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Popular Types of Hearing Aids

Appearance and comfort are important considerations when people select their first hearing aids. The good news is that thanks to the miniaturization of electronics, there are many more styles offering a greater range of choices than ever before. Having more choices can also make choosing the best device for your lifestyle and hearing needs seem overwhelming. That's why we take time to work with patients so they can explore the best option for them. What follows is a brief review of the most common styles of hearing devices now available.

Behind the ear

Behind-the-ear (BTE) instruments are the type most people think of when they picture hearing aids. The BTE sits behind the ear and has a tube connecting the microphone and electronic processors to a tiny speaker worn in the ear canal. Though there are many more styles to choose from than just BTE devices, the BTE hearing aid still has a lot going for it. They can use directional microphones, deliver more powerful sound processing, and are an excellent choice for almost any type of hearing loss. Some models are so small as to be almost unnoticeable, while other models must be larger for power, making them more visible. BTE devices also pick up more wind noise than devices worn entirely in the ear.

In the ear

In-the-ear (ITE) devices, also called full shell hearing aids, fill the entire outer ear. Half shell designs only fill the lower part of the ear. Both are custom fitted to the person wearing them and are a mid-point between the BTE instruments and much smaller designs worn in the ear canal. They're typically easier to handle, have manual volume controls, and have larger batteries for extended listening time. ITE devices can also be worn by those with hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. They are more noticeable than smaller in-the-canal devices and pick up more wind noise as well.

In the canal

In-the-canal, or ITC hearing aids, are another custom-molded device. These devices are fitted entirely in the ear canal. On the plus side, these devices are less noticeable and less prone to pick up wind noises. On the negative side, these hearing aids have smaller batteries providing shorter periods of use, are more prone to wax clogging the speakers, and frequently don't offer directional microphones or manual volume controls. They are typically prescribed for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Completely in the canal

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) devices are the smallest hearing aids and pick up the least wind noise. Their small size also means they're much more challenging to handle, don't have directional microphones, and are also susceptible to the speakers becoming clogged by ear wax. These devices typically address mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.

So, to recap:

Type of Device


Range of Hearing Loss

Behind-the-ear (BTE)

Long battery life, more powerful, volume controls and multi-directional microphones

Mild to severe hearing loss in all age groups

In-the-ear (ITE)

​Fit in the outer ear, but not outside of the ear. They are still easy to handle and can provide volume control and directional microphones

Mild to severe hearing loss in all age groups

In-the-canal (ITC)

Smaller size makes them less noticeable than larger devices in the ear and are less prone to pick up wind noise

Mild to moderate hearing loss in adults

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC)

Smallest and least visible and much less susceptible to noise from wind

Mild to moderate hearing loss in adults

Hearing loss and lifestyle are unique to each patient, and there isn't a manufacturer or style of device that's best for everyone. That's why the first step in better hearing should start with a thorough hearing evaluation by a doctor of audiology. Audiologists have the training and experience to understand your unique needs and to make recommendations for improving your hearing and all aspects of your life that hearing loss can impact.

To schedule a visit with us, call 319-286-8782 or use this link to choose the date and time that works for you. Find out what to expect at a hearing test here.

  • Learn more about the different types of hearing aids here.

  • Learn about hearing aid technology here.

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