You might be wondering – what is the best hearing aid for me? Let’s keep the hearing aid hunt easier by discussing the types of hearing aids, so you can narrow down your choices based on the style that you need or prefer. We’ve also included pros and cons for each type of hearing aids to help you weigh what matters most.
At this point, we’re past asking ourselves “how can hearing aids help?” Hearing aids HELP with hearing loss, giving hard of hearing individuals a chance to live normally and maintain meaningful conversations at home or at work.
2 Basic Types of Hearing Aids
The two basic types of hearing aids are in-the-ear (ITE) and behind-the-ear (BTE).
In-the-ear hearing aids
These types of hearing aids are usually custom-fit and worn in the ear canal. The fit is based on an impression taken by an audiologist during a hearing aid consultation.
ITE hearing aids are usually available in different skin tones to easily blend with the outer ear and have some kind of camouflaging. Some types of ITE hearing aids are designed to fit deeply inside the ear canal, while some just fit snugly in the outer ear.
Behind-the-ear hearing aids
Behind-the-ear hearing aids either sit on top of the outer ear or behind it with a tubing that goes down into the ear canal. The tubing is either a dome style or a custom-fit ear mold that ensures the placement does not block the entire opening of the ear canal.
These types of hearing aids are available in different colors to easily match skin tone or hair color. Flashier designs are also available for a more personalized or accessorizing flair.
Types of Hearing Aids: Batteries
Whether BTE or ITE, most of these devices come with standard button batteries that need to be replaced between 3-20 days, depending on usage. However, rechargeable batteries are getting more common and in-demand. If you’d like to use a hearing aid with rechargeable batteries, mention this to your audiologist during your hearing aid fitting.
Styles of Hearing Aids
In the ear styles (ITE)
Invisible in the canal (IIC)
Completely in the Canal (CIC)
CIC and IIC types of hearing aids are the most popular among people who want to keep a low profile when it comes to hearing devices. These ITE types of hearing aids are known to be the smallest and most discreet available in the market.
IIC hearing aids are virtually invisible, as they are placed deeply in the ears and can only be removed by tugging on a small pull-out string. Meanwhile, CICs are quite similar with IICs when it comes to placement, but they don’t sit quite as deep in the ears as IICs.
Due to its small size, IICs and CICs don’t usually have any manual controls such as program buttons or volume switches. These types of hearing aids are ideally for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
• Extremely discreet
• Deliver good sound quality because of fit
• Vulnerable to ear wax and moisture
• May have connectivity issues with wireless devices
• Small size may be a challenge to users with dexterity issues
Low Profile Hearing Aids
Similar to ITC types of hearing aids, low profile hearing aids may range from full-shell designs that fill most of the outer ear to half-shell designs that just snugly cover the half bowl of the outer ear.
Low profile hearing aids are large enough to accommodate directional microphones and manual controls, such as push-buttons for changing programs and a volume wheel. The low profile style is popular among people with dexterity issues, considered to be the “Goldilocks” of hearing aids – not too small and not too big.
• Easier to insert/remove
• Can feature more user controls
• Better connectivity to wireless devices
• Prone to occlusion or plugged up feeling
• Less discreet than smaller types of hearing aids
In-the-canal hearing aids (ITC)
ITCs are positioned in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them easy to use and comfy. These types of hearing aids are quite larger than CIC and IIC styles, so they can fit a wider range of hearing losses and offer a slightly longer battery life.
The bigger size of these types of hearing aids allow additional features such as a volume wheel or directional microphones.
• Discreet design
• Can accommodate more features
• Longer battery life
• Vulnerable to moisture damage and ear wax
• May give a sense of occlusion or “plugged up” sensation
• Wireless connectivity issues
Behind-The-Ear Styles (BTE)
Also known as receiver-in-canal, a receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid is an open-fit hearing aid style whose speaker is built into an insertable ear dome; traditionally, the speaker of a hearing aid is built into the main body of the device.
To better picture out how this type of hearing aid works, imagine that the speaker rests in the ear canal but the processor and microphone are in a tiny case behind the ear – all connected by a thin wire. Major hearing aid manufacturers produce these types of hearing aids and the sound quality is expected to be above-average.
