Hearing Aid Styles
A wide range of technology and a host of features are available in each hearing aid style. The cost of hearing aids generally depends on the technology and the number of features the instrument has and not necessarily on the style selected. Today's digital hearing aids are typically offered in various technology levels, such as basic, entry, advanced or premium level.
Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments, such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aid responds automatically to changes in the listener's environment, making changes based on the signals being detected by the hearing aid. The hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes. As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so does the availability of advanced features. Examples of some of the advanced features found in today's digital hearing aids are shown below.
When selecting a style the following is considered:
- The degree of the hearing loss (power requirements)
- Manual dexterity and visual abilities
- Patient budget
- Skin sensitivities
- Anatomical/medical considerations
- Lifestyle and listening needs
Styles of hearing aids
Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today's hearing aids are considered sleek, compact and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid wearers.
Hearing aids worn in the ear are usually custom-fit, based on a cast or impression of the ear. They're available in different skin tones to camouflage with the outer ear. There are several styles – each is listed below, ranging from smallest to largest.
Completely in canal (CIC)
One of the smallest custom styles, CIC instruments, fit deeply and entirely within the ear canal. They fit mild-to-moderate hearing losses and offer high cosmetic appeal, as they’re nearly invisible when worn.
In the canal (ITC)
ITC instruments sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them comfortable and easy to use. Because they’re slightly larger than CIC models, they have a longer battery life, and can host additional features such as directional microphones for better understanding in noisy environments, and controls such as volume controls. They fit mild and moderate hearing losses, but not for infants or young children.
Full shell in the ear (ITE)
ITE is the biggest form factor within custom, but is available for those with severe hearing loss. It has advanced features such as ear to ear communication, wireless connectivity, Made For Apple, etc.
Microphone in Helix (MIH)
ReSound’s Microphone-in-Helix (MIH) custom hearing aid is a solution that brings together the open fit, durability and higher gain of a BTE and mixes it with the discreet, cosmetically-appealing size and easy insertion of an ITE. Engineered to fit within the contours of the external ear, the MIH works by leveraging the natural effects of the pina and ear.
Receiver in ear (RIC)
RIC models are mini BTEs that have the speaker of the instrument incorporated in the ear tip, instead of in the main body of the instrument. RIC instruments fit mild-to-severe hearing losses. This hearing aid style looks similar to the Mini BTE when worn on the ear.
Behind the ear
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) models sit behind or on top of the outer ear, with tubing/wiring that routes sounds down into the ear that connects to an ear tip or earmold to secure them in the ear canal. BTEs come in a variety colors to blend with hair or skin tones, and even chrome colors, leopard print and other funky designs to suit personal styles. Different BTE sizes accommodate different features, controls, battery types and degrees of power (larger instruments generally have more power than smaller ones). While many people choose discreet BTEs that are unnoticeable when worn, others are tempted to show off the cool designs.