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Diseases & Conditions

Hearing Aid Styles

Hearing aids come in a variety of styles. Each style has its own advantages and limitations. Selecting a style that is right for you depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The severity of your hearing loss
  • The size and shape of your ear
  • Your personal preferences
  • How well you can use your fingers and hands (manual dexterity)
  • The availability of new hearing aid technologies

Several different styles of hearing aids are described below.

Behind-the-ear

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are housed in a curved case that fits neatly and comfortably behind or over your ear. A custom ear mold is made to the exact shape of your ear. The custom ear mold is used to direct the sound from the hearing aid into your ear and to secure the hearing aid in place.

People with a wide range of hearing losses, from mild to severe, can be fitted with BTE hearing aids. Because the components are housed outside of the ear, they tend to be the most durable. BTE hearing aids need less repair and have a longer life expectancy. They can be worn easily, even by people who wear eyeglasses.

Open ear hearing devices

Open ear hearing aids are housed in a miniature case that fits over or behind your ear. In most cases, there is no custom piece that fits into your ear canal. The open ear hearing aid consists of a miniature behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing device coupled to an ultra thin tube with a soft tip that fits in the ear.

These instruments are appropriate for people with normal to near normal hearing in the low pitches, and a mild to moderately severe hearing loss in the high pitches. This hearing aid helps in reducing complaints related to loudness of a patient's own voice, or occlusion effect. With the miniature BTE case and thin tubing, this hearing aid is very cosmetically appealing. Because this aid is smaller, sufficient manual dexterity is necessary to ensure proper insertion and placement.

In-the-ear

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom designed and fit directly into your ear, filling most of the visible portion of your ear. All of the components are housed within a single plastic shell. They have no external wires or tubes, and are very light in weight. When properly made, they fit comfortably and securely in the ear. The ITE hearing aid can be used by people who have mild to moderately severe hearing losses.

In-the-canal

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom designed, smaller in size, and fit more deeply into the ear canal than in-the-ear hearing aids. They are typically less visible than in-the-ear hearing aids. All of the components are housed within a single plastic shell. Because they are smaller in size, however, they can only be used by people who have mild to moderate hearing loss.

Completely-in-the-canal

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also custom designed. They fit the deepest into the ear canal so they are the least visible. They may also reduce the problem of wind noise and feedback on the telephone.

The battery life for this style is rather short because the battery is so small. The aid's size can also make it difficult to manipulate, particularly for people who have trouble with finger and hand dexterity (because of arthritis, for example). Additionally, due to exposure to moisture and ear wax, this style of hearing aid tends to go in for repairs more often and has a shorter overall life expectancy than the other hearing aid styles.

Fitting CIC hearing aids generally involves additional appointments and remolding the casing to get the right fit. Some people may not be candidates for CIC hearing aids because of the shape of their ear canal or the severity of their hearing loss.

CROS/BI-CROS hearing aid

CROS/BI-CROS hearing aid is sometimes used when a person has normal hearing or aidable hearing loss in one ear, and very little or no hearing left in the other ear. The hearing aid is worn on the better hearing side and an additional microphone is worn on the unaidable side. This allows the person to pick up sound on the poorer side and hear it on the better side.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/23/2012...#5122