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Which Style is Right For You?


By Tara Hartman, AuD, Audiologist, Audiology Consultants, P.C.

Have you ever picked up a brochure on hearing aids? Have you seen an ad for them on TV or in a magazine? How many people have you seen wearing hearing aids and the devices all looked different? Once you start exploring hearing aids, you will find that there are many shapes and sizes out there and it can be confusing! So what are the differences between all those styles and how do you know which style might work best for you? Hopefully, I can help straighten out some of the confusion. Although there is always an exception, there are three main types of hearing aids: custom, behind-the-ear, and receiver-in-canal.

Custom Hearing Aids
The first style is a custom hearing aid. This style is a single piece and is formed from an impression of the ear. Custom hearing aids come in four main sizes: invisible-in-canal, completely-in-canal, in-the-canal, and in-the-ear.

The smallest size, invisible-in-canal (IIC), requires a very deep impression.  It is worn deep in the ear canal so it is not visible when viewing the external ear. Only a small percentage of people qualify for this hearing aid because the ear canal is often too small.

Slightly larger is the completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid. Typically, this style is hard to see when viewing the external ear; but, in some cases, a portion of the hearing aid can be seen in the ear canal. However, it does not stick out of the canal as much as the next size does.

The next size up is in-the-canal (ITC). Most of the hearing aid fills up the ear canal but it also fills up the bottom portion of the bowl of the ear. It is more easily seen when viewing the ear and can stick out slightly or fill up the whole bottom of the ear. It is sometimes referred to as a half-shell.

The largest custom mold is called an in-the-ear (ITE) or a full-shell. It is easily seen when viewing the ear and fills up the whole bowl of the ear. 

Smaller hearing aids are more cosmetically appealing but can lack in comfort and features. Larger hearing aids tend to have more power, technology features and controls, and more battery life due to the ability to house a larger battery.

Behind-The-Ear Hearing Aids
Behind-the-ear hearing aids are often referred to as BTEs. There are two parts that attach together to make up the hearing aid. The hearing aid itself sits on top of the ear and is connected with a thin tube to an earmold or preformed tip. Like the custom hearing aids, BTEs also come in a variety of sizes. Larger hearing aids are usually more powerful and easier to handle. They have larger batteries and more optional controls verses the smaller BTE styles.

Receiver-In-Canal Hearing Aids
Receiver-in-canal, or RIC, is part behind the ear and part in the ear. The receiver or speaker of the hearing aid is housed deep in the ear canal, while the main electronics and microphone are behind the ear. RIC hearing aids fit a large range of hearing losses but are best suited for people with high frequency hearing loss. The housing behind the ear can be very tiny and difficult to see and a thin, nearly transparent wire runs down into the ear canal and attaches to the speaker. They have grown quite popular due to their discreteness and versatility.

So which one is best for you? This is where an audiologist can be very helpful. Based on your hearing loss, activity level, finger dexterity, eye sight, and other factors, the audiologist can help direct you towards the best fit. No one hearing aid is right for everybody and selecting the right hearing aid from the start will prevent a lot of hassle in the future. Before you can talk hearing aids though, you need to start with a good diagnostic hearing test. Contact your audiologist to set up an appointment and you will be on the right track to selecting the right hearing aid.

For more information, call Audiology Consultants, PC, at 563-355-7712 or visit www.audiologyconsultants.com.

Photo credit: kzenon/iStock