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Understanding 3 Main Styles of Hearing Aids

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Hearing Aid Selection

To choose the right hearing aids for your needs, you first need to understand what types are available. There are a number of options for you to select from, but starting with the three main types can help you to get started. Behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE) and receiver-in-ear (RIC) hearing aids are the most common options, with several different styles within these main categories. Hearing aid styles offer you choice in things such as size and shape, as well as functionality. Here's how to tell the difference between the three main styles and their variations.

Behind-the-ear (BTE)

Hearing aids tend to have descriptive names. As its name suggests, a behind-the-ear hearing aid sits behind your ear. The parts of the hearing aid are confined in a case that hooks behind your ear, while a sound tube with a mold or tip connects it to the ear canal. The mold or tip is custom-made so that it fits the individual wearing it. BTE hearing aids are suitable for almost all levels of hearing loss, from moderate to severe. Although there are slightly more obvious than some other styles, they can still sit discreetly behind the ear. The larger size is also ideal for anyone who needs buttons or dials that are easy to use.

In-the-ear (ITE)

An in-the-ear hearing aid sits inside the earlobe, but not entirely inside the canal. They're custom-made to fit so that the whole hearing aid fits inside the ear. They are appropriate for individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. Although the basic ITE hearing aid sits in the ear, there are also types that sit inside the ear canal. There's the completely-in-canal hearing aid (CIC) and the invisible-in-canal (IIC). You can also get a mini-in-canal (MIC), which is smaller. If you're unsure about the differences between these, ask your audiologist to show you some examples. You can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different designs so that you can choose the right ones for you.

Receiver-in-canal (RIC)

This type of hearing aid, also called a receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), is similar to a BTE hearing aid. However, instead of the receiver being in the casing of the hearing aid, it has been removed and sits at the back of the ear. The receiver is fitted into your ear or ear canal and connected to the rest of the hearing aid by a wire. The thin electrical wire that is used, instead of an acoustical tube, helps to reduce sound distortion. RIC hearing aids are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss, so they're not the best choice for anyone with severe hearing loss.

If you're not sure what type of hearing aid is suitable for you, speak to your audiologist. They can suggest which options will work best for you. It's important that you talk to them so that your choice is based not just on your level of hearing loss but also on other factors. Your lifestyle, budget and preferences for appearance are also important things to think about. Your audiologist can answer any questions you have but should ask you questions too.