5 Characteristics To Consider Before Choosing A Hearing Aid Style

Are you considering buying hearing aids? When you’re investigating the different types of hearing aids an important component consideration, other than brand and features, is the style of hearing aid you would be comfortable to wear.

Essentially this is a ‘cosmetic’ choice, but some styles offer alternative features – including technology for better hearing in background noise, connectivity options for mobile phones and directionality – all of these parameters should be considered. But when determining the best hearing aid for you, the style of the hearing aid should also be taken into account. You may already know what style of hearing aid you want, but it’s important to discuss this with a Hearing Professional to ensure it’s the right one for your needs. The results of your hearing test, along with any specific issues with the shape and medical condition of your ear canal, are all important factors when deciding on the device to give you better hearing.

Hearing Aid Styles

CUSTOM                                                                                                   STANDARD

In-The-Ear          Completely-in-Canal      Invisible-In-Canal                          Behind-The-Ear        Receiver-In-Canal

Buying Hearing Aids – Characteristics to Consider

Characteristic 1: Power

If you need a lot of power in your hearing aid, you will need a hearing aid with external parts – such as a BTE or RIC/RITE model. The bigger the hearing aid, the more power you get. If you have a severe to profound hearing loss, then you will need a hearing aid style that sits behind your ear. Ask your audiologist if your degree of hearing loss needs a hearing aid with power.

Characteristic 2: Discretion

If a discreet hearing aid is what you want, then you are more likely to consider the ‘in ear’ styles of hearing aids. Some of these are so small and hidden deep in the ear canal they are described as ‘invisible’ hearing aids. If you have mild to moderate hearing levels and no ear canal issues, these hearing aids are a good style selection for you.

Characteristic 3: Complexity of hearing needs

If you have complex hearing needs and are an active communicator at work and socially, you need to think carefully about your hearing aid style. Sound quality can be compromised for miniaturisation. If you have tinnitus, you should also discuss with your hearing specialist if a particular style will have features for tinnitus management.

Smaller, invisible hearing aids often lack a number of showcase features of the brand. The hearing aids that sit behind the ear have more room for advanced technology, including directional microphones and better noise reduction features for hearing in noisy environments. The RIC/RITE models are a more discreet behind the ear model, with thin tubing, and have all the top level features of most brands.

Characteristic 4: Ease of use

If you have dexterity issues, a smaller in-ear model of hearing aid, that’s easier to insert, may suit you best. However, this means smaller batteries which can be difficult to change, so a RIC/RITE type of hearing aid with a soft dome and rechargeable battery could be the best style for you.

Most hearing aids can be set up to work automatically so you don’t need to fiddle with small controls. You can request a remote control accessory to change the volume and hearing aid programs or, if you have a smartphone, turn your phone into a remote control device by downloading the app for your hearing aid.

Characteristic 5: Connectivity

Hands free phone calls and the ability to stream music and other audio may be the main characteristic you are after in a hearing aid.

If that is the case, you’ll find the invisible hearing aids won’t give you what you need. However, a number of brands now have streaming capabilities in their CIC styles. Also having a telecoil is important for some people, so the size of the hearing aid needs to be able to incorporate this technology. Smaller custom devices may not offer this form of connectivity.

Style Pros and Cons

The 5 style characteristics outlined above are important, but it can also be easier to compare the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of each style of hearing aid. The table below makes these comparisons for you.

Investigate the styles, talk to your Hearing Healthcare Provider, and really consider what features are most important to you in a hearing aid before you decide which style is right for you.

Hearing aid styleProsCons
Behind the ear (BTE)Power for significant losses
All features of brand available
Onboard controls
T switch available
Bluetooth connectivity for streaming
Rechargeable
Disposable batteries bigger so last longer
If need repairs, clinic can loan same model
Variety of ear mould styles available – depending on level of hearing loss
More obvious than ‘invisible’ styles
Tubing can get blocked with moisture or wax
If custom mould required, need to be remade on a regular basis
Bigger ear moulds can be harder to insert correctly
Receiver in canal (RIC or RITE)Power enough for majority of hearing levels
All features of brand available
Onboard controls
Smaller than BTE and discreet
T switch available
Bluetooth connectivity for streaming
Rechargeable
If need repairs, clinic can loan replacement model
Thin tubing almost invisible
Variety of ear mould styles available – depending on level of hearing loss
More obvious than ‘invisible’ in ear styles
Tubing can get blocked with moisture or wax
Receiver can get blocked with wax
In the ear (ITE) and In the canal (ITC)Fits mild to severe hearing loss
Most features of brand available
Onboard controls
Smaller than BTE and discreet
T switch available in some models
Bluetooth connectivity available in some brands
Easy to insert and manage
Custom ear mould required
If aid needs repair, no loan replacement
Disposable batteries only
Not advised for people with otitis externa
Smaller ITC not advised for people with excess wax
Invisible hearing aids (IIC)Discreet – invisible model
Good for mild to moderate hearing levels
Some brands don’t require custom mould
Easy to insert and manage
Fully automatic
Some brands leave in for months (disposable) 
Custom ear mould required
If aid needs repair, no loan replacement
Disposable batteries only
Not advised for people with otitis externa, excess wax, exostoses & narrow canals
No onboard controls
Less features available
No Bluetooth for streaming