Hearing Aid Types
At the basic level there are four types of hearing aid “In The Ear” known as ITE, “Behind The Ear” known as BTE, “Spectacle” and “Body Worn” hearing aids.
Let’s deal with the last type first. “Body Worn” hearing aids are a rarity and are used in exceptional cases of power requirement, paediatrics or specialist care. They are large with a remote box containing batteries, processor and microphone linked by wire to ear phones. They are usually clipped to clothing and hence worn on the body. In the UK they are rarely fitted in the private sector and their limited use is usually within the NHS. The same is also true of “Spectacle” Aids, although they are marketed by the private sector they are a rarely used for normal hearing loss and usually justified by medical conditions.
The two categories of ITE and BTE have a myriad of sub-categories made up of varying sizes of product format and some alternative methodology of delivering the sound to the ear.
ITE hearing aids are primarily fitted by the private sector hearing aid audiologists with their use rare within the NHS. The range from the largest which is described as a full shell or full concha down to the smallest which used to be classified as CIC (completely in the canal) but more recently has been labelled with a variety of names by individual manufacturers to encapsulate the tiny size and discretion of their hearing aids. Let’s start with the largest and work our way down in size.
Full Shell ITE hearing aids occupy the full concha area of your outer ear so basically fill the cup of the ear completely. An impression will be required to enable the manufacturer to build a product that is specific to your ear shape and this should ensure a comfortable fit and that the www.ce remains secure within your ear. The advantage of being this size is that the aid is easier to handle for those with less nimble fingers and can use a larger battery size. Typically a full shell www.ce will use a size 13 battery which should last in excess of a week or more.
One down in size from the Full Shell is the Half Shell. It works on a very similar basis, needing an impression and being moulded to fit your outer ear but this one would only occupy the lower half of your ear concha. It is certainly smaller than the full shell and therefore some would argue that it is more cosmetic but it is still very visible. It may require a smaller battery than its full shell sister and may not have all the functionality due to a restriction on spacing of microphones.
The Full Shell and Half Shell are the two types of In The Ear hearing aids that sit in the outer ear. Also classified as ITE are a range of smaller products that sit partially or wholly within the ear canal. These are much smaller and more discrete than the larger ITEs.
In The Canal ITC hearing aids have most of the body of the www.ce sitting within the ear canal. They still protrude slightly from the canal but are certainly smaller than the Half or Full Shell www.ces. They will typically use a smaller battery, either a size 312 or possibly the even smaller size 10 which can be a problem to those with dexterity issues.
The final solution in terms of size and discretion used to be simply labelled Completely In The Canal CIC hearing aids. They are manufactured to an impression of the ear canal and intended to fit within the canal space. Not all people have sufficient space in their ear canals to accommodate this type of hearing aid, some are simply too small or too pinched to be practical. In theory this is the Holy Grail of hearing aids – exactly what the consumer desires – small, invisible hearing aids but they come at a price. Being so small they may have some limitations of functionality and battery size. They are also difficult to handle, may be uncomfortable, could give rise to a blocked up sensation and are not as reliable as Behind The Ear products, so ensure that you receive advice on these matters before selecting a CIC solution.
Manufacturers have recently used their own descriptions to market their CIC derivatives. You may come across Invisible In The Canal IIC products which, like a CIC, fit in the canal but are typically even smaller and can be worn by those with smaller canals.
The last major category is the Behind The Ear BTE products. There are two fundamental types and some sub variations within those. The first is the classic BTE which is a www.ce that sits behind the ear and a tube is fed through an ear mould to deliver sound into the ear canal. These are the historic big, pink hearing aids that everyone fears and resists wearing. However, time and technology have moved on so that these products are considerably smaller and designed in a wide array of colours, shapes and sizes. The tube that delivers the sound can now be a micro tube, thin tube or sound tube – all very small diameter tubes which may not require an ear mould. They are much more discrete, more comfortable and more reliable than most people expect so well worthwhile investigation.
There has been a noteworthy evolution within the BTE category and that is Receiver In The Canal RIC or Receiver In The Ear RITE hearing aids which take the receiver (speaker) from the main body of the www.ce and place it directly in the ear canal. This is then linked by a fine wire to the www.ce which sits behind the ear. This allows the product to be smaller and more amplification to be delivered without risking feedback.
We hope that you may now have a better understanding of the range of hearing aids that are available. Consider all the options and always ask your hearing aid audiologist which would be the best choice for you.