Hearing Aid Styles

The purpose of hearing aids is the same, regardless of their size, shape, or color: they amplify sounds, enabling persons with hearing loss to understate speech more clearly. Beyond that, there is significant variability, with a multitude of styles available to appeal to a range of individuals.

In-The-Canal (ITC) Styles

Hearing aids that are worn in the canal are made with a custom-molded casing that contains the electronic components and a miniature cord that allows for easy removal. Because of their deep placement, in-the-canal hearing aids are discrete, very difficult for others to notice. They generally contain fewer features due to their small size, and users must contend with controls that are difficult to adjust and a shorter battery life. These are a good choice for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Types of in the canal hearing aids, from smallest to largest, are:

  • Invisible-In-the-Canal (IIC) hearing aids

  • Completely-In-the-Canal (CIC) hearing aids

  • ITC hearing aids

In-The-Ear (ITE) Styles

ITE hearing aids are placed in the ear canal, but not nearly as deeply; their faceplate usually extends into the concha of the ear and is visible to others. The electronics are housed in a plastic casing, with the control for adjusting volume on the exterior portion for ease of use. This type of hearing aid is larger, and typically includes more features than smaller in the canal types, as well as a longer battery life. ITE hearing aids are made for people with mild to severe hearing loss.

In-the-ear styles include:

  • ITE hearing aids

  • Receiver In The Ear (RITE) hearing aids, which have the electronics are housed in a casing that fits behind the ear while the receiver is separate and worn in the concha

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Styles

True to their name, BTE hearing aids hook over the top of your ear, with the housing resting behind the ear. Sound is transmitted to an earmold in the ear canal. BTE hearing aids are the largest and most visible instruments available, but the tradeoff is versatility, easy to use controls, and longer battery life. This style appeals to children and the elderly, and will work for all types of hearing loss.

The styles available are:

  • BTE hearing aids

  • Receiver-In-the-Canal (RIC) or Open Fit hearing aids, which are smaller BTE devices that lack an earmold, leaving the ear canal “open,” enabling sound to enter the ear without impediment, eliminating occlusion, and providing a more natural hearing experience

Extended Wear

Extended wear hearing aids are designed to be worn up to four months at a time, and can be kept in place during a variety of everyday activities including exercising, talking on the phone, bathing, and sleeping. The batteries do not need changing. Extended wear hearing aids are appropriate for individuals with mild to moderately severe hearing loss, though they won’t work for everybody.


CROS (Contra Lateral Routing of Signal) and BiCROS are hearing aids designed specifically for people with single-sided deafness. They create a more natural listening experience by using inter-device communication to transmit sound from one hearing aid to the other. This allows for improved sound localization and directionality. The CROS is a system for those with normal hearing on one side and severe to profound hearing loss on the other; the BiCROS is designed for those who have some level of hearing loss on one side and a severe to profound impairment on the other.

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