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Hearing aids are available in a variety of sizes and styles thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today's hearing aids are considered sleek, compact and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid wearers.

Hearing aids: ITE or BTE

There are two basic types of hearing aid styles:

  1. In the ear (ITE) styles - These hearing aids are worn in the ear and are usually custom-fit, based on an impression that is taken by the hearing professional at the time of the hearing aid consultation. These styles are typically available in different skin tones to blend with the outer ear.

  2. Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids sit behind or on top of the outer ear with tubing that routes the sound down into the ear canal via a custom-fit earmold or an ear tip that doesn’t block the entire ear canal opening. BTE styles are available in different colors to match hair or skin tone, as well as flashier designs to highlight personal flair.  Different BTE sizes accommodate different features, controls, battery types and degrees of power.

All custom made ITE hearing aids and earmolds for BTEs are made from a "cast" of the ear called and ear impression. The hearing professional can make an ear impression in the office in about 10-15 minutes.

When selecting hearing aids, consider not only appearance, but also your manual dexterity and lifestyle needs. 

Common ITE styles, small to large

Invisible in the Canal (IIC) or Completely in the Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids

IIC and CIC styles are the tiniest hearing aids made. They fit deeply in the ear canal. They are typically fit for mild or moderate hearing losses and offer high cosmetic appeal as they’re nearly invisible when worn. Because of their small size, they don’t usually come with any manual controls, like volume controls or program buttons. IIC and CIC styles are practical for individuals with good dexterity because they are the smallest. 

In the Ear (ITE) Low profile hearing aids

Low profile instruments range from half shell designs that fill half the bowl of the outer ear to designs that fill almost the entire outer ear bowl. Low profile designs are large enough to enable the addition of features such as directional microphones and manual controls, such as a volume wheel and a push-button for changing programs.  The size of a low profile style makes it desirable for people with dexterity issues because it is easier to handle than the smaller sizes.  Because of their flexibility, they are widely recommended for mild to severe hearing loss.

Common BTE styles

Receiver in the ear (RITE) or receiver in the canal (RIC)

RITE or RIC (mini RITE or mini RIC) hearing aid styles are BTEs
that have the speaker built into the ear tip instead of the main

body of the hearing aid. Thus, the speaker of the hearing aid
rests in the ear canal but the microphone and processor sit in
a tiny case behind the ear. They are connected by a thin wire.  
These styles fit mild to severe hearing losses.

RIC styles offer the added benefit of Rechargeable Battery
Options .  With rechargeable solutions, simply set your hearing
aids on the charger overnight, instead of replacing your
batteries weekly.  A pair of rechargeable batteries can
take the place of an estimated 200 disposable batteries. 
Your hearing specialist can replace your batteries once a year at year annual checkup.  Rechargeable batteries provide continuous, stable and uninterrupted power throughout the day.

BTE with Earmold

BTEs with earmolds fit mild through profound hearing losses.  Their longer shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can house many features, including a program button and volume control.  The earmold color and style, as well as the wearer’s hairstyle, determine exactly how they’ll look on each person.

Dick Frankenberg and patient
Look how small!
Yes, it's there ... You can't even see it!
Dick Frankenberg's patient
types of hearing aids
description of hearing aid styles
What questions should I ask before buying hearing aids?

Before you buy a hearing aid, consider asking a hearing healthcare professional these questions:

  • Which type and style of hearing aids would most meet my needs?
  • What special features do my hearing aids need to have to fit my lifestyle?
  • Will I need one or two hearing aids?
  • What is the total cost of the hearing aids?
  • Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher costs?
  • Is there a trial or adjustment period for me to try out the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a trial/adjustment period during which aids can be returned for a refund.)
  • What fees are nonrefundable if I return the hearing aids after the trial/adjustment period?
  • How long is the warranty? Can it be extended?
  • What is covered during the period of warranty? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
  • How should I care for my hearing aids?