When looking for a hearing aid that will genuinely improve your hearing, there are many characteristics to be aware of. There are several styles available, and with the help of a hearing healthcare professional (HHP) you can find the type that functions the best for you. Furthermore, as technology improves new hearing aids are being created every day (see Earlens hearing aid) that offer a sleeker and more refined appearance and functionality.
Although a HHP will give you a full and complete list of the different styles of hearing aids during counselling, you can do some research beforehand to get a feel of what options are available to you. The styles vary in size, price, placement, and other features.
A completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid is the smallest and best concealed type. It is molded to fit perfectly inside your ear canal and is used for moderate hearing loss in adults. This style is useful because of its size and lesser chance of picking up wind interference, but its smaller and weaker batteries can be troublesome. Although comfortable and less visible, a CIC is very simple and at times hard to handle.
Similar to the CIC, an in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is custom molded to guarantee a good fit and performs for the same type of hearing loss. Unlike the CIC, however, the ITC fits only partly in the ear canal and is slightly more visible, although still well concealed. It includes some features not available on the smaller CIC, but shares the same battery and earwax clogging issues that the CIC has.
An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is available in two styles. One style is made to fit in the whole outer ear and the other is designed to fit in only the lower part. The ITE is used by people with mild to severe hearing loss and is significantly larger and less concealed than the smaller styles. This allows for extra features such as volume control and has a longer battery life, but it is still prone to earwax clogging and is more likely to pick up wind noise.
The behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid hooks over the top and rests behind your ear. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earmold that fits in your ear canal. This style is usable by all ages and for almost any type of hearing loss. It is known for being the largest style of hearing aid, but recent designs are smaller and more easily concealed. It is capable of more amplification than other smaller styles but it is even more susceptible to wind interference.
A receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) is similar to the BTE except for the tiny wire in a RIC that replaces the tubing of a BTE. This style is less visible but more likely to be clogged by earwax than the BTE.
The last of the common styles is an open-fit hearing aid, which is similar to the BTE. A good choice for people with moderate hearing loss, this style keeps the ear canal open in order to allow low-frequency sounds to enter naturally and amplifies high-frequency sound through the hearing aid. It is little more difficult to handle because of the small size, but is less visible and allows for your voice to sounds more natural to you. Despite these many differences, all styles of hearing aids perform for the same purpose, and the one that is best for you depends on your preference and the guidance of a HHP.