How to Choose Between Hearing Aid Models

It can be difficult for a new hearing aid patient to decide what model of hearing aid would work best for their needs. One consideration is obvious — what will help you hear the best given your specific type of hearing loss. But there are other factors that should be considered, so that once you have made a decision the devices chosen fit perfectly in your ears and with your lifestyle. These can include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Preferred leisure activities
  • Workplace
  • Any dexterity, vision, or other physical limitations
  • Need/desire to stream audio from electronic devices
  • Tinnitus treatment requirements

Here are a few considerations to help you make the best choice possible.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

These models are the most popular with wearers in general. Their casings, which contain all the working parts, sit behind the pinna (outer portion of your ear) and connect to tone hooks that fit over the tops of your ears. The hooks connect to either custom-made earmolds that fill the entrances to your ear canals via clear plastic sound tubes or use thin tubes connected to soft tips that rest in your ear canal (open fit). It depends on your specific hearing needs as to which option your hearing care professional will recommend.

Why you might want a BTE: Behind-the-ear hearing aid models suit people of all ages and can improve almost any type of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They’re easy to put on and remove. If you are an active person, consider a BTE option with a rating of IP67 or higher to keep perspiration, dust, and water from getting into the housing of your hearing aids and damaging the delicate inner workings. Most are large enough to accommodate advanced technology like tinnitus therapy features, wireless connectivity, directional microphones, and more.

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids

This style is very similar to a BTE. The main difference is the use of flexible domes instead of earmolds to enclose the receivers, which are placed inside your ear canals. They are connected to the hearing aid bodies by tiny wires instead of the thicker tubing used with BTEs.

Why you might want a RIC: RICs usually offer all the advantages of BTEs, but are typically smaller. Many people find open fit RICs more comfortable than BTEs. They also offer greater discretion than BTEs, so if you’re someone who’d prefer others not notice you’re wearing hearing aids they may be a better choice. However, RICs are only suitable for certain kinds of hearing loss (usually mild to severe), while open fit BTEs can help those with profound hearing loss. Finally, some are rechargeable, so if you have dexterity or vision issues you won’t have to worry about changing tiny batteries weekly.

Custom hearing aids

All hearing aids that fit inside the ear used to have to be custom-made, so you will still hear them called customs or custom hearing aids. The custom versions require your hearing care professional to make impressions of your ear canals and send them to a manufacturer, who in turn builds the hearing aids to fit perfectly when inserted entirely into your ears. This made-to-order fit necessitates a longer waiting time from when you make your purchase until your hearing aids are ready to take home.

Why you might want custom hearing aids: Whether you can wear a custom hearing aid and in what size mostly depends on your degree of hearing loss, comfort, and any additional requirements and preferences discussed with your hearing care professional. Most wearers who choose a custom hearing aid do so for the comfort a customized fitting offers, coupled with a desire for the utmost in discretion. Despite their smaller size, some offer the same benefits as far as tinnitus treatment, wireless connectivity, and directionality as BTEs and RICS. However, you should expect some variations in available features depending on the style and size of the custom hearing aid:

In-the-ear (ITE)

ITEs fit inside the “bowls” of your outer ears and are available in two options. Choosing the right one primarily depends on your degree of hearing loss:

  • Full shell, which completely fills the bowl-shaped region
  • Half shell, which only fills the lower part of the bowl

In-the-canal (ITC)

ITC hearing aids fit partly inside your ear canal and so are less visible than ITEs. Suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss.

Complete-in-the-canal (CIC)

These are very small and fit completely inside your ear canal for even more discretion. CIC hearing aids come with small extension cords so you can pull them out of your ear for cleaning or other maintenance. Also suitable for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC)

The tiniest hearing aids currently available, IIC hearing aids are practically impossible for others to see when worn. They’re custom-molded to fit deep in your ear canal — past the second bend and close to your eardrum. IICs include a cord for insertion and removal.

Ready-to-wear CICs

Only available within recent years, these hearing aids combine the speed and convenience of getting a BTE or RIC with the discretion and comfort of a CIC. No custom molding is required thanks to a soft Click Sleeve that allows your hearing care professional to fit these ready-to-wear in-the-ear hearing aids inside your ear and let you walk out the door wearing them the same day.

Talk to a hearing care professional

The best way to find hearing aids that you will actually want to use every day is to discuss all your options and desires with a qualified hearing care professional. They can assess your needs and guide you to make the best choice possible based on all your unique variables.