Hearing aids are available in a wide variety of styles and technology.
Styles of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles thanks to advancements in digital technology, miniaturization of digital electronic parts and fresh focus on design among the hearing aid manufacturers. Many of today’s hearing aids are considered sleek, compact and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid wearers.
When selecting style the following is considered:
- The degree of the hearing loss (power requirements)
- Manual dexterity abilities
- Patient budget
Invisible-In-Canal (IIC) – The smallest custom hearing aids made. Its all-in-one design means all the electronics of the hearing aid are placed in the shell to provide the ultimate small fit.
Completely-In-the-Canal (CIC) – CICs sit deeply and entirely inside the ear canal. They usually require a ‘removal string’ due to their small size and the fact that they fit so deeply into the canal. They fit mild to moderate hearing loss and offer high cosmetic appeal.
In-The-Canal (ITC) sit in the lower portion of the outer ear’s bowl and are slightly larger than a CIC hearing aid. Because of their slightly larger size, they often have a longer battery life than CICs and are available with more options depending upon the size of ear. They fit mild to moderate hearing losses.
Half-Shell – The half shell model fills half of the bowl of the outer ear and like ITC hearing aids, they allow more options and longer battery life due to the larger size. This size is ideal for those who seek a smaller hearing aid and who may have potential dexterity concerns.
Full Shell or In-The-Ear (ITE) – The largest of the custom hearing aids made, full shell hearing aids fill up the entire bowl of the outer ear. The size of this style allows the maximum number of controls and features and is able to fit mild to severe hearing losses.
Telecoil/Auto-telecoil – This feature picks up a signal from a compatible telephone and hearing aid wearers can listen to the telephone without whistling. For some hearing aids, this requires a push of a button to activate, other manufacturers offer an auto-telecoil where the hearing aid switches automatically when a telephone signal is detected.
Lyric® – Lyric® is different from the other hearing aids because Lyric® is comfortably placed deep in the ear canal, 4mm from the ear drum, by our hearing professionals during a routine visit.
How Are Ear Impressions Made?
All custom made hearing aids and earmolds are made from a ‘cast’ of the ear. The cast is referred to as an ear impression. The audiologist makes the ear impression in the office. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The audiologist places a special cotton or foam dam in the ear canal to protect the eardrum, and then a waxy material is placed in the ear canal. When the material hardens (about 5 to 10 minutes later) the wax cast, along with the dam are removed from the ear canal. Often, the ear canal will be ‘oily’ after the impression is removed. This is normal. The oil comes from the wax material and prevents the wax material from sticking to the skin.
Tell the audiologist before the ear impression is obtained if you are allergic to plastic or dyes!
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Styles
Mini-BTE with slim tubes – This type of BTE is often referred to as an ‘open fit’ hearing aid. The small miniature hearing aid sits behind the ear and transmits sound into the ear canal via a thin plastic tube. The tubing connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal but doesn’t occlude it. The result is a natural, open feeling as air and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip. This style of BTE is recommended for mild to moderate high frequency losses and offers cosmetic appeal to the small size of the hearing aid.
Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) – RITE hearing aids, also known as Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) models, are similar to the mini BTE, except that the speaker of the hearing aid sits inside the ear canal versus the main body of the hearing aid behind the ear. Although it looks like a mini BTE when worn on the ear, the RITE style fits a higher degree of hearing loss (mild to severe), while still providing the ‘open’ fitting.
BTE with custom earmold – BTEs with custom earmolds fit the widest range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They are slightly longer in shape and are contoured to sit nicely behind the ear for a sleek, compact look. This style of hearing aid typically offers a wide array of features and options, as well as more control and power than custom models. BTEs are connected to the ear canal via custom-made plastic tubing and earmold. The earmold color and style, as well as the wearer’s hairstyle will determine how this style looks on each person.