Types and Styles
There are two different types of hearing aids and many different styles. Our hearing healthcare specialist will help you determine the best one for you.
There are two basic types of hearing aids. The first type, hearing aids worn in the ear (ITE styles), are usually custom-fit, based on an impression that is taken by the hearing care professional at the time of the hearing aid consultation. These styles are typically available in different skin tones to camouflage with the outer ear.
The second type, behind the ear hearing aids (BTE styles) sit behind or on top of the outer ear with tubing that routes the sound down into the ear canal via a custom-fit earmold or an ear tip that doesn’t block the entire ear canal opening. BTE styles are available in different colors to match hair or skin tone, as well as flashier designs to highlight personal flair.
Different sizes of hearing aids accommodate different features, exterior control options and battery sizes. Larger hearing aids, whether ITE or BTE style, accommodate more buttons, more interior circuitry and larger batteries that may be needed for to meet power consumption requirements. While many people choose discreet ITE and BTE styles that largely go unnoticed when worn, others enjoy showing off the cool colors they’ve chosen!
When selecting hearing aids, individuals should consider not only appearance, but also dexterity and lifestyle preferences.
Common ITE Styles - Small to Large
Invisible in the Canal (IIC) or Completely in the Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids
IIC and CIC styles are the tiniest hearing aids made. They fit very deeply in the ear canal, allowing the wearer to benefit from the pinna’s natural resonance and localization characteristics. They are typically fit for mild or moderate hearing losses and offer high cosmetic appeal as they’re nearly invisible when worn. Because of their small size, they don’t usually come with any manual controls, like volume controls or program buttons. Unfortunately, the deep positioning also makes these styles the most susceptible to damage from ear wax and moisture in the ear canal. IIC and CIC styles are only practical for individuals with good dexterity because they have the smallest batteries and can be tricky to remove and insert.
In the Canal (ITC) Hearing Aids
ITC hearing aids sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them comfortable and easy to use. Because they’re slightly larger than IIC and CIC styles, they have a longer battery life and can fit a wider range of hearing losses. Their size also allows them to host additional features such as directional microphones for better understanding in noisy environments and manual controls, like a volume wheel.
Low Profile Hearing Aids
Low profile instruments range from half shell designs that fill half the bowl of the outer ear to designs that fill almost the entire outer ear bowl. Like ITC styles, low profile designs are large enough to enable the addition of features such as directional microphones and manual controls, such as a volume wheel and a push-button for changing programs. The size of a low profile style makes it desirable for people with dexterity issues because it is easier to handle than the smaller sizes.
Common BTE Styles - Small to Large
Mini BTE with Slim Tube and Tip
Mini BTE styles are designed to hide behind the outer ear and have ultra-thin tubing to discreetly route sound into the ear. The tubing typically connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal but doesn’t occlude it. The result is a natural, open feeling as airflow and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip. This is known as “open fitting” and is recommended for mild to moderate high frequency losses. This style is so popular that more occluding ear tips have become available in order to accommodate a greater degree of hearing loss.
Receiver in the Ear (RITE) or Receiver in the Canal (RIC)
RITE or RIC (mini RITE or mini RIC) hearing aid styles are BTEs that have the speaker built into the ear tip instead of the main body of the hearing aid. Thus, the speaker of the hearing aid rests in the ear canal but the microphone and processor sit in a tiny case behind the ear. They are connected by a thin wire. The ear tip is larger to accommodate the speaker but if it malfunctions due to wax or moisture damage, it can often be replaced at the hearing aid center instead of going to the manufacturer for repair.
BTE with Earmold
BTE styles that come with earmolds can fit any type of hearing loss, from mild to profound. Their longer shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can generally house more features, controls and power than any other style of hearing aid. Because the sensitive electrical components rest behind the ear, they are usually less susceptible to moisture or wax damage, requiring less frequent repairs. The custom-fit earmold can be ordered in a variety of colors and styles. The tubing that connects the earmold, as well as the earmold itself, can be cleaned and replaced over time. The BTE with earmold style is commonly used for children because the BTE can be reprogrammed as needed and the earmold can be replaced as the child grows.
Inside-The-Ear (ITE) hearing aids sit discreetly inside the ear canal, so you'll be the only one who knows why you're hearing so well.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids rest comfortably behind the ear, with a clear plastic tube that directs amplified sound into a mold inside your ear canal.
Choosing the Perfect Solution
Once a hearing test shows that you need hearing aids, you need to consider what is the ideal hearing aids for you – both acoustically and visually. Our Hearing Healthcare Specialist will make some recommendations and you may try out different solutions before making your choice. Read our guide to the different types of hearing aids here.
Discreetly Behind the Ear
The majority of hearing aids users choose a behind-the-ear model. They are very light, very small and almost invisible when you wear them.
Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids Come in Two Variations
With Receiver in the Ear
Receiver in the ear hearing aids are also known as “RITE.” The sound is sent via a discreet, hair-fine wireto the receiver seated in the ear canal, close to the eardrum. A small bud or individually moulded earpiece holds the loudspeaker in place.
With Sound Tube
The sound passes through a tube to an individual earpiece that is perfectly adapted to your ear. You will also find them under the names “BTE” or “Power.” They have a larger battery than RITE-solutions and can accommodate a larger amplifier, which makes them more powerful and well suited for people with severe hearing loss.
Call SMA Today @ 781-7200 to explore all our behind-the-ear solutions and their wide range of styles and colours in our Style Guide.
Invisible in the ear
Hearing aids placed in the ear canal are customized to the individual shape of your ear are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss – not severe hearing loss. The shape and size of your ear canal determines if you’re able to use these types of hearing aids and also how visible they are.
There are 3 Variants of In-the-Ear Models
Placed in further in the ear canal
Invisible in the canal (IIC)
Sits deep in the ear canal
In-the ear (ITE)
Sits in the visible part of the ear
One or two hearing aids?
When both ears work together we hear best. Here is why.
Our hearing was conceived by nature for two ears. If we close one ear, we can still hear a sound, but only two ears make us able to detect where the sound is coming from. If you have a hearing loss on both ears, it always makes sense to choose two hearing instruments. Speech will be heard more clearly and with less effort especially in noisy environment.
You will understand speech and other important sounds even better, if you even choose two hearing aids with so-called binaural technology. In this solution, the left and right hearing aids exchange information with each other via a wireless connection, which creates a natural experience replicating the directional hearing.
Here is How a Hearing Aid Works Step-by-Step
- Microphones pick up sounds
- Sounds are analyzed by the processing chip
- Processed sounds are sent to the amplifier
- Amplified sounds are sent to the loudspeaker
- Sounds are transmitted by the loudspeaker into the inner ear, via tubing in an ear mould in the ear canal, or via a thin wire to a receiver in the ear
- In the inner ear, the sounds are transformed into electrical impulses
- Impulses are picked up by the brain where they are processed