When choosing a new hearing aid, you might find yourself baffled by all the terminology and abbreviations used by manufacturers and hearing care professionals (HCPs). If you’re confused by the “word soup” in the hearing aid literature you brought home or saw displayed at your HCP’s office, our audiology professionals are here to help! The following are the full names for frequently-abbreviated types of hearing aids and their descriptions.
These are hearing aids that fit behind your ear. The hearing aid’s tone hook fits over the top of your ear and connects to an earmold via a clear plastic sound tube. The earmold fits inside your ear canal. The hearing aid’s casing, which contains all the working parts, sits behind the pinna (visible outer portion of your ear). Depending on your degree of hearing loss and other factors, your hearing care professional may choose to couple the BTE with a custom-made earmold that fills the entrance to your ear canal. As an alternative to the earmold, it’s also possible to couple BTEs with a thin tube connected to a soft tip that rests in your ear canal.
BTEs are suited to people of all ages and can help almost any type of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They’re also the preferred hearing aid type for children, because they provide a secure fit and the earmold can be easily replaced as the child grows.
This style is very similar to a BTE, but is typically smaller because the receiver is outside of the hearing aid casing. It is enclosed inside a flexible dome placed into your ear. This dome is connected to the body of the hearing aid by a tiny wire instead of the thicker BTE tubing. For some people, open fit RICs are more comfortable than BTEs and they are usually smaller. However, like open fit BTEs, they are only suitable for certain kinds of hearing loss (usually mild to severe).
Custom Hearing Aids
All hearing aids that fit inside the ear are custom-made, so you might hear them referred to as “customs” or “custom hearing aids.” They all require having an impression of your ear canal made in your HCPs office first. This impression is then sent to a manufacturer to build your hearing aids to fit perfectly when inserted entirely into your ear. Because they’re made-to-order to fit each individual’s ear, you should expect a longer waiting time from date of purchase to arrival than with BTEs or RICs. These hearing aid models are better suited to adults than children, who would require new ear impressions and hearing aids made frequently to fit their growing ears. The size of a custom hearing aid is largely dependent on your degree of hearing loss, comfort, and other needs and preferences. The following are the style and size options available:
In-the-ear models are worn inside the “bowls” of your outer ears. ITEs are available in two styles. One is a full shell, which completely fills the bowl-shaped region. The other is a half shell, which only fills the lower part of the bowl. The deciding factor, in terms of which shell would be most appropriate, is usually your degree of hearing loss.
These smaller custom models fit partly inside your ear canal, so they are less visible. They can be used to treat mild to moderate hearing loss
These hearing aids fit completely inside your ear canal and are very discreet. CIC devices come with small extension cords that enable them to be pulled out of your ear when needed for cleaning or other maintenance. These very small devices are also suitable for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
These are the tiniest hearing aids available ― they’re practically impossible for others to see you are wearing them. They’re custom-molded to fit deeply, past the second bend inside your ear canal, and close to your ear drum. IICs include a cord to aid in insertion and removal.