There are many styles of hearing aid to choose from. Below you will find the most popular options. The extent of loss and dexterity issues may prohibit certain styles. You should talk with your audiologist after your exam to find out which style would work best for your individual needs.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids fit comfortably behind-the-ear and are attached to a soft custom earmold. With BTE hearing aids, the electronics are housed in a case that fits behind the ear. Sound is directed from the hearing aid, through the tubing, and through the earmold to the eardrum. These hearing aids can be modified with connections to external sound sources such as auditory training equipment and infrared listening systems. Several models are also Bluetooth compatible.
BTE hearing aids can provide more amplification than smaller devices due to the stronger amplifier and the larger battery. This style is available in analog and digital circuits and fits the widest range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They are suitable for all ages. There is a wide range of colors available for matching to hair, skin tone, and even personal style. Standard BTEs use the 13 or 675 battery sizes which are easier to handle and have a longer lifespan compared to smaller batteries. Repairs are typically fewer than custom products and some BTE models may come with a moisture resistant coating and features.
Open Fit Behind-the-ear (OTE) hearing aids
Open Fit Behind-the-ear (OTE) hearing aids are similar to standard behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, but typically much smaller. A small tip or dome at the end of the tube is used instead of a traditional earmold. This leaves the ear “open” and reduces problems with occlusion (stuffy or barrel feeling) leading to more natural sounding amplification. Although originally designed for high-frequency hearing losses, newer models can now accommodate a wider range of hearing loss. Reconfiguration of the hearing aid or using a traditional earmold can accommodate changes in a person’s hearing.
New OTEs are the most cosmetically appealing style of hearing aid available today. Due to their small size, manual controls are somewhat limited. Some manufacturers offer remote controls, battery rechargers, and Bluetooth options with OTE hearing aids. Because of their small size, batteries are smaller.
In The Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
ITE (in-the-ear) hearing aids can be used for a wide range of hearing losses up to a severe loss. Due to their size, ITE hearing aids allow for optional manual features such as a volume control, program button, or telephone switch. They are also much easier to handle than smaller custom aids. This type of hearing aid fills the outer ear. The hearing aid case is custom made out of a hard plastic material. The hearing aid case houses all of the miniaturized hearing aid parts. The ITE style is available with programmable and digital technology.
Peolpe with dexterity issues may have difficulties with the small volume control and program button. This may be resolved by opting for a more advanced “automatic” hearing aid/or obtaining an optional remote control. They are the most visible of the custom products and many will argue that they are more obvious than a BTE with earmold. Earwax and moisture problems may lead to repairs.
In-the-canal (ITC) Hearing Aids
ITC (in-the-canal) hearing aids fit into the ear canal. They are only slightly larger than the completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid but smaller than the in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid. The ITC style is available in analog and digital technology. They are less obvious than the ITE style.
The ITC style is only suitable for mild to moderately severe hearing loss due to its size. Manual options, such as a volume control or directional microphones are limited due to the size of the faceplate. Like the ITE style, they are susceptible to moisture and earwax. Good dexterity is needed to manipulate the hearing aid.
Completely-the-canal (CIC) Hearing Aids
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are the smallest size of custom hearing aids, practically invisible to an observer. Custom designed to fit the wearer’s ear, CIC hearing aids fit deep inside the ear canal. CIC hearing aids are meant for people with ear canals large enough to accommodate the insertion depth of the device into the ear. This style accommodates people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Some manufactures have power CICs for more severe losses available, although this is not yet the norm. CIC instruments can have analog or digital technology housed within their tiny casing. The microphone of a CIC instrument sits in your ear canal, simulating natural sound reception. However, research shows that directional microphones provide a greater benefit in noise reduction than the single microphone on a CIC. Due to the small size, there is not an option for directional microphones.
CICs use a size 10 battery and typically need to be replaced every 3-6 days. They are usually not recommended for people with dexterity problems due to their small size and even smaller batteries. A tight fit in the ear canal may lead to comfort issues, occlusion (feeling plugged up), and excessive wax buildup. These devices are the most susceptible to damage from wax and moisture buildup since they fit so far down in the ear canal. This may lead to more frequent repairs and a shorter lifespan. With the success of smaller BTEs, especially the OTE style, the popularity of CIC hearing aids has dropped significantly. Right now they account for only about 10% of the hearing aid market.
At Clark Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, we work with a variety of manufacturers to ensure we have the technology, style, and price to suit your unique needs. If we don’t currently offer a solution to better help you, we will work with particular product just for you or we will recommend someone that can help.