When researching hearing aids many different styles and shapes of these devices are shown but how do you know what is best for you? Aside from over-the-counter hearing aids, medical device hearing aids can all look fairly different. There are hearing aid styles that nowadays look like in-ear headphones, a more traditional behind-the-ear model, some hearing aids can even be semi-permanently placed into the ear canal. It may be difficult to sort through the differences outside of a cosmetic perspective but these hearing aids all serve a specific function for different individuals and their unique hearing loss!

 

Common Hearing Aid Styles:  

Behind the Ear (BTE)– this style of aid sits behind the ear and comes with a receiver (this is the “speaker” of the hearing aid) built into the casing. Microphones are located on top of the ear in the casing of the device. 

Receiver in the Canal (RIC)– This looks similar to the BTE but instead the receiver is the “wire” that goes into the ear which has the “speaker” built-in at the end.  Microphones are located on top of the ear in the casing of the device. 

Completely In the Canal (CIC)– this style is usually custom-made to fit a person’s ear through an earmold impression. This style fits inside a person’s ear with a visible portion in the bowl of the ear. Every component of the hearing aid is embedded within the casing of the device. 

Invisible in the Canal (IIC)– this style is similar to the CIC because it is usually molded to a person’s ear but it does not have as much showing in the outer ear. 

 

Most people will want to pick a hearing aid style based on the cosmetic appearance of the device but the most important thing is to get a style that will give the most benefit

 

Pros and Cons of the Common Hearing Aid Styles: 

BTE

  • Pros: Great for all degrees of hearing loss, appropriate for people with pathologies of the ear canal such as excessive cerumen or recurrent otitis media, can have a custom earmold, easy to repair in office, easy to get a loaner aid in cases where the aid has to be sent in.
  • Cons: Microphones are located on top of the ear and can rub against hair or glasses. 

RIC

  • Pros: Easily repaired in the office or to receive a loaner aid, suitable for most degrees of hearing loss, can be used in cases of good low-frequency hearing. 
  • Cons: Cannot be used in cases of ear canal pathologies such as excessive cerumen or recurrent otitis media. Microphones are located on top of the ear which can rub against hair or glasses. 

CIC/IIC

  • Pros: Microphones are located in the ear so they can protect against wind noise and sound follows the natural acoustic resonances of the outer ear. 
  • Cons: Only suitable for mild to moderate degrees of hearing loss, not suitable for people with good low-frequency hearing loss, not easy to be repaired due to it being a custom device, not easy to get a loaner aid in cases of the aid being sent in for repair. This style is not usually compatible with phones due to the space in the small device. Limitations to the programming and manipulation that can be done to the device due to the limited space for the chip. Cannot be used in cases of abnormal anatomy, ear canal pathologies such as excessive cerumen, or recurrent otitis media. 

 

The best way to select an appropriate device for your individual needs and unique hearing loss is to discuss it with your local hearing care professional.