There is a variety of different types of hearing aids available on the market today. They’re suited for different lifestyles, personalities and budgets. Each type has it’s own pros and cons. The different types are:
- Behind the ear (BTE) – open fit
- Behind the ear (BTE) – with ear mold
- Completely in the canal (CIC)
- In the canal (ITC)
- In the ear (ITE)
Behind the Ear (BTE) – Open Fit
Behind the ear, open fit hearing aids are small and somewhat invisible to others. They typically have a small case that sits behind the ear with a very thin wire or tube that goes into the ear canal. The wire is what transmits sound into the ear canal. At the end of the wire, there is a small silicone dome that fits comfortably inside the ear. The dome is well vented which results in a reduced “barrel” or “hollow” sound effect you may experience with other aid types. Due to the venting, your ear doesn’t feel stopped up. However, the nature of the open fit design lends itself to the increased possibility of feedback. It also allows lower frequency sound pulses to leak from the ear canal which may limit this type to a moderately severe high-frequency hearing loss.
Behind the Ear (BTE) – With Ear Mold
Unlike the open fit behind the ear hearing aid, the BTE with ear mold type does not have the dome fitted into the ear canal. It has a custom molded ear piece that sits inside the canal. The case that sits behind the ear is typically larger than the open fit counterpart. However, with advances in technology, they are getting smaller and smaller. BTE aids are typically the strongest and are suitable for almost any severity of hearing loss and age group. This type is good for children because the ear mold can be replaced as the child grows. If the larger size is not an issue for you this is a good option for almost anyone.
Completely in the Canal (CIC)
If your goal is to be discrete the completely in the canal (CIC) type may be an option to consider. This aid is custom molded to fit deep inside the ear canal, making it very unnoticeable. A definite advantage over the BTE is reduced wind noise. Since it sits deep inside your ear it is naturally protected from wind noise by your ear. It’s also easy to use with a telephone. It’s pretty natural and comfortable when using a phone.
Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, the small size may not be an option for you. CIC aids are suited for mild to moderate hearing losses in adults. The small size requires good fine motor skills to change batteries and handle the hearing aid. It is also limited on features – typically no volume control or directional microphones. If you are willing to trade-off a few features for a smaller, discrete aid this is a good option.
In the Canal (ITC)
The in the canal hearing aid is slightly larger than the CIC type and can have features that will not fit within the CIC aid. So you can enjoy a lot of the same advantages. It fits partially within the ear canal. It’s possible you may have difficulty adjusting some of the features due to the small size. To address this issue manufacturers have developed remote controls for some aids. The ITC aids are appropriate for mild to moderately severe hearing losses.
In the Ear (ITE)
The in the ear aids are larger than the CIC and ITC aids. They fit into the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. One advantage of this is the ability to provide even more features such as volume control. They are easier to adjust and insert into the ear. Since they are more of an external fit they can pick up more wind noise. They are also less discrete and more visible. ITE aids are option for people with mild to severe hearing losses.
Evaluating the different types of hearing aids can be a little overwhelming at first. Consult with your audiologist and based on your hearing evaluation he/she will be able to recommend the option that best suits your hearing loss and budget.