Hearing aids come in various styles, which differ in size, the way they sit on your ear and consequently how visible they are to other people.
Whilst some people don't mind showing off their new hearing aids; after all, they are very high-tech medical products, there are still a large number of people who prefer more discreet styles.
Generally, your audiologist will guide you through the style of aids best suited to you based on; your hearing levels, the size and shape of your ear, your ability to manage the aids (e.g. changing the battery) and your personal preference of how it looks on your ears.
Hearing aids are available in a range of colours to match skin and hair colour, as well as an array of fashion colours to match your personality.
IIC hearing aids are the smallest custom hearing aid available, custom made to fit deep inside your ear canal and totally hidden from sight. They are suitable for mild to moderate hearing losses. These hearing aids are the smallest and least visible of the available styles, however the small style does have some disadvantages. IIC hearing aids have no space for features such as volume controls, directional microphones or wireless features. IIC aids cannot be fitted to small ear canals due to size restrictions.
CIC hearing aids are similar to IICs, being custom made to fit inside your ear canal and are suitable for mild to moderate hearing losses. The difference between the IIC and CIC is that the CIC is visible at the entrance of the ear canal. As with the IIC style there is little available space for volume controls or directional microphones with CICs but they can fit slightly larger ear canals than IIC’s.
ITC hearing aids fit partly in the ear canal, are custom made to the shape and size of your ear and are visible from the sides but not when facing the user. ITC hearing aids can accommodate mild to moderately severe hearing losses. This style may contain features such as a volume control or program button or telecoil that don't fit in CIC aids, but the more features that are added, the larger the aid becomes.
ITE hearing aids completely fill the outer ear and are suitable for mild to severe hearing losses. They are custom made to the size and shape of your ear. ITE aids are more visible from the front and the sides to other people and may be more vulnerable to picking up wind noise. But the larger size can make them easier to adjust and insert. The bigger batteries in these hearing aids are likely to last longer than those in the smallest aids.
Slim Tube Behind-the-Ear (BTE)
The slim tube BTE hearing aids are very small behind-the-ear style aids. The electronic parts are held in the small plastic case worn behind the ear. Sound travels from the instrument through a thin tube to a tiny dome or small custom made ear piece that is located in the ear canal. They are very discreet and difficult to see from the front or from the sides. If you have long hair they are difficult to see from the back as well. These aids can leave the ear canal more open, known as an “open-fit”, and are therefore suitable for mild to moderate high-frequency hearing losses where low-frequency hearing is still normal such as noise induced hearing loss. In addition, some people may prefer open-fit hearing aids because their perception of their own voice does not sound “plugged up”.
Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) or Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC)
RITE/RIC hearing aids consist of a very small Behind-the- ear unit and a thin wire connecting it to a tiny speaker (receiver). Sound travels from the instrument located behind your ear through the thin wire to the tiny speaker positioned in the ear canal. The speaker is secured in place with either a generic ear tip (dome) or small custom made ear piece. RITE/RIC hearing aids are the most versatile style available and are becoming the most popular. They are very discreet aids and there are versions which are suitable for people with up to a severe to profound hearing loss.
BTE hearing aids consist of a plastic case worn behind the ear, which holds all the electronic parts of the aid. This is connected via a silicon tube to a plastic earmould that fits inside the outer ear and ear canal. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmould and into the ear. Behind-the-ear hearing aids can be the most powerful and often are the easiest type to adjust.