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Styles of Hearing Aids

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You can wear hearing aids behind the ear, in the outer ear, or in the ear canal. Most newer models fit in the ear or ear canal.

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid: Most parts of the BTE hearing aid are in a case that fits behind the ear. The case is connected to a plastic ear mold by a clear tube that wraps around the top of your ear. BTE hearing aids are used for all degrees of hearing loss, especially very severe hearing loss. BTE hearing aids can be made with special features, such as a telecoil that helps with hearing during phone calls and a directional microphone system that can help you hear voices in a noisy room. They may be better for children because of safety and growth reasons.
  • "Mini" BTE (or on-the-ear) hearing aid: The mini BTE is a smaller version of the BTE hearing aid. The parts are in a case behind the ear, but the case is smaller. And the tube that connects the case to the earpiece is almost invisible. Some mini BTE aids have a very small earpiece that doesn't completely fill the ear canal. These are called "open fit" ear pieces. These types of ear pieces are less visible than the ear molds used with BTE hearing aids. They also reduce the feeling of fullness in the ear and can be more comfortable to wear.
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid: The parts of the ITE hearing aid are in a case that fits in the outer part of the ear. It can be used by people who have mild to severe hearing loss. ITE hearing aids can be made with special features, such as a telecoil that improves hearing during phone calls and a directional microphone system that can help you hear voices in a noisy room. ITE hearing aids can be easier to handle than the smaller ITC and CIC hearing aids. Children do not usually use them because the case must be replaced as the child grows.
  • In-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids: The parts of the ITC and CIC hearing aids are in a case that fits partly or completely into the ear canal. ITC and CIC hearing aids are used by people who have mild to moderate hearing loss. They are made to fit the shape and the size of the ear canal. ITC hearing aids can be made with special features such as a directional microphone system that can help you hear voices in a noisy room. Both ITC and CIC hearing aids can be damaged by earwax and fluid draining from the ear. And their small size may be difficult for some people to handle. They are not recommended for children.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Charles M. Myer, III, MD - Otolaryngology
Last Revised April 8, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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