BEHIND THE EAR (BTE)
Well known for its high level of reliability and durability, the BTE is also one of the most commonly worn styles of devices. All electronic components (including the speaker) are located within the device behind the ear. This physical distance from the ear canal means that these devices are less prone to moisture and wax damage. More commonly, BTEs are available in mini versions with slim tubes (rather than ear moulds) which allow the overall size of the device to be much smaller than you may think.
BTE styles are highly recommended for people seeking high levels of reliability and comfort, and also who may require additional power in order to overcome higher levels of hearing loss.
RECEIVER IN CANAL (RIC)
One of the newer styles to enter the market, the RIC is a clever blend of reliability, comfort and discrete cosmetic appearance. Most of the electronics (including the amplifier, microphones, and battery) are tucked away behind the ear, while the speaker (also known as a receiver) sits inside the ear canal. The speaker is connected to the rest of the device by a very fine wire encased in flexible plastic which runs up the side of the ear, and ‘blends in’ with the skin.
RIC devices have become one of the most popular styles because they are less noticeable on the ear and offer excellent and very natural sound quality.
CUSTOM (ITC, CIC)
There are several versions of custom instruments, some smaller than others. As a rule, the larger the instrument, the more powerful the amplifier and speaker, and the longer the battery life. The electronic components are located in the ear canal or concha (bowl of the ear). The shape of the shell or casing is taken from a custom-made mould of your ear. This allows for a very precise fit.
The location in the ear and the fact the custom device occludes a significant portion of the ear canal, can result in a blocked feeling in the ear or your own voice sounding loud and ‘drummy’ when speaking. Also, custom styles can be more prone to wax and moisture damage given the location in the ear canal where wax is produced.
Custom styles are often easier to manage and are suitable for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
INVISIBLE IN CANAL (IIC)
These devices can’t be seen when in the ear. They are so small that they are invisible to other people. The obvious benefit is that no one will know you’re wearing a hearing aid.
IIC devices fit very deeply in the ear canal and require a medium to large size ear canal in order to fit all the components in. These are also custom-made so that a very precise fit can be obtained
These instruments are suitable for anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a device that can’t be noticed. This style is popular with younger users and those still active in the workforce or with sport. Clinically, the ability to take a great ear impression is important as is the skill and training of your audiologist when it comes to fitting and verifying the fit of the IIC device.