Hearing aids contain a microphone that collects the sound, a micro sound processing computer to help filter and amplify the sounds, and a speaker that plays the sound to the ear. Each style of hearing aid contains these components in a different configuration. Choosing a hearing aid style depends on a combination of both your individual hearing loss as well as your cosmetic preferences.

Explore each style below.

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC)

RICs are worn behind the ear and have a wire bringing the sound to a speaker which sits inside the ear canal.  RICs tend to be smaller and more cosmetically appealing than a standard behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid.

Among all the styles of hearing aids, the receiver-in-canal type is something of a hybrid. It looks like a standard Behind-the-ear (BTE) aid, but its components are divided into two parts: the case, which fits behind the ear holding the amplifier and microphone and a small earpiece holding the receiver, which fits inside the ear. A tiny, virtually invisible electrical wire connects the parts.

RIC hearing aids are very unobtrusive, with a case that’s among the least visible. The receiver is placed in a small silicone dome that fits into the ear canal.  Many users find the small bud that fits into the ear canal comfortable with a less plugged-up feeling. Receiver-in-canal aids have superior sound quality, Bluetooth capabilities,  a more natural sound, and less feedback. They’re particularly good at amplifying high frequency sound.  Additionally, it is easier to switch to a higher power speaker if hearing loss changes, preventing the need for an entirely new hearing aid purchase.  RICs can have some drawbacks, including being susceptible to moisture in the ear canal and earwax clogging, which may mean more frequent maintenance and care. But overall, for people with mild to severe hearing loss, the RIC style of hearing aid is a good choice, both cosmetically and for sound quality.

Behind-The-Ear (BTE)

BTEs also sit behind the ear and collect sound.  The difference between a RIC and a BTE is the speaker for a BTE is in the case behind the ear, and the sound travels down a clear tube into the ear canal.

Behind-the-ear hearing aids are a versatile and often cost-effective solution for mild to profound hearing loss. BTEs have a case that fits behind the ear and a clear tube connecting to an earpiece that is molded to fit inside the ear canal. Sound is collected via the microphones in the case behind the ear, travels through the tube to the earpiece and into the ear.  Because the position of the speaker is fixed within the case, behind-the-ear hearing aids generally have more powerful amplification capabilities. In addition, they’re sturdy, easy to clean and suitable for all ages.

Although behind-the-ear hearing aids can be more visible than some other styles, they have several benefits, including Bluetooth capability, longer battery life, strong amplification and wireless connectivity. Most BTEs have directional microphones that are especially useful in noisy situations.

In-The-Ear (ITE)

Custom hearing aids are made to the exact dimensions of your ear using impressions and digital scanning technology to create a custom fit.  The components are then placed into the custom shell that fits precisely into your ear.  They come in a variety of sizes.

Custom hearing aids are a perfect solution for people with hearing loss who want a more discrete cosmetic option.  These types of hearing aids are made to the exact dimensions of your ear using impressions and digital scanning technology to create a custom fit.  The components are then placed into the custom shell that fits precisely into your ear.

The custom aids can be made in different sizes depending on the individual size of the ear and ear canal, the degree of hearing loss, the desired battery size, and features required to fit inside the custom shell.

Custom hearing aids can be made into a variety of sizes depending on the hearing loss and cosmetic preferences.  In the ear (ITE) hearing aids are the largest, allowing for larger batteries, more wireless options and smaller ear canals. In the canal (ITC) hearing aids are slightly smaller while completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aids are even smaller. As you go down in size, some features such as telecoils, wireless capabilities or volume controls may or may not fit into the hearing aid.

Some hearing aid manufacturers have even developed smaller version of CICs called custom invisible-in-canal (IIC).  CICs and IICs sit completely in the ear canal, making them virtually invisible.  The custom CIC and IIC hearing aids usually give up certain features and components and will have a shorter battery life because of the small battery size needed to fit completely into the ear canal.  Many CICs give up the wireless capability available in the RIC, BTE and larger custom hearing aids in order to be made so cosmetically small and appealing.