All digital hearing systems contain at least one microphone to pick up sound, a computer chip that amplifies and processes sound, a speaker that sends the signal to your ear and a battery for power. These components are the “guts” of the hearing device, and they are packaged into several different styles. When you consult with a hearing care professional, they will consider many factors, provide you with proper hearing device information and help guide you toward the best hearing system style for you.
Hearing devices can be classified into two main groups: in-the-ear (ITE) styles and behind-the-ear (BTE) styles. Within each group are several different sizes.
The following hearing devices are considered ITE styles. Their sizes range from virtually invisible when worn to filling the entire bowl of the ear.
Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing device: IIC and CIC styles are the tiniest hearing devices made. They fit very deeply in the ear canal and are typically fit to help correct mild or moderate hearing losses. Their size and ability to “disappear” when worn depend on the size of the ear canal. Because of their tiny size, they offer high cosmetic appeal for people who desire a discreet solution.
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing devices: ITC styles sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them comfortable and easy to use. Because they are slightly larger than IIC and CIC styles, they have a longer battery life, are easier to handle and can fit a wider range of hearing losses.
Low profile: Low profile styles range from half-shell (HS) designs that fill half the bowl of the outer ear to designs that fill almost the entire outer ear bowl. 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. Low profile hearing devices are large enough to accommodate helpful features like directional microphones, volume controls and program buttons.
Behind-the-ear styles have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the last decade thanks in part to innovations that make the tiniest BTE hearing instruments some of the most cosmetically appealing with very thin ear tubes and ear tips that fade discreetly into the ear canal. They have enough physical space to house features for a variety of hearing losses, have ample battery life and are easy to handle.
Mini BTE hearing instruments with slim tubes and tips: Mini BTE styles are designed to hide behind the outer ear and have ultra-thin tubing to discreetly route sound into the ear. This style is so popular that a greater variety of ear tips have become available in order to accommodate a greater degree of hearing loss with the mini BTE.
Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) or receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing devices: RITE and RIC styles have the speaker built into the ear tip instead of the main body of the hearing device. This allows the speaker of the hearing device to be positioned closer to the eardrum while the microphone and processor sit in a tiny case behind the ear.
BTE hearing instruments with earmolds: BTE styles that come with earmolds can fit any type of hearing loss, from mild to profound. Their longer shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can generally house more features, controls and power than any other style of hearing aid.
Hearing System Manufacturer
There are several manufacturer that offer the latest hearing device technology. Hearing system companies invest heavily in research and development to bring devices to market that address the diverse needs of people with hearing loss. They also strive to offer hearing instruments that can accommodate all wearers' budgets.
The best hearing system is the one that works for you.
Most hearing care professionals are familiar with multiple manufacturers' products and have the supplies and software they need to successfully fit their devices. When you visit a hearing care professional, you will discuss your hearing test results, lifestyle needs and budget. Your provider will select the most appropriate manufacturer and best product just for you.