Why are there so many different kinds of hearing aids?

Ears and hearing profiles are like snowflakes: no two are alike. Learn about the different configurations and how your hearing care professional can help you choose the one that’s right for you.

The solution is as unique as you are.

There’s a short answer to this question: ears and hearing profiles are like fingerprints and snowflakes — no two are alike. Your unique hearing situation, which includes the topography of your ears, the degree of your hearing loss, the parts of your ear involved, the difference in hearing ability between your two ears, and other factors — these things will lead your hearing care professional to find the right solution for you.

There are a lot of solutions to choose from. If you’ve been investigating hearing instruments on the Internet, you’ve probably been looking at a bewildering array of shapes, sizes, even colors to choose from. That’s actually good news, because it means that chances are good you’ll be able to find an instrument that not only meets your medical need, but fits your budget and lifestyle as well.

Remember that your best bet is to work with a hearing care professional to understand and choose a hearing instrument that fits right and sounds right. Here’s a general overview of the different kinds of instruments out there and where they work best.


Behind-the-ear (BTE)

BTE devices house all electronics including the speaker in a case that fits behind the ear. BTEs have a small ear hook that is attached to a mold or Corda thin tube with a custom mold or dome that sits in the ear. BTEs can communicate wirelessly to each other to enhance speech understanding in noisy environments and can connect to a range of accessories via Bluetooth® Low Energy technology. BTEs come in different styles including a rechargeable  option (miniBTE R) or options with disposable batteries. BTE devices are prescribed for mild-to-profound hearing loss.

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Receiver-In-the-Ear (RITE)

RITE devices house most of the electronics in a case that fits behind the ear, and look similar to BTE devices, though they are usually significantly smaller. The difference with RITE devices is that the sound is transmitted electronically from the case to a tiny speaker suspended in the ear canal — a feature that gives more flexibility and better performance than BTE devices in many cases.

Like BTE devices, RITE devices are usually designed to communicate with each other wirelessly to enhance speech understanding in noisy environments. RITE devices come in a disposable battery option and may be available in a rechargeable version (such as the miniRITE R) which allows you to recharge your hearing devices in a charger and forgo the need of disposable batteries. RITE devices are prescribed for mild-to-severe hearing loss and are available in a range of colors that match hair and skin tones, or in fun colors for kids and teens.

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Invisible-In-the-Canal (IIC)

This is the smallest type of hearing instrument available and is invisible in the ear — designed for people who want the ultimate in discretion. Sitting deep inside the ear canal, an IIC instrument offers the benefits of the natural acoustics of the external ear. 

IIC instruments are custom made and are recommended typically for people with mild to moderately severe hearing loss, and whose ear canals are wide enough for them to fit.

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Completely-In-the-Canal (CIC)

This extremely small hearing instrument, a little bigger than an IIC device, is almost invisible in the ear, and also provides the ultimate in discretion. CIC instruments are custom made and are recommended for people with ear canals large enough for them to fit.

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In-the-Ear (ITE)

These hearing instruments are appropriate for mild-to-severe hearing loss. Due to their larger size, ITEs can accommodate features such as directionality (makes speech easier to understand in noisy situations)- multiple listening programs, and telecoils (for telephone use and assisted listening devices). This style also includes an extensive range of connectivity options including hands-free communication from select iPhone® and iPad® devices and direct streaming from select Android™ devices*. These instruments are also easier to handle for many people.

*Only available in styles with 2.4 GHz technology. Android devices need to support ASHA to allow direct connectivity to Oticon Own. iPhone and iPad devices need to support two-way hands-free communication. Please visit Oticon.com/support/compatibility for more information and to see which devices are compatible.

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Which one is right for you?

With all these options, you may be wondering how you’ll decide on what’s right for you. Of course, your hearing care professional will be able to guide you through selection. And the choice may depend on your answers to some surprising questions, not about your hearing, but about your lifestyle and personality. For example, are you an athlete? Do you go to parties a lot? Do you share a TV with other people in your home? Do you want to hide your hearing instruments, or do you want to show them off? Are you progressive or conservative when it comes to trying new things? 

Let’s face it: our hearing is a huge factor in how well, and how comfortably we engage with the people and the world around us, every waking moment of everyday. At the same time, our hearing life is intensely personal and unique. When we need help with hearing, we need help that’s as personal and unique as we are. That’s why there are so many hearing instrument options from which to choose ... and why it’s so important to get the help you need to get it right.

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