Hearing aids are a godsend to millions of Americans with hearing loss. They can restore the ability to communicate, and prevent anger, depression and social isolation from creeping in. Today’s digital devices are smaller than ever, and packed with features and options unavailable just a few years ago. Choosing the right hearing aid can be a challenging task, and is dependent upon a number of different factors including your type and degree of hearing loss, cosmetic preferences, and lifestyle.
While all hearing aids work by amplifying sounds, there are many different styles available in a variety of sizes. Some are worn internally, while others fit outside the ear. The basic types of hearing aids available include:
CIC (Completely In the Canal)
These small devices are worn completely in the ear canal. Crafted from a custom mold, they adhere perfectly to the contours of your ear for a snug fit and excellent sound quality. Their size and placement make them virtually invisible, but they lack extra features and the batteries tend to wear out sooner. Ideal for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
ITC (In The Canal)
Custom-made devices that, like the CIC, are based on an impression of your ear canal. The components are housed in a plastic shell and, because they’re a little larger than CIC styles, their controls are easier to adjust, battery life is better, and they are easier to insert and remove. The tradeoff? They’re a little more visible. Perfect for patients with mild to moderate hearing loss.
IIC (Invisible In the Canal)
Another custom molded hearing aid similar to a CIC device, but even smaller. Placed deeper in your ear canal, these instruments provide an excellent fit and a clear and natural sound quality. These are completely hidden from view, but their tiny size makes them susceptible to damage from earwax and moisture. Best for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
ITE (In The Ear)
These custom-molded instruments are worn in the outer ear. While they are more noticeable than those placed in the ear canal, their larger size means they can accommodate a variety of features not found on other units, including easier to adjust controls. Because the batteries are larger, they last longer, and are easier to handle – something those with dexterity issues should consider. These are appropriate for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
RITE (Receiver In The Ear)
This unit is essentially a larger version of an ITC device. Also similar to an ITE, the unit includes a tiny casing that houses the electronic components. This portion sits behind the ear and is attached to the receiver, which fits in the bowl-shaped portion of the outer ear, by a transparent tube. It can be used with standard or custom ear molds, and delivers sound quality that is extremely natural. Best suited for those with mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
BTE (Behind The Ear)
This style of hearing aid features a curved casing that hooks over your ear and rests comfortably behind it. A transparent tube with miniature wires runs from the device to a custom ear mold placed in your ear canal. These hearing aids are larger and more visible than others, but are easy to wear and comfortable, and are a popular choice with children. They tend to be economical, and can be worn by everybody, as they are appropriate for all degrees of hearing loss.
Open Fit Hearing Aids
Similar to BTE hearing devices, but smaller. There is a case that fits behind the ear and a transparent tube, but this style lacks an ear mold, keeping the ear canal open. Their smaller size makes them less visible, but because the tip of the tube leaves the ear canal open, feedback is a concern, and low frequency sounds may flow in and out of the ear without being amplified. These are best for people with mild to moderate hearing loss in the high-frequency range.
Lyric is the brand name for the first-ever extended wear hearing aid. This device is implanted deep in the ear canal, rendering it completely invisible, and is worn continuously for up to 4 months at a time. There are no batteries to change, and sound quality is especially clear and natural. Lyric is kept in place during all normal activities, including exercising, showering, and sleeping, making it an ideal choice for people who lead active lifestyles. Best for those with mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
Hearing aids are a great solution for many, but those with certain types of hearing loss can’t benefit from wearing them. For these patients, additional options such as cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing aids, and assisted listening devices may help. It’s best to consult your audiologist for assistance in finding the perfect hearing device for your unique needs.