types of hearing aids

What are the types of hearing aids?

Hearing aids vary a great deal in price, size, special features, how they are placed in the ear and how visible they are when you wear them. On this page, you will find a general overview of the different types of hearing aids. 

Ready to improve your hearing but not sure what type of hearing aid is best for you? You’ve come to the right place. This quick guide breaks down the basics of hearing aid types and the factors you should consider when choosing the best hearing aid for your lifestyle.

 

There are several in-the-ear hearing aid types available. They all fit directly in the ear, so it is important to get the right shape and fit for optimum comfort and sound quality. In-the-ear hearing aids are often custom-made for you, so they fit your ear perfectly.

These types of hearing aids are suitable for nearly all types of hearing loss. As there are no external wires or tubes, these devices can be more discreet.

There are five kinds of in-the-ear hearing aids, ranging from the invisible-in-canal to the full-shell type of hearing aid. The smallest style is completely hidden inside the canal of the ear. The largest fits completely inside the outer bowl of the ear, with a small portion extending into the ear canal to direct sound.

Features and benefits

What makes ITE hearing aids special? Options vary by make and model, but here are a few reasons why people choose them:

  • Discreet and less noticeable than other hearing aid types, some custom hearing aids can be ordered in skin tones

  • May be easier to handle for people with limited dexterity

  • Can accommodate telecoil, volume control and other extra features

  • Many are molded to fit your ear exactly

Note: This type of hearing aid may be more susceptible to wind noise. Also, keep an eye out for damage from earwax and moisture in the ear. Interested in more information?

  • Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids

     

    Invisible in-the-canal hearing aidsThese types of hearing aids (IIC) are the smallest hearing aids available. They offer the ultimate discretion, as they are custom-made to fit inside your ear canal making them almost, if not completely, invisible. Tiny cords extend from this type of hearing aid, so you can remove them easily.

    These hearing aid types can adapt automatically to the sound environment, so there is no need to touch them or adjust settings throughout the day. Due to their size, they do not have a directional microphone that helps enhance the sounds that you need to hear, while reducing background noise.

    People with limited dexterity may find these types of hearing aids challenging to insert/remove, adjust and change batteries because they are so small, but this style is popular with people who prefer a more discreet type of hearing aid.

    Due to the positioning of this hearing aid type, they can be vulnerable to earwax and moisture buildup, so it is important to ensure there is adequate ventilation when wearing them. However, because of the small size of this type of hearing aid, they are idea for minimizing wind noise.

    Speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance on IIC hearing aids.

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  • Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids

     

    in-the-canal hearing aidsFor many years, the completely-in-the-canal type of hearing aid (CIC) was the smallest aid available (before the invisible-in-the-canal hearing aid came on the market).

    The completely-in-the-canal hearing aid styles are custom-designed to fit discreetly just inside the ear canal. Most CIC hearing aid types are not easily noticeable to people you encounter throughout the day. The slightly larger size may accommodate an optional button that allows you to manually control settings for different environments. The only things visible are the device's face plate and battery drawer.

    Due to the positioning of this hearing aid type, they can also be vulnerable to earwax and moisture, so it is important to ensure there is adequate ventilation when you wear them.

    Speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance on CIC hearing aid types.

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  • In-the-canal hearing aids

     

    In-the-canal hearing aidsThe in-the-canal type of hearing aid (ITC) is slightly larger than completely-in-the-canal hearing aids.

    They fit the lower third of your external ear and are custom-molded to fit your ear. This hearing aid type has a slightly longer battery life than other in-the-ear styles, and features wireless streaming and a directional microphone. Having a directional microphone is a big advantage, because it enhances sounds that you need to hear (such as speech), while diminishing background noise.

    These hearing aids are rather discreet, but somewhat more noticeable than completely-in-the-canal and invisible-in-the-canal hearing aid types. These types of hearing aids offer complete discretion, but may not handle noisy environments or offer as powerful amplification as well as larger styles of aids.

    These types of hearing aids are easy to insert and remove and are a great choice for push-button controls.

    Speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance on ITC hearing aid types.

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  • In-the-ear half shell hearing aids

    In the-ear half shell hearing aidsThe in-the-ear half shell hearing aid (ITE half shell) type is designed to fit half of your external ear. The shell of the hearing aid is made to fit the shape of your ear. Depending on the size of your ear, these types of hearing aids can be relatively discreet.

    Half-shell hearing aids can offer a longer battery life than the in-the-canal hearing aid type, because they are slightly larger. They are suitable for anyone with a more severe hearing loss and are a good option if you want an easy-to-handle device.

    Due to their slightly larger size, ITE half shell hearing aids can have additional features compared to the in-the canal, completely-in-the-canal and invisible-in-the-canal types of hearing aids.

    Speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance on half shell hearing aid types.

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  • In-the-ear full shell hearing aids

    In-the-ear full shell hearing aidsThe full shell hearing aid type (ITE full shell) is designed to fit all of your external ear. These types of hearing aids are the largest of the custom hearing aids and have the largest amplifier, which allows for a stronger gain. The shell of the hearing aid is made to fit the shape of your ear. Depending on the size of your ear, these hearing aid types can still be relatively discreet and are the easiest in-the-ear type of hearing aid to insert or remove.

    The half shell hearing aids have a longer battery life than the in-the-canal hearing aid types, because they are slightly larger. They are suitable for individuals with a more severe hearing loss, as they have larger amplifiers, and are a good option if you want an easy-to-handle device.

    Due to their slightly larger size, ITE full shell hearing aids may have additional features compared to the in-the canal, completely-in-the-canal and invisible-in-the-canal types of hearing aids.

    Speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance on full shell hearing aid types.

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Behind-the-ear hearing aids are perfect for users with a more severe hearing loss or smaller ear canals. All the components in these types of hearing aids are housed behind the ear with a clear tube that connects the hearing aid to an earpiece that fits in your ear canal.

These types of hearing aids are sleeker and slimmer than older, more traditional models, and are great for people with less dexterity or visual impairment. Although not invisible, they are discreet and tastefully designed so that a small package can carry powerful minicomputers for your ears. With this type of hearing aid, you can choose from a range of colors for the "housing." 

There are three types of hearing aids that sit behind your ears: BTE, RIC/RITE and Open Fit. Below you will find an overview of each kind.

Features and benefits

While options vary by make and model, here are some of the reasons why this type of hearing aid is the most popular with HearingLife's patrons. BTEs tend to be:

  • Capable of more amplification than other hearing aid types, and offer a longer battery life

  • More comfortable for users who don't want something fit deep within the ear canal

  • Less vulnerable to moisture and wax buildup

  • Some models come with rechargeable batteries


  • Receiver-in-the-ear

    Receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid types are considerably smaller than traditional behind-the-ear hearing aids. These types of hearing aids are referred to as RITE or sometimes RIC (receiver-in-the-canal). HearingLife's professionals recommend this style most often because of its discreet size and ability to keep the ear canal open, so sounds enter the ear more naturally. This allows you to hear background noises more easily, while clearly hearing the sounds that you need to hear (such as voices) amplified through the hearing aid.

    This type of hearing aid sits discreetly behind the ear and is connected by a thin wire with a speaker or receiver placed inside the opening of the ear canal for improved sound quality.

    They are less noticeable than more traditional behind-the-ear hearing aids, but can be vulnerable to moisture and earwax buildup. As the receiver is in the ear, it can be vulnerable to wax. However, since the receiver is a modular part, it can be exchanged in any of our offices and repaired quickly and easily.

    We advise you to speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance and a demonstration of this type of hearing aid.

    Read more about behind-the-ear hearing aids

     

  • Behind-the-ear hearing aids

    bte-sa-380x380-(1)This type of hearing aid (BTE) sits behind the ear and is the most versatile, as it can be an optimal choice for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss. A thin, clear tube connects this hearing aid type to an earmold that fits inside the outer ear. BTE hearing aids are robust and easy to repair. They are suitable for all types of hearing loss and ear size since the custom earmold can be replaced if needed when the ear grows (and comes in special pediatric solutions). HearingLife is pleased to offer new BTE products that come in super power (BTE SP) and ultra power (BTE UP).

