There are four primary styles of modern hearing aids. They are: CIC (completely-in-canal), ITC (in-the-canal), ITE (in-the-ear) and BTE (behind-the-ear).
While many people choose style based on vanity, decisions regarding which style of hearing aids are most appropriate for you may need to be based on a variety of other factors.
Physical factors include:
- The shape of your outer ear:deformed outer ears may not allow for wearing of BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aids.
- The depth of the depression near the ear canal (technically called the concha):if your ears are very shallow there may not be adequate space for certain ITE (in-the-ear) model aids.
- The ear canal size and shape:certain ear canals may be too narrow or shaped in a manner such that ITC (in-the-canal) or CIC (completely-in-canal) hearing aids will either not go in easily or may fall out too easily.
- Manual dexterity:the ability to insert and remove the aids in the ear canal.
- Wax in the ear:some people build up large amounts of earwax or may have extremely moist ear canals that require adequate ventilation. For these people ITC (in-the-canal) or even certain full-sized ITE (in-the-ear) aids may not be appropriate.
- Ear care:draining ears or ears otherwise having medical problems may not be able to safely utilize hearing aids that completely block the ear canal. For these ears, it is vital to allow ventilation, meaning hearing aids that do not fully block the ear may be required. Sometimes, BTE (behind-the-ear) aids that are connected to earmolds that have large vents (openings to let air pass through) are useful.
Hearing related factors include:
- The shape of the audiogram (hearing test):individuals who have hearing loss for certain ITC (in-the-canal)hes (frequencies) but not others (for example those who hear the low frequencies fine but have a high frequency hearing loss) may be better served by systems that do not fully block the ear canal.
- Degree of loss:currently, severe and profound hearing losses are best served by BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aids.
- The need for special features:directional or multiple microphones or the use of a telecoil (a small magnetic loop contained in the hearing aid that allows for better use with telephones or assistive listening devices) may dictate the preferred hearing aids.
- Acoustic feedback (whistling):when the microphone is too loud or too close to the hearing aid speaker. BTE (behind-the-ear) aids have a clear advantage over the smaller ITE (in-the-ear) or ITC (in-the-canal) aids because feedback is less likely to occur. While you may feel that you will only wear an inconspicuous device, check the appearance of a small or mini-BTE (behind-the-ear) aid coupled to the ear with an open earmold. It may be less conspicuous than most ITE (in-the-ear) and many ITC (in-the-canal) aids.
Most importantly, discuss the pros and cons of different styles with your audiologist.