Hearing instruments are available in many different 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. Wireless connectivity and bluetooth-enabled hearing aids are one of the biggest breakthroughs in hearing aid technology allowing seamless connection to cell phones and other devices. Cell phone accessories are readily available to pair with hearing aids making communication even easier.
Basic digital hearing instruments generally require the user to make some manual adjustments such as turning a volume control up or down or pushing a button to switch settings. A premium or more advanced hearing instrument responds automatically to changes in the user's environment. The user is not required to make any manual changes. The cost of the hearing aid is generally dictated by the level of technology and the features of the instrument, not necessarily on the style. Digital hearing aids are typically offered in various technology levels, including basic/entry, advanced, and premium level.
Many factors are taken into consideration when selecting the appropriate hearing aid style and level of technology for an individual. These include severity of hearing loss, anatomy of the ear canal, lifestyle and listening needs, cosmetics, budget, and manual dexterity and visual abilities.
Mini-BTE: A small, curved case fits around the back of the ear and is connected to the ear canal by an ultra-thin tubing/wire routing sound into the ear. A small soft tip connects onto the end of the tubing/wire allowing sound to enter around the tip, in conjunction with amplified sound through the tip, giving the patient the sensation of a non-occluding "open fit." This style of hearing aid is recommended for mild-to-moderate high frequency losses.
Receiver-In-The-Ear (RIC): A small, curved case fits around the back of the ear and is connected to the ear canal by a thin wire. The speaker of the instrument is incorporated in the ear tip, instead of in the main body of the hearing aid. Many options exist for ear tips, which allows this hearing aid style great comfort and versatility and is appropriate for mild-to-severe hearing losses. Many color options are available to match hair or skin tone. RIC's are available in both battery and rechargeable options, which makes this style desirable for those who have trouble handling small batteries.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE): A curved case fits around the back of the ear and is connected to the ear canal by a clear earmold and tubing, allowing more power to be delivered to your ears as your hearing loss progresses. This style of hearing aid fits mild-to-severe hearing losses. These hearing instruments are the least susceptible to wax and moisture build-up due to the placement of the circuitry. They usually don't interfere with eyeglasses.
Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC): This is the smallest and most cosmetic instrument. It fits completely in the ear canal, making CICs practically invisible. Besides being discreet, wind noise is reduced because the microphone is recessed deeply into the opening of the ear canal. Telephone use without whistling (feedback) may also be a benefit. They fit mild-to-moderate hearing losses.
In-The-Canal (ITC): Slightly larger than a CIC, at about the size of a dime, these hearing aids fit mostly in the ear canal so they are hardly noticeable. They allow for more options, if desired, such as volume controls and directional microphones for better understanding in noisy environments. They fit mild-to-moderate hearing losses.
In-The-Ear (ITE): These hearing aids are about the size of a quarter and fit in the outer portion of the ear and the ear canal. They’re easy to hold for people with arthritic hands and allow for the ITC options if desired, plus a tele-coil for built-in telephone use without annoying feedback. This style of hearing aid can incorporate a larger battery and receiver allowing for more power, thus are appropriate for mild-to-severe hearing losses.