Types of hearing aid

Types of hearing aid

Prior to contacting a licensed hearing care professional, familiarizing yourself with the different types of hearing aids is helpful, especially if you’re new to the world of hearing devices. 

Learning about different technologies ahead of time will make the process seem less daunting. Furthermore, being an informed consumer will help you gains insights, prepare a list of questions, and select the best option for your needs. Below is a brief summary of the different types of hearing aids that are currently available, with pros and cons for each style. Modern hearing aids are wireless and most are smartphone compatible.

Receiver-in-Canal (RIC)

This type of hearing aid has largely replaced in-the-ear (ITE) models. A smaller speaker located directly in your ear canal enables sound to travel a shorter distance from the speaker through your ear canal and eardrum. This results in clearer and more intact sound, while the larger distance between the receiver and microphone leads to less feedback. Appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to adjust
  • Available in many sizes
  • Fairly discreet
  • Superior sound and clarity
  • Open fit prevents occlusion*
  • Highly natural listening experience
  • Layered noise reduction

* Occlusion can occur when the outer ear is blocked (e.g. by an unvented hearing aid ear mold) that completely fills the outer portion of your ear canal, thereby causing distortion in how you perceive your own voice.

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • May be visible depending on hairstyle
  • Susceptible to moisture damage from ear canal

 

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

This traditional device consists of a small, hard-plastic case worn behind the ear connected to a customized plastic ear mold that fits inside your outer ear. Appropriate for moderate to severe hearing loss.

Pros & Cons

Pros:
  • Highly durable
  • Easy-to-use controls
  • May be easier to maintain and clean
  • Provides higher levels of amplification
  • Uses larger, longer-life batteries
  • Not susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker

Cons:

  • Larger size
  • May be visible depending on hairstyle
  • Eyeglass wearers may find it uncomfortable
  • More prone to picking up wind noise
  • May require a tubing change every six months, if ear mold is used

Completely-in--Canal (CIC)

These small and discreet hearing aids are inserted in your ear canal, making it difficult for other people to see you’re wearing a device. CIC hearing aids are typically equipped with a small handle or cord that aids in removal. Appropriate for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cons:

  • Can be challenging to remove
  • Can’t accommodate extra features (e.g. directional microphones)
  • May not work for people with chronic external or middle ear issues
  • Uses smaller, shorter-life batteries that can be difficult to handle
  • Susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker

In-the-Canal (ITC)

This hearing aid is custom molded to your inner ear canal, allowing sound to be funneled through the device. Appropriate for mild to moderate hearing loss.

Pros & Cons

Pros:
  • Custom made
  • Small and discreet
  • Includes features not available in CIC devices

Cons:

  • May be difficult to adjust due to small size
  • Possible feedback (whistling) when hearing loss is severe
  • Potential occlusion depending on type and severity of hearing loss
  • Susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker

Invisible in the Canal (IIC)

An IIC hearing aid must be positioned by a hearing care professional deeper in the canal near the eardrum. LyricTM from Phonak is the only 100% completely invisible hearing aid currently on the market. The device relies on the natural anatomy of your ear to amplify and deliver a full, natural listening experience. Appropriate for mild to moderate hearing loss.

Pros

Pros:

Cons:

  • Monthly subscription costs make it more expensive
  • May require re-fitting due to sensitive skin
  • Requires frequent follow-up appointments
  • Water resistant but not waterproof
  • Doesn’t include additional features

Earlens

This innovative hearing aid uses a laser light that transmits power and data to a small customized lens placed on your eardrum, thereby directly activating natural hearing. This technology bridges the gap between an air conduction hearing aid (an acoustic receiver amplifies the sound that vibrates the eardrum) and a middle ear implant (a surgically implanted transducer vibrates the middle ear bones). The output calibration is individualized for each user through a process called light calibration. Appropriate for mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss.

Pros & Cons

Pros:
  • Custom-made lens
  • Superior natural sound
  • Better speech comprehension in complex settings
  • Greatly decreased feedback and occlusion
  • Superior streamed audio sound quality
  • Extended bandwidth provides improved gain and output, including low frequencies
  • BTE processor includes an internal rechargeable battery and charging dock
  • Incorporates unique characteristics of the outer, middle, and inner ear in the fitting process

Cons:

  • Requires normal eardrum and middle ear
  • Requires sufficient physical-sized ear canal to accommodate lens
  • May take some time to adjust to the lens
  • Requires BTE processor
  • The lens must be removed by an Earlens-trained ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor

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