    The larger size accommodates more features. Telecoil, volume and program controls are easy to manipulate, and the larger battery size provides more power.  

    Speak with your hearing care professional for more guidance on BTE hearing aids. 

    Read more about behind-the-ear hearing aids

     

  • Open-fit hearing aids

    Similar to the receiver-in-the-ear type of hearing aid, open-fit hearing aids sit behind the ear and are connected by a thin tube that directs the amplified sound down into the ear canal.

    Open-fit hearing aids keep the ear canal open, so sound enters the ear more naturally. This allows you to hear background noises more easily, while clearly hearing the sounds that you need to hear (such as voices) through the hearing aid. 

    Sometimes these models are available with convenient rechargeable batteries.

    These types of hearing aids do not require an earmold.

    Read more about behind-the-ear hearing aids

     

     

Find the right type of hearing aid for you!

Get a complimentary demonstration on different models to discover what feels right for you.
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What to consider when choosing between types of hearing aid:

1. Talk to an expert about hearing aids
Choosing the right hearing aid type can be complicated. There are several factors to consider, and it is always best to get the advice from an expert. HearingLife's professionals have vast knowledge of the different types of hearing loss and are qualified to recommend the best hearing aid type for your needs.

The process of choosing the right hearing aid starts with measuring your hearing loss with a hearing assessment.*

Tip!
For best results, partner with your local hearing care provider who can advise which models are best-suited for your specific needs. A specialized hearing center will have several hearing aid types, so you can find the optimal solution for you.

What can a hearing care provider do for you?

2. Reduce background noise
Hearing aids with background noise reduction assist the user in situations with complicated sound environments. This feature reduces the volume of loud background noise, making it easier for the user to hear important sounds like speech.

All digital hearing aids have some degree of noise reduction available. The amount of noise reduction varies from model to model.

3. No more feedback noise
Hearing aid "feedback" is an annoying, high-pitched sound. It can occur when sound coming from the hearing aid speaker goes back into the hearing aid microphone and is amplified again, causing feedback. Historically, hearing aid users have suffered from unpleasant feedback whenever they hug someone near their ear. Fortunately, new technology means that the latest types of hearing aids have dramatically reduced – and even eliminated – feedback. 

4. Rechargeable hearing aids types of hearing aids
Some hearing aids offer the convenience of rechargeable batteries built-in. An easy overnight charge allows for hassle-free maintenance by eliminating the need to replace batteries regularly.

Having a rechargeable type of hearing aid is especially helpful for those with lower dexterity. Rechargeable devices also mean that you don't have to keep spare batteries for emergencies, which is good for the environment. 

5. Hearing aids with 360-degree hearing ability

Hearing technology has developed dramatically in recent years, resulting in a new type of hearing aid that changes the way people with hearing loss experience sound. Instead of only picking up sound coming from straight ahead, these devices deliver the entire 360-degree sound environment to your brain – reducing the effort it takes you to listen – which can also reduce fatigue.

You can speak to a hearing care provider, who will listen to your requirements and provide the information you need to make the right decision for you.

6. Hearing aid types that fit your hearing loss
If you notice the signs of hearing loss in yourself or a loved one, then we encourage you to schedule a hearing assessment.* This is key to understanding the severity of your hearing loss, so your hearing care provider can advise what types of hearing aids would suit your individual needs. The appointment takes approximately one hour, and you will have the chance to ask as many questions as you need, and even try on the latest hearing aid technology. 

types of hearing aids

7. Connect your hearing aid to a Bluetooth® device
If you choose a hearing aid with Bluetooth®, you can connect it to your TV, making it possible to stream audio directly in your hearing aid.

You can also connect hearing aids to other Bluetooth® devices, such as mobile phones and music players. Bluetooth® hearing aids can also be paired with an iPhone®, and double as a wireless headset, so that you can listen to music and enjoy hands-free phone conversations.

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