Hearing instruments come in a variety of sizes, from tiny, invisible-in-the-canal models to those which sit behind the ear. The right hearing instrument style and size depends on several factors, including: degree of hearing loss, listening requirements, ear shape and size, the ability to handle and control instruments and lifestyle needs. Many people are concerned about the effect a hearing aid will have on their appearance but its worth remembering that others will be far less aware of the instrument than you. Today’s hearing instruments can be very discreet. Your Hearing Professional will discuss with you the different factors relating to each style before recommending a specific device.
Understanding some of the differences between the hearing aid styles will help you and your Hearing Professional choose the instrument that’s right for you.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE): BTE instruments rest behind the ear and house the device’s technology. A clear plastic tube then directs amplified sound into an ear mould inside the ear canal. Behind-the-ear instruments are often the most durable hearing devices – some are even waterproof. Compared to smaller in-the-ear instruments, they hold more circuitry and offer greater amplification. Some NHS BTE products feature thin tubes with small domes on the tip (sometimes referred to as thin-tube) – they are more suited to milder, high frequency hearing losses. If you have worn NHS BTEs for a long time, the NHS will often update them for thin-tube types, which tend to be more comfortable, however they can block easily with earwax.
Receiver-In-The-Canal (RIC) RECOMMENDED: The most popular hearing aid style available today, the receiver-in-the-canal device is small, discreet and incredibly quick-to-fit and perfect for many first-time wearers. A RIC places the miniature speaker directly in the ear canal, enhancing both comfort and sound quality. Waterproof styles are now available too.
Invisible-In-The-Canal (IIC) RECOMMENDED: The invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) is 100% invisible and sits comfortably near the second bend of your ear canal. The IIC is custom fit and appropriate for a range of hearing losses.
Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC): These devices fit completely in the canal. Only the head of a tiny plastic line with which you insert or remove the instrument shows above the canal. Although CIC instruments offer aesthetic appeal, the structure of some individuals’ ears (e.g. those with a very narrow canal) may make this style unsuitable for them.
In-The-Canal (ITC): In-the-ear instruments house their technology components in a custom-formed ear mould featuring an ear mould that fits down into the ear canal and a smaller portion that faces out into the outer ear. ITCs are appropriate for wearers with a mild to severe hearing loss and feature easy-to-use controls which are ideal for those with limited manual dexterity.
Constant wear (Lyric 3): Lyric 3 is a soft bodied analogue hearing aid inserted deep in the ear canal by the Hearing Professional, where it is worn for months at a time. It will be replaced for you on a regular basis. The wearer can sleep and bathe with Lyric left in place.
Non prescription / Internet products: Whilst the UK is a highly regulated market, certain loopholes allow ‘hearing aids’ to be sold through the post. These will usually be non custom in the ear types (which tend to be impractical and / or ugly), or thin tube types with volume controls so you can suit yourself.
Spectacle hearing aids: Almost all spectacle aids still require a tube to be placed in the ear canal. A very few vibrate the sound directly to the inner ear by means of a vibrating pad pressed against the skull (these are rarely prescribed as they suit very few). Spectacle aids are over promoted at times, giving an impression that they are commonly fitted and that they give successful outcomes. The truth is, they are rarely prescribed.