Types of Hearing Aids

There are several types of hearing aids to choose from to suit your lifestyle and severity of hearing loss. In this page we provide descriptions of each plus their pros and cons to help you determine which is right for you.

As hearing aids all differ in size, appearance and functionality, it is important to choose the right type to suit your individual needs. An audiologist will discuss your options with you following your hearing consultation.

Types of hearing aids

Behind-the-ear (BTE) with earmould

behind the ear with earmould hearing aids

A BTE with earmould hearing aid is suitable for those with mild to severe hearing loss. The case sits behind the ear and attaches to a tube which feeds into an ear mould. These hearing aids are fairly visible.


Behind-the-ear (BTE) open-fit

behind the ear hearing aids

A BTE with open-fit hearing aid is suitable for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. The case sits behind the ear and attaches to a tube which feeds into a small, soft earpiece. These hearing aids are fairly visible but slightly less so than the BTE with earmould.


Receiver in-the-ear (RITE)

receiver in the ear hearing aids

A RITE hearing aid, also known as a receiver in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aid, is suitable for mild to severe hearing loss. RITE hearing aids can be made with a very small case behind-the-ear and the wire connecting to a receiver that sits in the ear. Although visible, they are more discreet than the BTE hearing aid.


In-the ear (ITE)

in ear hearing aids

An ITE hearing aid is suitable for mild to some severe hearing loss. Unlike the above, they do not have a case behind the ear, or a wire, but an earpiece that fits the full concha or bowl of the ear and are often referred to as “Full Shell” hearing aids. As they do not have the case or wire, they are far less obvious, and only visible if you are to look into the ear.


In-the-canal (ITC)

in the canal hearing aids

An ITC hearing aid is suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss. Like the ITE, they do not have a case behind the ear, or a wire. The earpiece is smaller than the ITE and only fits half the concha. As they do not have the case or wire, they are not obvious except for the small earpiece if looking into the ear.


Completely in-the-canal (CIC)

completely in the canal hearing aids

CIC hearing aids are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss. These are extremely small hearing aids that fit completely in the ear canal and are not visible unless you were to look directly into the ear.



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What type of hearing aid is most suitable for me?

Type of hearing aid Pros Cons
Behind-the-ear (BTE) with earmould
  • Suitable for a wide range of hearing loss
  • Most reliable
  • Most visible hearing aid
  • Earmould may feel obtrusive
Behind-the-ear (BTE) open-fit
  • Less intrusive earpiece than an earmould
  • Less visible than an earmould
  • Relatively comfortable
  • Risk of coming loose if not fitted correctly
Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) digital aids
  • Smaller case than BTE
  • More discreet
  • Can be fitted with more amplification
  • Receiver prone to sound distortion due to effects of wax and sweat
In-the-canal (ITC) and in-the-ear (ITE) digital aids
  • No case behind the ear
  • More discreet
  • Prone to repairs
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) or invisible hearing aids
  • Almost invisible
  • More natural sound
  • Unsuitable for those prone to ear infections
  • Can get plugged up with sweat and wax
  • Unsuitable for those with poor manual dexterity

As this table shows, the type of hearing aid will really depend on individual needs. Whilst the more visible BTE hearing aids are more visible and larger, they seem to be more reliable and easy-to-use than the smaller ITC and CIC. This may be important to consider if you have problems with your eyesight or struggle with manual dexterity.

Those with less severe hearing loss may want to consider the smaller ITC or CIC, or even invisible hearing aids, thanks to their discrete nature and suitability to those with mild to moderate hearing loss.


Other types of hearing aids

  1. Hearing aid with tinnitus masker

    For those suffering from tinnitus, a tinnitus masker is an electronic device that emits broadband or narrow band noise at low levels, also known as white noise. This is designed to reduce the levels of tinnitus. Combining a tinnitus masker with a hearing aid can assist an individual with both tinnitus and hearing loss.

  2. Spectacle hearing aids

    Spectacle hearing aids are a two-in-one solution for those with both sight and hearing problems. Within the arm of a pair of spectacles is a small digital hearing aid which can improve your hearing whilst remaining extremely discreet.

  3. Bone conduction hearing aids

    Bone conduction hearing aids work by a titanium implant that sits in the bone behind the ear and a sound processor that sits behind the ear. It is designed to use your body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bone conduction rather than sending sound waves through the ear canal, as would a traditional hearing aid.

  4. CROS and BICROS hearing aids

    A Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) is a hearing solution for individuals who typically have one hearing ear and one deaf ear. The deaf ear has a microphone which transmits to a receiver in the hearing ear.

    If the hearing ear experiences hearing loss due to age related problems, a BiCROS digital hearing aid system can provide a solution. There is still a microphone in the deaf ear transmitting to the hearing ear, but the hearing ear also has a microphone to improve its audibility.

  5. Implantable hearing aids

    A middle ear implant (MEI) is a small device implanted onto the bones of the middle ear. It is designed for those that have hearing loss in the outer or middle ears and works by increasing the transmission of vibrations to the inner ear.


  6. What is the average lifespan of hearing aids?

    The average hearing aid will last around five years. However, some people have reported a lifespan of ten years with regular maintenance. It will all depend on the type of hearing aid you have.

    You will need to replace your hearing aid batteries regularly throughout its lifespan. They are powering an important device to enable you to hear and inevitably will run down due to this workload.

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