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Different Types of Hearing Aids IIC CIC ITC ITE RIC BTE

November 30, 2016 by Paul Harrison
Published in: Hearing Aids

Looking for a hearing aid but don't know where to start? Here's our guide to the different types of hearing aid available.


IIC - Invisible in Canal Hearing Aids

As the name suggests, these hearing aids fit right inside the ear canal and cannot be seen. These are custom made to fit the contours of your ear. They may not be suitable for everyone, such as those with a very small or narrow ear canal.

They are the smallest hearing aid style currently available, however due to their small size they will have fewer functions and programs and may be unsuitable for severe hearing loss. Some newer, more expensive models have wireless capability. This allows the hearing aids to synchronise their settings with each other. Some models also allow sound streaming from media devices via an additional accessory.

CIC  - Completely in Canal Hearing Aids

Slightly larger than the IIC, this hearing aid also fits in the ear canal. They are very discrete, someone would only see it if they looked directly into your ear. This model may have more programs than the smaller model. Whilst they are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss, more powerful models are becoming available. Some models allow for wireless synchronisation and streaming via accessories.
If you have a very narrow ear canal this model may not be suitable.

ITC  - In The Canal Hearing Aids

Slightly larger than the CIC, the outer part of this hearing aid sits on the edge of the ear canal. It is sometimes available in different colours and depending on the model, can be wireless and have a T-coil for use with loop systems. For those with dexterity problems this model may be easier to use when fitting and changing the battery. Some of these are wireless and allow streaming via accessories. This larger size may also have directional microphones.

ITE - In The Ear Hearing Aids

These hearing aids fit into the outer part (the concha) of the ear. Some models fit into the lower half of the concha (half shell) whilst others fill the whole concha (full shell). As with the models above, the hearing aid will be custom made to fit the shape of your ear for a secure and comfortable fit.

These are the most powerful 'in the ear' hearing aids and suitable for a range of hearing losses. Many of these are wireless and have a wide range of programs and functions such as background noise reduction, t-coil and directional microphones.  Available in different colours, they are also easier to handle than the smaller models.

RIC - Receiver In Canal Hearing Aids

This type of hearing aid is also sometimes called open fit, receiver in ear (RIE) or receiver in the ear (RITE). A small box containing the main part of the hearing aid sits behind the ear. A thin tube carrying a cable and receiver sits inside the ear canal. This type of hearing aid is powerful enough for mild to severe hearing loss and is available with a range of programmes such as background noise reduction, different hearing settings, t-coil and directional microphones. It is also available in a wide range of colours.

The RIC is the smallest hearing aid in the 'Made For iPhone' ranges, allowing the wearer to stream from their Apple media devices without the need for an additional accessory.

Because the receiver doesn't completely block the ear canal it allows the air to circulate, making this a good choice for anyone who suffers from ear infections.

BTE - Behind The Ear Hearing Aids

This is the most well known style of hearing aid. The hearing aid fits behind the ear and the sound is carried via a tube to an ear mould which fits in the outer ear.

Because of their larger size they are the most powerful hearing aids available, suitable for most types of hearing loss. They also contain the widest range of programs and features. Many have wireless capability and, depending on the model, can stream sound from accessories or directly from Apple devices.

As well as having a T-coil they can also be connected to FM systems. Sometimes, instead of the traditional ear mould you can have a smaller dome type fitting which allows for air circulation in the ear canal.

Whilst they are the largest type of hearing aid, the BTE style is surprisingly small and discrete, it's also available in a wide range of colours.
With so many options to choose from it can be hard to narrow it down. Here are some things to consider.

  • What would you be more comfortable wearing? 
  • Are you happy with small fiddly buttons and batteries, or would you prefer something easier to handle? 
  • What is your level of hearing loss? 
  • Are there specific features you want, such as 'Made for iPhone' or a Tinnitus program?

Talk to your audiologist about which fitting and model would be best for your needs.


Author: Paul Harrison

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