Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aids come in a variety of styles, each having its advantages and limitations. Selecting a style that is right for you depends on several factors, including the type and severity of your hearing loss, the size and shape of your ear, your personal and cosmetic preferences, and how well you can handle the device. Below are several common styles of hearing aids:
Open-Ear Hearing Aids:
Open-Ear hearing aids are often housed in a miniature case that fits behind your ear. The sound travels through a discrete, ultra-thin tube that loops over the top of the ear and enters the ear canal invisibly. In most cases, depending on the anatomy of the ear, a soft rubber tip is placed at the end of the thin tube to provide an excellent fit and direct the sound into your ear properly. For those who desire a more secure fit, a lightweight custom earpiece can be used instead of a rubber dome.
Patients who wear open-ear devices report that their voice sounds more natural because the ear canal is left open to the air. The amount of biological noise (chewing, breathing, swallowing) the person hears is dramatically reduced. This style of hearing aid is known as a “hybrid” way of hearing; it provides a more natural sound quality.
Open-ear hearing aids are also cosmetically appealing because the hearing aid is small and the thin tubing virtually disappears with the contour of the ear. These instruments are appropriate for people with high-pitch hearing loss. This style can also be adapted for people with up to a severe amount of hearing loss by simply modifying the earpiece so it’s less open to driving more sound into the ear. This option allows most individuals with hearing loss to choose a small, lightweight, cosmetically appealing hearing solution.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids:
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids fit snuggly and comfortably behind your ear. The hearing aid is attached to your ear by a custom ear mold that is made to the exact shape of your ear. The custom ear mold directs the sound from the hearing aid into your ear and provides retention to keep the hearing aid in place.
People with a wide range of hearing losses (from mild to profound) can use these BTE hearing aids. Because the electronics are housed behind (and not in) the ear, they tend to be the most durable hearing aid style, as they are protected from exposure to ear wax and moisture within the ear canal. BTE hearing aids need less repair and have a longer life expectancy. They can be worn comfortably with or without eyeglasses.
In-The-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids:
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom designed and fit completely into your ear, filling most of the visible portion. All of the components are housed completely in your ear. There are no external wires or tubes and these hearing aids are very lightweight. With a proper fit, they are comfortable and secure. ITE hearing aids can be worn by people with mild to moderately-severe hearing loss. They are also great for patients who have issues with dexterity and arthritis.
In-The-Canal (ITC) Hearing Aids:
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are also custom designed. They are smaller in size and fit more deeply into the ear canal, making them less visible than the in-the-ear style. All of the components are housed within the aid. However, because they are smaller in size, they can only be used by people who have a more mild to moderate hearing loss.
Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids:
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are custom devices that fit the deepest into the ear canal and are therefore the least visible style. Due to its small size, the wearer must have good dexterity to handle the smaller size of the aid and the batteries. Since they fit so deeply into the ear, there is a greater risk of breakdown due to exposure to ear wax and moisture. This style of aid tends to require frequent repairs and has a shorter overall life expectancy than other styles of hearing aids. However, CIC hearing aids may reduce the problems of wind noise and feedback (whistling) on the telephone. CIC hearing aids can be worn by individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.
CROS/BICROS Hearing Aids:
A CROS hearing aid is an option for people who have normal hearing in one ear, and very little or no hearing in the other ear.
A BICROS hearing aid is an option for people with little or no hearing in one ear and hearing loss in the other.
The hearing aid is worn on the ear with the better hearing and an additional device is worn on the poorer ear. This allows the person to pick up sound in the poorer ear and hear it in the better ear. In other words, the sound from the poor ear is wirelessly transmitted to the better ear. These options provide better sound awareness for sounds occurring on the poor ear side.