What type of hearing aid should I get?

There are many different types of hearing aids. Each type has its own advantages and limitations. Selecting a hearing aid that’s right for you depends on a number of factors, including:

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

Many of the latest hearing aids are rechargeable. You can even connect them to smartphones and other devices using Bluetooth® technology.

How many types of hearing aids are there?

Healthcare providers categorize hearing aids into five types: behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE), receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), in-the-canal (ITC) and CROS/BiCROS.

Behind-the-ear (BTE)

Behind-the-ear (BTE) devices are appropriate for people with a wide range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. This device fits neatly behind your ear. The body of the hearing aid attaches to a custom ear mold or thin tubing. Because this device has several parts, manual dexterity is necessary to ensure proper insertion and placement.

In-the-ear (ITE)

In-the-ear (ITE) devices fill either your entire ear (known as full-shell) or a portion of the bowl (known as half-shell) of your ear. These are best for people who may have dexterity issues or difficulty handling small items. Providers often recommend ITE devices for people with moderate to severe hearing loss.

Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE)

Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids are similar to BTE devices. The body of a RITE hearing aid sits behind your ear. A thin receiver wire extends from the body of the hearing aid over your outer ear and into your ear canal. A soft tip sits just inside of your ear canal without sealing it. For many people, this offers a more natural sound. RITE devices require manual dexterity. They’re appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss.

In-the-canal (ITC)

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids fit more deeply into your ear canal than ITE hearing aids, so they’re typically less visible. Because of their smaller size, they use smaller batteries and may be more difficult to handle. Depending on your situation, you may even qualify for completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids. These devices fit deeper into the ear canal so they’re even less visible.

CROS/BiCROS

Your healthcare provider may recommend a CROS/BiCROS hearing aid if you have normal hearing or minimal hearing loss in one ear, and very little or no usable hearing in the other ear. You wear the hearing aid on the better hearing side, and you wear an additional microphone on the poorer hearing side. This allows you to hear from the poorer side — even though it delivers all sounds to your better ear. These devices are especially beneficial when someone is talking on the side of the poorer ear. CROS stands for “Contralateral Routing of Signals.” BiCROS stands for “Bilateral Contralateral Routing of Signals.”

Can I purchase hearing aids over the counter?

On August 16, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled to improve access to hearing aids by making a new category for over-the-counter devices. As a result of this historic ruling, people will be able to purchase hearing aids over the counter as soon as fall of 2022.

Over-the-counter hearing aids will be appropriate for many people with mild to moderate hearing loss. But if you have severe to profound hearing loss or complex hearing conditions, you’ll need to see a healthcare provider for appropriate testing, diagnosis and treatment.

Which type of hearing aid battery should I choose?

Hearing aid batteries come in disposable and rechargeable. Disposable batteries — which look like little buttons — aren’t that common anymore.

Most new hearing aids run on rechargeable batteries. Similar to smartphones and other Bluetooth devices, you simply place hearing aids with rechargeable batteries on a charger when you’re not using them. Some even come with a convenient docking station.

What’s the best type of hearing aid for my condition?

There are so many types of hearing aids on the market, selecting the one that’s right for you can feel overwhelming. The good news is that your healthcare provider can help you choose a device based on your specific health condition and situation, including the best type of hearing aid for:

  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears).
  • Meniere’s disease (a condition in which swelling and pressure in your inner ear cause balance or hearing issues).
  • High-frequency hearing loss.
  • Low-frequency hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss (caused by damage to your inner ear).
  • Mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Severe hearing loss.
  • Profound hearing loss.
  • People with limited manual dexterity.

What if hearing aids don’t work for me?

For some people, hearing aids aren’t sufficient. If you have severe or profound hearing loss, you may have better success with cochlear implants or bone-anchored auditory implants. Ask your healthcare provider about treatment options.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you have hearing loss that’s interfering with your quality of life, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can establish the extent of your hearing loss and determine whether hearing aids could help.

If you already have hearing aids, be sure to get them checked by an audiologist at least twice a year. An audiologist is a healthcare provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing loss, balance disorders and more. You should also have your hearing tested whenever you notice new symptoms or a change in hearing.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

If you’re considering hearing aids, here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Will a hearing aid really help improve my hearing loss?
  • What type of hearing aid(s) do you recommend?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you’re considering hearing aids, there are several types to choose from. Ask your healthcare provider or audiologist about your options. They can help you find a hearing aid that’s tailored to your specific needs so you can live a fuller life.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/12/2022.

References

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. How to Find the Right Hearing Aid for You. (https://www.enthealth.org/be_ent_smart/how-to-find-the-right-hearing-aid-for-you/) Accessed 9/12/2022.
  • Manchaiah V, Picou EM, Bailey A, et al. Consumer Ratings of the Most Desirable Hearing Aid Attributes. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34965600/) J Am Acad Audiol. 2021 Sep;32(8):537-546. Accessed 9/12/2022.
  • National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. Hearing Aids. (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-aids) Accessed 9/12/2022.
  • U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA Finalizes Historic Rule Enabling Access to Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for Millions of Americans. (https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-finalizes-historic-rule-enabling-access-over-counter-hearing-aids-millions-americans) Accessed 9/12/2022.
  • U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Types of Hearing Aids. (https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/hearing-aids/types-hearing-aids) Accessed 9/12/2022.

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