If an RITE gets damaged, the speaker can usually be replaced in most hearing aid centers. This is really convenient for users, eliminating the need to have the hearing aids shipped off to the manufacturer for repairs.
• Comes with a rechargeable battery option
• Usually comes with wireless connectivity
• Speaker can be replaced separately
• May accommodate telecoils
• Mini-RITEs may pose a problem with dexterity
• Speaker inside the ear may still be susceptible to ear wax and moisture
• Visible sound processor and microphone
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) with ear mold
BTE types that come with ear molds can address any type of hearing loss. The longer shape of this type of hearing aid follows the contour behind the ear and can also accommodate more controls, features and battery power.
A BTE with earmold is popular among children because these types of hearing aids can easily be reprogrammed AS NEEDED. Additionally, the ear mold can also be replaced as the child grows.
Suits all types and degrees of hearing loss
Available in models with ready wireless connectivity
Custom-fit ear mold can be changed separately
Less risk for moisture damage
• May make wearers feel plugged up
• Space limitation for eyeglass wearers
• Not as discrete or cosmetically-hidden
Questions about Types of Hearing Aids
Do all hearing aids work the same way?
With all its varying sizes, technology, style and design – the answer is a big NO.
Hearing aids may have one goal – and that is to make hearing better and easier for the user – but they work differently depending on the electronics used.
The two main types of hearing aid electronics are digital and analog. Analog hearing aids convert sound into electrical signals, which are then amplified. Meanwhile, digital types of hearing aids convert the sound waves into numerical codes (binary computer code) before amplification.
How can I adjust to my hearing aid?
Now that we’ve covered the types of hearing aids, let’s talk about adjusting to your hearing aid. You may either be a first-timer or you are already a hearing-aid user but want to switch designs. Either way, there may be some pain points (not literal pain, okay) and below are some tips on how to manage:
Take it slow: you don’t have to wear your new set of hearing aids from day to night. You can start slow, like one to two hours at a time.
Seek the quiet: for you to slowly adjust to your hearing aids, try to use it first in quiet environments with few people and minimal noise.
Gradual is the key: after a few days, you can gradually increase the number of hours that you wear your hearing aids. You can also start using them in noisier and more crowded environments.
Be on the lookout for pain: if you feel some soreness in your ears, contact your audiologist immediately. You need to get to the bottom of what’s causing the pain to avoid complications.
Which types of hearing aids for hearing ability?
The types of hearing aids must be well correlated to the hearing ability of the wearer.
If you have hearing loss in BOTH the high and low frequencies, an audiologist might suggest ITC or CIC styles for a more occluding fit. The occlusion effect of these types of hearing aids will greatly help in blocking unwanted background noise.
For hearing loss that is only in the high frequencies (a common condition with people who have age-related hearing loss), open-fit RITE types provide a comfortable hearing experience, allowing natural low-frequency sounds in while amplifying higher frequencies. These types of hearing aids can filter noise, suppress feedback, adapt to different environments, and wirelessly connect to smartphones, public assistive listening devices (ALDs) and a personal microphone system.
Which types of hearing aids work best for severe-profound hearing loss?
For severe to profound hearing loss, we would recommend ITC hearing aids, BTE types of hearing aids with ear mold or low profile hearing aids. These types of hearing aids are known to be POWER HEARING AIDS mainly because they can supply the most powerful and loud amplification and are less susceptible to moisture damage.
Which hearing aid will work best for me?
Choosing the best types of hearing aids for you can be quite challenging and overwhelming. Don’t worry – with a good audiologist, you won’t have to do it ALONE. At Hearing Health Clinic, we make sure to guide you in your hearing health journey, every step of the way.
Clearly, there are numerous styles and features available that are engineered to address different types and levels of hearing loss. That being said, an audiologist will help you decide or by going over a number of factors to consider such as:
• Dexterity issues
• Type of hearing loss
You don’t need to lose sleep trying to decide which one is right for you. A quick visit to Hearing Health Clinic, Osseo MN will connect you to reliable audiologists who can greatly assist you in choosing the best types of hearing aids.