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 devices

These devices are appropriate for people with a wide range of hearing losses from mild to a profound hearing loss. The device fits neatly behind the ear and requires coupling to a custom ear mold, thin tubing or a speaker wire. Because this aid has several parts, sufficient manual dexterity is necessary to ensure proper insertion and placement.

Open behind-the-ear devices

The open ear hearing aid consists of a miniature behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing device coupled to either an ultra-thin tube or small speaker that is fit with a soft tip and sits in the ear canal. In most cases, there is no custom piece that fits into your ear canal. The open devices offer more natural sounds but may be not be an option depending on the severity of the hearing loss.

Traditional behind-the-ear devices

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are housed in a curved case that is coupled to either custom ear mold that is made to the exact shape of your ear or a thin tube fit with a small plastic dome. 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. Because the components are housed outside of the ear, they tend to be the most durable.

Custom In-the-ear devices

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom designed and fit directly into your ear. They come in different sizes that fill more or less 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-ear (ITE)

These devices either fill your entire ear (known as full-shell) or a portion of the bowl (known as half-shell) of your ear. These are best used for individuals who may have dexterity issues and have trouble handling small items. More severe hearing losses can be fit with this style.


In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids fit more deeply into the ear canal than ITE hearing aids. They are typically less visible than in-the-ear hearing aids. Because of their smaller size they use smaller batteries and may be more difficult to handle – requiring better fine motor control.


Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit deeper into the ear canal so they are even less visible. 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. 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 need repairs more often and has a shorter overall life expectancy than the other hearing aid styles. Many CICs cannot be connected to Smartphones or other connective devices.

CROS/BiCROS hearing aid

CROS/BiCROS hearing aid is sometimes used when a person has normal hearing or aidable hearing loss in one ear, and very little or no usable hearing 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 hear from the poorer side – even though all sound will be delivered to the better ear. These devices are especially beneficial when someone is talking on the side of the poorer ear; however, location of sound is still compromised.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/23/2019.

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