The Top 6 Styles and Types of Hearing Aids

Think there's only one style of hearing aid? Think again. Over the years, researchers and manufacturers have created various new styles and types of hearing aids to suit every form of hearing loss and lifestyle.

Though electronic hearing aids have been around for decades, there's been terrific advancement in technology, which has resulted in new options for styles — there truly is a type of hearing aid for almost everybody.

Each style of hearing aid comes with its own of pros and cons, so we're breaking it down for you to help you understand the different types of hearing aids so you can find exactly what you're looking for.

Styles of Hearing Aids

1. Receiver in canal (RIC) / Receiver in the ear (RIE)

While you might see this style of hearing aid being referred to by one of two different terms — either "receiver in canal" or "receiver in the ear" — they are synonymous. This is one of the most popular types of hearing aids. As the name suggests, the device's speaker (known as a receiver because you receive sound from it) goes inside your ear canal, while the plastic case or shell, with the rest of the device's technology, sits on top of or behind your ear. A thin wire connects the receiver to the plastic case outside the ear. While it used to be true that the plastic case behind the ear was big and bulky, modern devices are so small you'd be hard-pressed to notice them. P.S.: This is the type of hearing aid that Lively offers!

Pros:

The microphone, as you can imagine, is what picks up the sound from your surroundings. In hearing aids, the microphones are unique in that they're very small, yet still capable of picking up very subtle sounds and converting them to electrical signals.

  • Works universally for varying levels of hearing loss
  • Discreet (the thin wire and small receiver inside the ear are hard for people to spot)
  • Plastic casing behind the ear isn't too bulky
  • Sound is very clear because the speaker is close to the eardrum
  • Most natural sound experience
Cons:
  • Since the receiver is in the ear canal, it is vulnerable to damage by ear wax or ear moisture
  • If someone has trouble with fine motor skills, they may struggle to maneuver the small pieces and place them in the ear

2. Behind the ear (BTE)

If you see photos of open fit behind the ear hearing aids and receiver in canal hearing aids, you might get a bit confused. Christina Callahan, Au.D., Head of Clinical Audiology at Lively, says that on the surface, the two types can look the same. However, in the BTE hearing aid, she says, "all the components are on the back of the ear, and there's only an ear bud and small tube that goes inside the ear. The receiver part is on the outside rather than inside the ear."

If a BTE hearing aid is not "open fit," a custom ear mold can be made to sit in the ear, which is then attached to the casing behind the ear. A custom mold can be attached for those who may need a more powerful hearing aid including those who may be considering an implant, according to Callahan.

Pros:
  • Offers even more sound amplification than RIC hearing aids
  • May be easier for those who struggle with fine motor skills, since they're physically larger
  • Better for children with growing, developing ears
Cons:
  • Bigger and bulkier than other types
  • More noticable
  • May feel heavy on the ear
  • Less vulnerable to ear wax damage if it's completely behind the ear

3. In the ear (ITE)

This type of hearing aid goes inside of the outer part of the ear. It is custom molded and made to fit inside the ear, and they come in two options: full shell and half shell. The half shell will fill only the lower part of the ear, and the full one will cover more surface area. All of the technology is in the one piece. "If (someone's) dexterity is poor, meaning they can't move their fingers well and their fine motor movements are affected negatively, this makes it simpler to have one piece to put in the ear," says Callahan.

Pros:
  • Custom fit just for you
  • Since it's a little bigger, it may include more functions
  • Easier to put in if you have fine motor issues
Cons:
  • Not appropriate for all hearing losses
  • The largest option of the in-ear or in-canal hearing aids
  • Can make ears feel plugged up
  • Vulnerable to earwax damage
  • Not good for children with developing, growing ears

4. In the canal (ITC)

Another type of custom molded hearing aid is an in the canal hearing aid, which is an option that's a bit smaller and more discreet than the general ITE hearing aid.

Pros:
  • Custom fit just for you
  • Less visible than ITE hearing aids
Cons:
  • Not appropriate for all hearing losses
  • Smaller size can make it harder for people with dexterity issues to insert
  • Smaller size means smaller batteries which need to be replaced more often
  • Vulnerable to earwax damage

5. Completely in the canal (CIC)

Yet another type is the completely in the canal style of hearing aid, which is the second smallest and least visible. These are placed semi-deep inside of the ear canal, making them pretty discreet.

Pros:
  • Custom fit just for you
  • More discreet than in the canal styles
Cons:
  • Not appropriate for all hearing losses
  • Tiny size can be hard for people with dexterity issues to manage
  • Too small to have manual controls (like a manual volume controller)
  • Small batteries need to be replaced often
  • Vulnerable to earwax damage

6. Invisible in the canal (IIC)

This is the tiniest option of all the custom molded types of hearing aids. Since it sits deep inside your ear canal, it is virtually invisible to others. All of the technology is jam packed into this hearing aid. There will be some form of string or string-like structure attached so that you are able to remove it from your ear.

Pros:
  • Custom fit just for you
  • Most discreet of all of the hearing aids
Cons:
  • Not appropriate for all hearing losses
  • Typically extremely costly
  • Zero manual controls
  • Miniscule size can make it a real challenge to fit in the ear canal
  • Tiny batteries that must be replaced often
  • Easy to lose due to small size

Choosing a hearing aid, especially for the first time, can be an overwhelming and confusing process since there are so many different styles of hearing aids, features, and price points. That's why at Lively, we've done the research to determine the best hearing aid for our customers. We offer a bundle that has everything you need for better hearing and can be personalized to match exactly what you're looking for. Speak to one of the Lively audiologists about what hearing aid will likely be best for you — and get ready to once again hear the world as it was meant to be heard.

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