitable for mild to profound levels of hearing loss.
  • Superior amplification compared to other styles.
  • Large battery sizes for power and longevity.
  • Very easy to handle.
  • Compatible with Bluetooth streaming.
  • Most brands have rechargeable options.

Cons

  • Some styles are quite visible.
  • They might not be comfortable if you wear glasses. 
BTE hearing aid

Author Bio

Ron Trounson

Ron Trounson

Ron Trounson holds a Master of Audiology (with Distinction) from the University of Canterbury. He has been in the hearing industry since 2010 and has a broad knowledge of ear disorders, hearing loss, hearing aids and specialised hearing devices.

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