There are three basic styles of hearing aids. The styles differ by size, their placement on or inside the ear, and the degree to which they amplify sound.
Behind-the-ear (BTE and RIC) hearing aids consist of a hard plastic
case worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside
the outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear.
Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. BTE
aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss.
The RIC aid is a new type of open-fit hearing aid. Small, open-fit aids fit behind the ear completely, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. For this reason, open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people who experience a buildup of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances. In addition, some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their perception of their voice does not sound "plugged up."
- In-the-ear (ITE and ITC) hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some ITE aids may have certain added features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone. A telecoil also helps people hear in public facilities that have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. Induction loop systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums. ITE and ITC aids usually are not worn by young children because the casings need to be replaced often as the ear grows.
Canal aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles.
The completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal.
The Invisible In the Canal (IIC) is the smallest style and is completely
invisible. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
Because they are small, canal aids may be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil. They usually are not recommended for young children or for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.