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Hearing Aid Types

There are many different types of hearing aids and prices and they all suit a specific need or requirement. The most common types are either Behind The Ear (BTE) or In The Ear (ITE) but there are others. This list constitutes the vast majority:

In The Ear (ITE)

Full-Shell. This is the largest of the ITE aids and occupies the whole of the external opening of the ear (concha). It is sometimes referred to as a Full-Concha hearing aid. It’s larger size means that it can be equipped with a relatively powerful receiver. Typically it would use as size 13 battery so battery life would be quite good (7-14 days).

Half-Shell. Almost exactly half the size of the Full-Shell and occupies the lower half of the concha. This is perhaps the best of the ITE hearing aids if manual dexterity is poor as it is very easy to insert and remove. Usually uses a smaller battery than a Full-Shell, typically a 312 size battery

Canal. Sometimes referred to as “In The Canal” or ITC. This is smaller than the Half-Shell and protrudes from the ear canal. Although it is visible it is more cosmetic than a half shell and is quite easy to handle. It would use a 312 battery or sometimes as size 10 if the ear canal is very narrow.

CIC. Stands for Completely In the Canal. As the name suggests, this aid fits completely inside the ear canal and us usually invisible. Until about 2008 this was the smallest of the ITEs. It can only be removed by way of it’s extraction cord. This is a thin filament of what looks like fishing line with a transparent blob on the and. This is permanently attached to the hearing aid and just looks like a hair.

IIC. Invisible In the Canal. This is basically the same as a CIC – just smaller. It also fits deeper into the ear. Since about 2008 these types of hearing aids became available. Most manufacturers now offer IIC solutions. Assuming that the CIC was already invisible then what would be the point of going even smaller (I hear you ask)? Well, there are 2 main reasons. Firstly, not everyone is a candidate for a CIC if they have small or narrow ear canals. By making smaller aids means that more people are suitable – physically. As mentioned, the IIC fits deeper into the ear canal. Without getting all technical on this point, by fitting deeper into the ear canal means that the effect of “occlusion” is reduced or even eliminated. Occlusion is the blocked up feeling that some hearing aid wearers can experience. It can make your own voice sound strange and make the sound of crunching food sound loud (to the wearer).   

Behind The Ear (BTE). Historically, many people have considered BTE hearing aids to be less cosmetic than ITEs or even unsightly. Perhaps the main reason for this could be that BTEs are usually worn together with large ear-moulds and tubes. This is now no longer necessarily the case. Some BTEs now come with extremely thin tubes, no ear-moulds and can very small indeed. They are highly cosmetic and perhaps more invisible than most ITEs. A huge benefit of these tiny BTEs is that the ear is not blocked with a conventional ear-mould. This eliminates the blocked up feeling of occlusion. These tiny mould-less hearing aids are referred to commonly as “open fit” aids.

Thin Tube BTE.  Usually small and very cosmetic. A thin, almost invisible tube carries the sound from the hearing aid to the ear. There is no ear-mould, just a small disposable tip at the end of the tube.

Receiver In the Canal (RIC ). These are sometimes called CRT (Canal Receiver Tube) or RITE (Receiver In The Ear). They look the same as the Thin Tube BTE but the sound is delivered differently. Instead of the thin tube carrying sound it contains a thin wire. The tip that goes into the ear is actually a receiver (mini speaker) and the wire provides the power and connection. The theory behind this is that sound does not need to be “squeezed” down a thin tube, it is produced in the ear canal itself. This results in less distortion of the sound and therefore a better sound quality.

Rarer types of hearing aids

Spectacle hearing aids. There are 2 distinct types of spectacle hearing aids – air conduction aids and bone conduction aids. Air conduction spectacle hearing aids are simply spectacles where the hearing aid is integrated into the arm of the spectacle. They still require a tube and possibly ear-moulds to deliver the sound into the ears. Bone conduction hearing aids are completely different. Although the hearing aid is again built into the arm(s) of the spectacles, the sound is transmitted directly to the inner ear by vibrations. The arms of the spectacles apply considerable pressure to the mastoid bone behind the ear. Bone conduction hearing aids are designed for people with hearing loss associated with the outer or middle ear – not the relatively common nerve deafness. From time to time, aid conduction spectacle hearing aids are marketed in the press as some sort of innovation. The huge achilles heel with these instruments is that if to take your specs off you can’t hear and vice versa. They sound good in theory but seldom deliver expectations. Although we don’t list these on our price list we can source them if required. Just give us a call and we can talk you through the few pros and the many cons. Bone conduction hearing aids, although rare, can be the perfect solution for some people so again, call us and we can advise.

Body worn aids. These aids consist of a small box worn on the person. These are particularly good where a lot of power is needed or where another person needs to monitor the on/off/volume settings. They are very durable and are relatively low cost. Panasonic launched a high tech digital version in 2010 which included headphones as an option. Basically, body worn aids are a bit like a small Sony Walkman if you’re old enough to remember them.

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