Types of Hearing Aids: Characteristics, Pros & Cons

Instructor: Amy Couture

Amy has a master's degree in nursing and has taught nursing students at the college level.

There are many options available when choosing a hearing aid. This lessons discusses the characteristics and pros and cons of four different types of hearing aids.

Signs You May Need a Hearing Aid

Bob was struggling with some issues related to hearing loss. He explained to the doctor that he was experiencing the following:

  • Asking people to repeat what they had just said
  • The TV needs to be played more loudly than usual
  • Trouble hearing what is said at the movies
  • Difficulty hearing on the telephone
  • Straining to hear conversations

After administering a hearing test, Bob's doctor stated that Bob could benefit from a hearing aid. A hearing aid is a device powered by batteries and worn in or behind the ear. Small microphones collect sounds and amplify them into the ear. According to Bob's doctor there are several different styles and they all have certain pros and cons.

People suffering from hearing loss can benefit by using a hearing aid.
Ear

In-The-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

The doctor told Bob that ITE hearing aids (also know as custom hearing aids) are designed to suit a person's ear.

Pros

  • Twin microphones deliver better sound quality
  • The size is better for more severe hearing loss

Cons

  • Problems with moisture and ear wax can occur
  • More prone to needing repairs
  • Possible feedback problems since microphone and receiver are near each other

Completely-In-Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids

Bob was concerned that the ITE hearing aid would be too noticeable, so he wanted one that was less obvious. The doctor stated that the completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid was barely visible.

Pros

  • Device is small and discreet
  • Good sound quality due to its position in ear

Cons

  • May be hard to handle because it is small
  • Possible feedback issues
  • May feel like hearing aid is occluding (i.e. blocking) the ear canal

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aid

The doctor also mentioned that Bob might prefer a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid. This device hooks over the top of the ear and rests behind it. A tube connects to the hearing aid and amplifies sound into the ear canal through a piece called an 'earmold'.

Pros

  • Ideal for any degree of hearing loss
  • Less feedback problems due to the separation between the receiver and microphone
  • Rarely needs repair

Cons

  • Style can be larger than other styles
  • The earmolds which fit in the ear need to be replaced every 2-4 years

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) Hearing Aid

The doctor informs Bob that receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids are very similar to behind-the-ear hearing aids. A wire (rather than tubing) connects the two pieces together.

Pros

  • Ideal for anyone with a hearing loss
  • Less feedback issues due to the separation between the receiver and microphone
  • Device is barely noticeable

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