Hearing Aid Styles

Differences in Hearing Aid Styles: Not simply about Size and Appearance.

Prospective hearing aid wearers are often concerned about how the hearing aids will look in their ears. While cosmetics are an important factor when selecting a hearing aid style, differences in styles are not just about appearance. Besides size and appearance, hearing aid styles differ in amplification levels and battery life. Generally, a smaller hearing aid is less powerful and has a shorter battery life. Different styles also determine the features available to the hearing aid wearer. For example, the hearing aid technology may allow for directional microphones, but the hearing aid may be too small to fit that feature.

Our audiologists will guide you through the process of selecting the appropriate hearing aid style for you. Choosing a style is based on many factors such as degree of hearing loss, dexterity, hearing aid features, ear wax, and cosmetics.

hearing aid styles

Hearing Aid Styles

All hearing aids contain similar parts to carry sounds from the environment, amplify those sounds, and deliver them to your ear. However, hearing aids do come in a number of styles, which differ in size and the way they fit in your ear. Some small hearing aids can fit inside your ear canal, making them almost invisible. Others fit partially in your ear canal or sit behind your ear.

These are the most common hearing aid styles:

Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)

small cic hearing aid

Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are custom molded to fit inside your ear canal and can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:

  • Is the least noticeable in the ear
  • Doesn't pick up wind noise as much because the ear protects the instrument
  • Is easy to use with the telephone
  • Uses smaller batteries, which typically don't last as long as larger batteries and can be difficult to handle
  • Doesn't contain extra features, such as volume control or directional microphones
  • Excessive ear wax can clog the receiver

In-the-Canal (ITC)

in the ear canal hearing aids

An in-the-canal hearing aid is custom molded and fits partly in the ear canal, but not as deeply as the completely-in-the-canal aid. This hearing aid can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. An in-the-canal hearing aid:

  • Is less visible in the ear
  • Is easy to use with the telephone
  • Includes features that won't fit on completely-in-the-canal aids, but the small size can make the features difficult to adjust
  • May not fit well in smaller ears


A larger version of the in-the-canal hearing aid, the half-shell is custom molded and fills the lower portion of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is appropriate for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. A half-shell hearing aid:

  • Is bigger than an in-the-canal hearing aid
  • Is a little easier to handle than are the smaller hearing aids
  • Includes additional features, such as directional microphones and volume control
  • Fits most ears

In-the-Ear (ITE)

in the ear hearing aids

An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid is custom made and fills most of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss. An in-the-ear hearing aid:

  • Is more visible to others
  • May pick up wind noise
  • Contains helpful features, such as volume control, that are easier to adjust
  • Is generally easier to insert into the ear
  • Uses larger batteries, which typically last longer and are easier to handle

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

behind the ear hearing aid

Behind-the-ear hearing aids hook over the top of your ear and sit behind the ear. The hearing aid picks up sound, amplifies it and carries the amplified sound through a clear tube to an ear mold that fits inside your ear canal. This type of aid is appropriate for almost all types of hearing loss and for people of all ages. A behind-the-ear aid:

  • Is the largest, most visible type of hearing aid, though some new versions are smaller, streamlined and hardly visible
  • Is capable of more amplification than are other hearing aid styles
  • Larger batteries, which typically last longer and are easier to handle
  • Increased wind noise

Behind-the-Ear: Open Fit

These are very small behind-the-ear-style devices. Sound travels from the instrument through a very thin tube that is connected to a dome in the ear canal. These aids leave the ear canal open, so they are best for mild to moderately severe high-frequency losses where low-frequency hearing is still normal or near normal. This style has become a very popular style. An open-fit hearing aid:

  • Is less visible
  • Doesn't plug the ear like the small in-the-canal hearing aids so your voice will sound more natural to you
  • Uses very small batteries
  • Lacks manual adjustments due to the small size

Behind-the-Ear: Receiver-in-Canal (RIC)

small behind the ear hearing aid

These are very similar to the open fit hearing aids. The difference is that a tiny wire connects the behind the ear hearing aid to a speaker that is located in the ear canal. By separating the microphone and receiver, the hearing aid is able to provide more amplification without feedback. They are best for mild to severe hearing losses. A receiver in the canal hearing aid:

  • Is less visible
  • More amplification than the open fit hearing aids
  • Ear wax can be problematic by clogging the receiver
Source: www.mayoclinic.com

Call (314) 729-0077 to learn more about hearing aid styles!

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St. Louis, MO 63131
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