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Hearing Aid Styles

There are four general styles of hearing aids, and while it used to be that each one was for a different degree of hearing loss, technology has made it so that almost any hearing loss can be fit with almost any style. The following are the most common types of hearing aids.

Custom Hearing Aids

In-the-Ear; In-the-Canal; completely in the canal

Behind the Ear (BTE)

BTE instruments are used for all types of hearing loss, from mild to profound. Most offer advanced directional microphones for improved understanding of speech in noisy situations.

BTE hearing aids are fit behind or on top of the ear. An ear hook attached to a tube that runs from the hearing aid to the entrance of the ear canal. An earpiece or ear tip attaches to keep it in the ear.

There are two kinds of BTE’s:

Traditional BTE: bteEarmoldThicker tubing is used for more stability and power. The tubing can handle the extra sound pressure without dissipating or distorting it. Standard-tubed BTE’s are the most appropriate fit for profound hearing loss but also work well for mild through severe loss.  These three-piece devices can be difficult for some, especially older users, to manipulate, and the ear molds require more detailed cleaning.

Slim-tubing BTE: bteSmallTubeAlso known as a mini BTE, an open BTE, or an open ear fit hearing aid, this style became available in the past decade. For high-frequency hearing loss, it is the hearing aid of choice. With an open tip, the low frequencies escape before getting to the eardrum, this allowing for a more natural sound for high-frequency loss. The slim tubing can’t handle as much power as the larger tubes, so it is better for mild through moderate hearing loss. The discreet fit and size has made the slim-tubing BTE very popular.

KEEP IN MIND: Because of their flexibility and ease of upgrade, BTE’s are the most common type of hearing aid for children. As a child grows, new ear pieces can be made without needing to change the hearing aid itself. In addition, parents and other adults can monitor the usage since BTE’s are easier to see. 

Receiver in the Canal (RIC)

RIC open fittings look quite similar to the open fittings. But instead of resting behind the ear, the receiver is placed within the canal. RIC hearing aids are, at first glance, often mistaken for BTEs. Since the receiver is no longer within the behind-the-ear (BTE) unit, but inside the canal – and connected to the BTE component via thin tubing – the BTE unit is particularly small, light, and inconspicuous.

The body of the hearing aid remain on top of and slightly behind the ear, but the receiver (speaker) portion of the device is moved from the primary casing to inside the ear canal–hence, receiver in canal.

This provides two primary benefits.

  1. It makes the body of the device much smaller and lighter.
  2. The sound quality at the eardrum is a clearer representation of the desired sound.

When using a traditional BTE, the desired sound waves travel through tubing, which can affect the output at the eardrum.  Consequently, the RIC hearing aid has become the most popular hearing aid on the market today.

RITE: Receiver-in-the-ear is another name for the RIC. While both are technically correct, RIC denotes the location of the receiver-in the canal-more specifically.

KEEP IN MIND: With BTE and RIC hearing aids, you may be able to sample the device the same day you are tested, as customized fitting is not required. This means you can actually test the sound quality yourself before you have to make a purchase decision. However, a hearing healthcare professional will still need to adjust and tune the device to your specific hearing needs.

iteIn the Ear (ITE)

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids were the first custom hearing aids available. Although they are less popular than their newer, smaller cousins, they are still appropriate for many individuals. ITE hearing aids use a larger bater (size 13 or 312) and can sometimes provide more power. They are usually more secure because the top of the ear helps to hold it in. This device is best for people who have difficulty with dexterity or vision. Its twin microphones afford better directionality and noise reduction than just one microphone.

HS: Half-shell hearing aids are just a smaller version of ITE aids. They are best for individuals who have difficulty putting a full BTE in their ear due to the anatomy of the ear. They are usually less secure than the ITE, but they can still hold more power than smaller devices. They use a size 312 battery. Always request twin microphones in a half-shell for improved directionality and noise reduction.


In the Canal (ITC)

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids fit in the concha, or bowl of the ear. Depending on tour ear size and other options you require, they may or may not be available with twin microphones. They can still allow either a volume control or program control if size permits. They typically use a size 10A battery but sometimes a 312 can be installed.

CC: Custom-canal hearing aids are another name for the ITC, but is is used less often.

CIC: Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are made to fit fully in the ear canal and can be minimally visible. Due to the CIC’s small size, only one microphone can be installed, but the deep fit provides some natural directionality that is lacking that is lacking in larger hearing aids.cic

The benefits of the CIC are not only cosmetic. Because the microphones are better hidden in ear, there is less wind noise distraction, and the devices allow for easier wearing of head gear such as helmets. They use the small 10A battery, and usually provide room for a program button. These work for a mild to sever hearing loss, depending on the size of the ear canal.

Extended Wear (Lyric)

Lyric is the first extended wear hearing device that is 100% invisible. It is comfortably placed in the ear canal by a Lyric trained hearing professional and can be worn 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to 4 months at a time. No surgery or anesthesia is required.