Types of Hearing Aids


Things to Consider

DID YOU KNOW? The size and shape of the ear are important to consider when choosing a hearing aid. A small ear canal may limit your choices . Degree of hearing loss, dexterity, lifestyle and personal preference also play a role in hearing aid selection.

The Audiologist at Hearing for Life will explain the benefits and limitations of each style of hearing aid in relation to your specific situation. There is not a single solution for every type of hearing loss or for every patient.


BEHIND-THE-EAR (BTE)

BTEs sit comfortably behind the ear while amplified sound passes down a tube to a customized earmold that fits securely into the ear. They are available in all sizes however, because they can be larger, BTEs can accommodate bigger batteries for longer battery life and larger amplifiers for maximum amplification. BTEs are suitable for mild to profound hearing losses.

Pros
  • A sturdier design makes them easy to manipulate.
  • They can be larger if necessary for ease of use and greater power for more severe losses
  • There is very little maintenance which is very important to some clients
  • Some models have larger batteries if needed which are easier to manage and last longer
  • They are extremely durable resulting in a greater life expectancy than other styles
  • They are equipped with directional microphones to assist with hearing in background noise
  • They are compatible with wireless technology, including Bluetooth technology and FM systems. Learn more about ALDs.
Cons
  • More conspicuous due to the tubing and earpiece.

RECEIVER-IN-THE-EAR (RITE)

RITEs consists of a device that sits comfortably behind the ear with a thin wire that ends in a receiver or speaker. The speaker has a soft dome on the end that delivers sound into the ear canal. RITES are suitable for mild or high frequency hearing losses when a soft dome is worn. For more severe losses a custom earpiece can be made.
&sbp

Pros

(When worn with a dome):

  • This is the most popular style of hearing aid.
  • Benefits Individuals with even very mild hearing losses.
  • RITEs are lightweight and incredibly comfortable (clients forget they are wearing them) as they don’t plug up (or occlude) the ear canal.
  • They are inconspicuous. This is very important to many individuals.
  • Clients report that their own voices sounds very natural.
  • They are very easy to get used to. Some clients often have some hearing in the normal range and since these hearing aids do not block the ear canal, they can benefit from some of their own natural hearing and receive assistance in the areas with hearing loss. The result is a very seamless transition.
  • They provide benefit in background noise due to a 2 microphone (directional) system.
  • Several manufacturers have developed advanced technology in the hearing aid that is compatible with and can be adjusted using an iPhone, iPad or iPod
  • They are compatible with wireless technology including TV systems, an interface to allow hands-free cell phone use, dedicated home phones that stream automatically to both hearing aids and FM systems Learn more about ALDs.
Cons
  • They require a certain amount of dexterity. A custom earpiece can also be made, however if there are dexterity issues, making insertion of the aid easier.
  • As the hearing loss increases in severity, most clients need a custom earpiece. This has a greater mass and blocks the ear canal more, although they are still comfortable and less occluding compared to the other custom made hearing aids.
  • Some people do not like having something over their ears (although there is plenty of room for the hearing aids and glasses)
  • RITEs require some cleaning and maintenance by the client (changing of domes and wax system)


IN-THE-EAR (ITE)

ITEs are custom-made to fit securely in the outer ear. They fill the entire bowl or concha of the outer ear. ITEs are suitable for mild to severe hearing losses.
&sbp

Pros
  • These are the largest of the custom hearing aids. As a result they are easier to manage especially if there are dexterity issues in comparison to the other smaller custom aids.
  • Batteries can be larger resulting in increased battery life and ease of use.
  • They are equipped with directional microphones to assist with hearing in background noise
  • They are compatible with wireless technology including TV systems, an interface to allow hands-free cell phone use, dedicated home phones that stream automatically to both hearing aids and FM systems. Learn more about ALDs.
Cons
  • Cosmetically they are large and easy to see.
  • This style has a significant amount of mass in the canal and does block the ear canal. Clients often report that their voices sound different. There is some adaptation to this. In addition, a hole through the length of the hearing aid (also called a vent) can be used to reduce this ‘plugged’ feeling or occlusion.
  • Some cleaning and maintenance is required to keep the wax out of the hearing aid

IN-THE-CANAL (ITC)

ITCs are custom-made to fit almost entirely inside the ear canal. There is only a small faceplate that fills the lower part of the concha or bowl of the ear. They are suitable for mild to severe hearing losses.

Pros
  • For individuals that do not want a hearing aid behind the ear, this style is easy to manage without being obvious or too small.
  • There is enough room for 2 microphones (directional) on the faceplate, providing improved performance in background noise
  • They are compatible with wireless technology including TV systems, an interface to allow for hands-free cell phone use, dedicated home phones that stream automatically to both hearing aids and FM systems. Learn more about ALDs.
Cons
  • There is something plugging up the ear canal. A hole through the length of the hearing aid (also called a vent) can be used to reduce this ‘plugged’ feeling or occlusion.
  • Some cleaning is involved to keep wax out of the hearing aid.

COMPLETELY-IN-THE-CANAL (CIC) and INVISIBLE-IN-CANAL (IIC)

CICs fit deep inside the ear canal. Depending on the size and shape of the ear canal they can appear almost invisible.  They are suitable for mild to severe hearing losses. IICs are smaller and made to fit even deeper into the ear canal. They are suitable for mild to moderate hearing losses. These hearing aids are removed with a small removal filament.

Pros
  • CIC’s or IICs are suitable for clients who want a discrete hearing aid but do not want something over their ear.
  • They are very discrete
  • With the aid situated deep in the ear canal, clients may not experience occlusion.
  • CICs are suitable for moderately-severe hearing losses.
  • Some manufactures’ CIC hearing aids are now compatible with wireless technologies. This however, can often result in a slightly larger product.
  • Some CIC’s are now available with directional microphones improving performance in background noise.
Cons
  • Clients may feel plugged up or ‘occluded’ and their own voices may seem unnatural particularly if they have very small ear canals.
  • Requires good dexterity to manage the hearing aid.
  • Requires good dexterity to change the batteries.
  • The smaller batteries have a shorter battery life.
  • They are not suitable for individuals with very narrow ear canals. The technology will not fit deep in the ear canal if size is limited. As a result it will no longer be a CIC but a canal or ‘mini’ canal hearing aid.
  • IICs are only suitable for mild to moderate losses and for larger, straighter ear canals.
  • Some cleaning is involved to keep wax out of the hearing aid.
  • IICs are not compatible with wireless technology and do not have directional microphones.
  • Although CICs can sometimes be made with directional microphones, wireless technology, volume controls etc., whenever a feature is added, this will increase the size of the device, often detracting from its original appeal.

*Photography by Jakob Sawatsky