Understanding Hearing Aid Types

There are many different styles and hearing aid types. While many of the styles offer the user the opportunity to hide their hearing device, not everyone wants or need their hearing device to be invisible.

In fact, Bluetooth technology made it almost stylish to have a small unit in your ear. Some types of hearing loss require specific hearing aid types. While your hearing specialist can help you find a hearing device that's best for you, knowing the various types and designs is also helpful. You'll find that most hearing devices vary by the outer design, the technology used or special features offered.

Analog vs. Digital

Today, the most popular technology is digital but you also pay for the advanced technology. While some people don't notice the difference between the two, others note being able to program the digital to their specific hearing loss and blocking out loud background noise makes a huge difference. Most people also find the digital is far clearer and doesn't whistle like the analog hearing aids.

Design Makes a Difference in Hearing Aid Types

How the hearing aid fits onto your ear, the size and the placement of the microphone differentiate hearing aids types. There are a large number of designs from which to select. Each one has features or benefits that may b e more conducive to your hearing loss or pocketbook.

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC)

These hearing aids types are almost invisible to others. These are smaller and custom designed specifically for each customer. Because they fit deeply into the ear canal, CIC hearing aid types are also more like natural hearing. The CIC types vary with the type of technology used inside the device. They may be traditional hearing devices, a programmable analog device or use digital technology.

While these tiny hearing devices have many positives, if you have a short ear canal, the CIC may not be the hearing aid of choice for you. The insertion of batteries into a small casing can be quite a challenge for those who are both visually impaired or have dexterity problems. Those with profound hearing loss should avoid these devices since most of them won't provide the additional help necessary. If you're on a tight budget, they frequently cost slightly more.

Some of the older CIC models also have loud feedback and are far more susceptible to damage from earwax. Volume control may be difficult unless there's remote capability. Due to the fact these are custom designed for the ear canal, fitting a CIC device for a child requires new devices frequently because of their growth. This makes the CIC far more unattractive for use in a child's ear.

Invisible in the Canal (IIC) Hearing Aids

The biggest difference between the CIC and the IIC is the placement of the hearing device. Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aid types fit in the second bend of the ear and nobody can see it even when looking directly in the ear canal. There are also other benefits due to the deep position of the device. One of which is the clarity and more natural tones heard. The microphone placement works more like natural hearing, since the shape of the ear naturally helps filter out some of the sounds you'd hear if you wore a behind the ear device, while increasing sound pressure due to the short distance between the tympanic membrane and the end of the hearing device. The design allows you to remove them daily.These hearing aids types normally come with a remote control due to their size and offer many digital programmable features. They aren't recommended for those with profound hearing loss but are excellent for mild to moderate hearing loss. Their size may prove difficult for those with dexterity problems.

In-the-canal (ITC)

The ITC is another custom mold but only fits partially in the canal and not nearly as deep as completely in the canal or invisible in the canal. It's less visible than other types of hearing aids, such as the full shell and easy to use with a telephone. Often there are more features offered than those with hearing aid types such as invisible-in-the-canal, but unless you have remote adjustment, they may be difficult to use. This type of hearing device may be hard to fit to smaller ears.


You might classify this as a small version of the in-the-canal device. These hearing aid types are slightly bigger than ITC models, but far easier to handle. They fit most types of ears and often come with additional features such as volume control and directional microphones. These require adequate venting, as do all hearing aid types. Luckily, due to their size, there's plenty of room for venting.


The in the ear or full-shell hearing aids types is visible since it fills most of the outer bowl-shaped area of the ear. However, if you have severe hearing loss, it can help. This type frequently picks up wind noise unless it comes equipped with a prevention feature. It is easier to fit in the ear than the smaller models, particularly if dexterity is a problem. The batteries are normally larger and besides being easier to handle, may last longer.

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

BTE models hook over the ear with the larger and have the largest portion of the hearing aid behind the ear. These hearing aids types are the most visible of all unless it is an open fit model or one of the more streamline newer versions. In most cases, they are far more capable of stronger amplification so are beneficial for even those with severe hearing impairment.

Open Fit or Tube Fitting

These behind-the-ear (BTE) devices have a clear thin plastic tube that rests inside the ear. Since the tube is clear, it's almost impossible to see. There's no need to vent since the ear is open and these hearing aid types are very easy to fit. People with high frequency hearing loss find them most suitable.

Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC)

While the receiver in the ear looks like the open fit style, there's a difference. In this case, the receiver is inside of the ear canal, leaving the behind-the-ear section far smaller. There's normally less distortion, a more comfortable fit and more power in the RIC models.

One of the very first receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids was developed by a company called Clear Tone Hearing Aids.

Instant Fit Hearing Aids

A new type of hearing aid that has become more popular in the last several years in the Instant Fit Hearing Aids. Many patients like this type of hearing device because they can "walk-in" and "walk-out" with the device in one office visit. The Amp made by Starkey Labs is an excellent example of an Instant Fit Device.

Mail Order Hearing Aids

If you have done any research on hearing aids, you probably already know that they can be quite expensive. So more and more people are looking for less expensive alternatives.

As a general rule, mail order hearing aids are typically much less expensive than your local audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. One company that offers mail order hearing devices is the Lee Majors Bionic Hearing Aid.

Special Features

There are innumerable special features on today's hearing aids due to modern technology, including the Bluetooth technology. Remote controls resembling pens, special adaptations for both electronic devices and cells phones and computer programs are just a few of these special features.

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