Hearing Aid Styles
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 wearers.
A wide range of technology and a host of features are available in each hearing aid style. The cost of hearing aids generally depends on the technology and the number of features the instrument has and not necessarily on the style selected. Much like any computer, today's digital hearing aids are typically offered in different "smartness" levels, from basic to extremely advanced.
Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments, such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aids respond automatically to changes in the listener's environment, making changes based on the signals being detected by the hearing aid. The hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes. As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so does the availability of advanced features.
When selecting a style the following is considered:
- The degree of the hearing loss (power requirements)
- Manual dexterity and visual abilities
- Patient budget
- Skin sensitivities
- Anatomical/medical considerations
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) models sit behind or on top of the outer ear, with tubing or a wire that routes sounds down into the ear. the tubing or wire connects to an ear tip or earmold to secure the hearing aid in the ear canal. BTEs come in colors to blend with hair or skin tones. Different BTE sizes accommodate different features, controls, battery types and degrees of power.
Mini BTE with slim tube and tip
Mini BTEs are designed to hide behind the outer ear and have ultra-thin tubing to discreetly route sound into the ear. 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. This is usually only recommended for mild-to-moderate high frequency losses.
Receiver in ear (RIC)
RIC models (also referred to as RITEs) are mini BTEs that have the speaker of the instrument incorporated in the ear tip, instead of in the main body of the instrument. RIC instruments fit a wide range of hearing losses. This hearing aid style looks similar to the Mini BTE when worn on the ear.
BTE with Earmold
BTEs with earmolds fit mild through profound hearing losses. Their shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can house many features. The earmold color and style, as well as the wearer's hairstyle, determine exactly how they'll look on each person.
Hearing aids worn in the ear are usually custom-fit, based on a cast or impression of the ear. They're available in different skin tones to blend with the outer ear. There are several styles – each is listed below, ranging from smallest to largest.
Invisible In The Canal (IIC)
The smallest custom style, IIC instruments, sit invisibly, deep in the ear canal. IIC devices are specifically designed for only mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
Completely in the Canal (CIC)
CIC instruments fit deeply and entirely within the ear canal. Similar to IICs, they fit mild-to-moderate hearing losses.
In the Canal (ITC)
ITC instruments sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl. Because they're slightly larger than CIC models, they have a longer battery life, and can host additional features for better understanding in noisy environments, and controls such as program or volume controls. They fit mild to moderate hearing losses.
Full Shell or In the Ear (ITE)
Full shell models sit flush within the outer ear bowl. Their size allows additional controls and features, as compared to smaller in-the-ear devices. They usually use a larger battery size than the smaller styles and can produce enough power for even some severe hearing losses.