Hearing loss can significantly impact daily communication and activities. Fortunately, hearing aids provide an effective solution to improve hearing ability. There are several main types of hearing aids to consider based on your hearing loss, lifestyle needs, and preferences.
In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids place all components in a case that fills the bowl of your outer ear. Everything sits inside your ear so these hearing aids are more discreet day-to-day. But they are still vented for airflow and to amplify natural hearing ability.
ITE hearing aids come in two forms: hard plastic versions custom moulded to your exact ear shape, or the soft and flexible silicone versions that conform to your ear shape. Both work well for mild to severe hearing loss. ITE placement makes them good at reducing wind noise outdoors. The compact design means less amplification power and features compared to larger BTE styles, however.
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are both common and versatile. As you see by the name, all the components are contained in a hard plastic case that sits behind the outer ear. The case is connected by clear tubing to a earmold piece that is custom made and fits inside your ear canal.
BTE hearing aids are recommended for people with a wide range of hearing loss from mild to profound. They can accommodate additional features like telecoils and Bluetooth connectivity. The behind-the-ear placement keeps all the technology convenient and discreet. BTE hearing aids are also easy to adjust as your hearing needs evolve over time.
In-the-Canal (ITC) and Completely-In-Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids
For those wanting a very discreet hearing solution, in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit further into your ear canal. Only a small vent sticks out from your ear to aid performance and airflow. The nearly invisible appearance makes ITC and CIC hearing aids ideal if discretion is a priority in professional settings.
The trade-off is that the tiny size limits the number of additional features they can include. Also, their increased proximity to earwax and debris means more frequent repairs or replacements. Careful handling is a must. But for moderate hearing loss and lifestyle needs, ITC and CIC hearing aids can be an excellent choice.
Implantable Hearing Aids
For individuals with severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss not correctable by other hearing aids, there are implantable hearing aid options. One is the bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) with the speaker implanted under the skin behind your ear. It sends sound vibrations directly to the inner ear via the skull bone.
There are also cochlear implants that get implanted into your inner ear itself. These include externally worn processors and microphones to capture and convert sounds to electrical signals your nerves receive. Implantable devices require surgery, so they represent much more invasive and expensive treatment. But they make hearing possible for those severely impacted by things like inner ear damage or non-treatable issues that limit outer ear or middle ear functionality. Hear Clear NI can help you determine if this is a good option.
Which Hearing Aid is Right for You?
Choosing your hearing aid type depends on weighing factors of appearance, ease-of-use, lifestyle compatibility, amplification power, hearing loss severity, additional capabilities, and of course costs. Start with getting your baseline hearing tested. Then you can assess and discuss the trade-offs around different types of hearing aids with your audiologist. For example, if you want maximum discreetness and don’t mind limited features in a device needing more frequent replacement, an ITC or CIC hearing aid could be the best match. But if you need robust wireless connectivity and amplification power for profound hearing loss, a fully featured BTE style is likely the right fit.
Always speak to an audiologist about the best option for you.