HEARING AID STYLES

Hearing aids come in a variety of sizes, colors, types, and technology. The two basic hearing aid styles are Behind-The-Ear and In-The-Ear. Not all hearing aid styles are appropriate for every type and magnitude of loss. Below is a description of each style, along with some advantages and considerations when choosing a hearing aid.

Open Fit

Open fit hearing aids are appropriate for individuals with a mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss (normal hearing in the low frequencies). This style hearing aid leaves the ear canal open, or unoccluded allowing for natural low frequency hearing to enter the ear canal. 

open fit BTE hearing aid in a patients ear

Advantages:

  • Reduction in the occlusion effect (occlusion effect: when your ears are plugged up, it can sound as if you head is "in a barrel," and/or your own voice may sound "hollow.")
  • Increased comfort
  • Good sound quality
  • Less noticeable than other styles

Receiver in the Ear (RITE)

RITE hearing aids are similar to open fit hearing aids, but they have the receiver in the ear canal instead of in the case of the hearing aid. By placing the receiver in the ear canal, it allows the hearing aid to be smaller.

Receiver in the ear style hearing aid

Advantages:

  • A smoother frequency response can occur because the receiver is in the ear canal
  • Appropriate for individuals with a wider range of hearing loss compared to open fit hearing aids, due to a wider frequency fitting range
  • They can be fit for individuals who have a hearing loss in the low and high frequencies

Remote Microphone

Remote microphone hearing aids are also relatively new to the market. Similar to the open fit design, this style hearing aid is not appropriate for every type and magnitude of hearing loss.

remote microphone hearing aid

Advantages:

  • The hearing aid sits in the curve of the ear, with no part of the instrument behind the ear
  • The ear canal is left unoccluded
  • The microphone is positioned in such a way to take advantage of the natural contours of the ear


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Behind the Ear (BTE)

The electrical components of the instrument (microphone, amplifier, receiver) are housed in a compact case that tucks behind the ear. Sound is delivered to the ear canal through a clear tube over the top of the ear and into a custom-made acrylic/silicone earmold.

behind the ear (BTE) style hearing aid with earmold

Advantages:

  • Most come standard with a telecoil switch (reduces interference on the telephone and is compatible with loop systems in many auditorium halls)
  • Available in a variety of colors to blend with skin or hair
  • Provides the best performance for severe hearing losses
  • Extremely sturdy and reliable; also highly recommended for children
  • Typically uses a larger battery (size 675 or 13) for longer battery life and easier manipulation
  • Larger controls that are easier for some people to adjust

Considerations:

  • Requires the ability to insert earmold and to control telephone switch
  • Earmold needs regular maintenance and may need yearly replacement
CIC, ITC, and ITE style hearing aids

In-The-Ear (ITE)

Electrical components of this instrument (microphone, amplifier, receiver) fit into a shell custom made to fit inside the ear. An ITE device may be more visible in the ear, though there are several types of ITE hearing aids, such as a Compeltely in the Canal (CIC), and In the Canal (ITC).

ITE style hearing aid in the ear

Advantages:

  • More space for venting to reduce the occasional sensation of occlusion so your own voice will sound better
  • Somewhat larger and can be easier to handle.
  • Optional telecoil switch

In the Canal (ITC)

The canal style provides a very cosmetic solution that can be hidden in most ears.

Advantages:

  • Uses a slightly larger battery (size 312) than the CIC for battery economy
  • Optional telecoil switch


ITC hearing aid in the ear
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CIC in the ear

Completely in the Canal (CIC)

The completely-in-the-canal is the one of the smallest styles available.

Advantages:

  • Excellent cosmetics-- almost invisible in the ear
  • Comfortable and convenient telephone usage
  • Takes advantage of the ear's own natural sound-collecting design
  • Less wind noise

Considerations:

  • Uses a very small battery (size 10) that requires good manual dexterity
  • Battery life is typically less than a week
  • CIC style may not be suitable for all hearing losses or ear sizes
  • Collects ear wax/blockage more than other styles since it fits further down in the ear canal; it is therefore more susceptible to breaking down and needing repair

Invisible In the Canal (IIC)

This style is a custom product that is designed to be completely hidden within the ear canal.

Advantages:

  • Excellent cosmetics-- most invisible custom in the ear hearing aid available
  • Comfortable and convenient telephone usage
  • Takes advantage of the ear's own natural sound-collecting design
  • Less wind noise

Considerations:

  • Uses a very small battery (size 10) that requires good manual dexterity
  • Battery life is typically less than a week
  • IIC style may not be suitable for all hearing losses or ear sizes
  • Collects ear wax/blockage more than other styles since it fits further down in the ear canal; it is therefore more susceptible to breaking down and needing repair
IIC In Ear Revised 4.22.10.jpg

Cros Hearing Aids

Photo from www.phonak.com

Photo from www.phonak.com

CROS

For individuals with no residual hearing in one ear and normal hearing in the other ear, there is a device called a CROS (contralateral routing of signals). A microphone is worn on the impaired ear. FM transmitters then route the sound to an amplifier and receiver worn on the better ear.

 

Photo from www.phonak.com

Photo from www.phonak.com

BICROS

For those individuals with no residual hearing in one ear and a mild to moderate loss in the other ear, there is a device called a BiCROS (Binaural Contralateral Routing of Signals). A microphone is worn on the non-aidable ear and sound is routed by FM transmitters to a microphone amplifier and receiver worn on the better ear, which also acts as a hearing aid.


Advantages of CROS and BiCROS hearing devices:

  • Sounds toward the impaired ear can be heard without turning the ear towards the source
  • Provides cues for locating the direction of sound
  • Restores a sense of balance
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