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BLOG 4 - Different Types of Hearing Devices

Types and Sub-Types of Hearing Devices

MAE Audiological Services Inc Knows Which Hearing Device You Need

For this edition, we’ll review the types and sub-types of hearing devices. In October 2022, we explained the many benefits of hearing aids. Hearing aids don’t restore normal hearing, but they do make it possible to regain some hearing loss. They do this by carrying sounds into your ears and making them louder.

Learning More About the Different Types and Sub-Types of Hearing Devices

In every hearing device, small microphones pick up sounds from the environment. As hearing aids are mostly digital, computer chips, containing amplifiers, convert the sound into code. The chips analyze and adjust the sound based on surrounding sounds and the level of hearing loss. The hearing device then converts the amplified signals back into sound waves. Hearing aids ultimately deliver the amplified sound through speakers in the ear, also known as receivers. They’re either powered with a standard hearing aid battery or a rechargeable one.

Hearing Devices are Either In-The-Ear (ITE) or Behind-The-Ear (BTE)

Hearing devices differ in price, size, and special features. The industrial trend is to make them small and unnoticeable. Though stylistically they also vary, hearing aids generally fall into one of two categories: In-The-Ear (ITE) or Behind-The-Ear (BTE.):

In-The-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

In-The-Ear hearing aids go directly into the ear canal. Often, your audiologist makes an impression at the time of your hearing aid consultation to customize the ITE fit. In-The-Ear hearing aid styles typically come in different skin tones, so the ITE blends with the rest of the ear. Some In-The-Ear hearing devices go deeply within the ear canal, while other ITEs sit more to the ear’s outside. In-The-Ear hearing devices are usually easier to handle, but their speakers are susceptible to earwax clogging them. Generally, ITEs have larger batteries, including rechargeable.

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids

Behind-The-Ear hearing devices rest on top of the ear or behind the ear’s outside. Tubing routes the sound from the BTE into the ear canal through a custom-fit mold or a dome. This mold or dome doesn’t block the whole opening to the ear canal. Behind-The-Ear hearing aids have directional microphones, often capable of more amplification than ITEs. This sometimes results in the Behind-The-Ear device picking up more wind noise. BTEs usually match hair color or skin tone, but sometimes Behind-The-Ear devices come in personalized designs. Traditionally, BTEs are the largest type of hearing aid. Some manufacturers streamline newer, smaller Behind-The-Ear hearing devices, making them barely visible. BTEs sometimes need powered with rechargeable batteries.

A Prevailing ITE Hearing Device Includes the In-The-Canal (ITC) Option

In-The-Ear hearing aids also vary in style. One type of ITE fills most of the bowl-shaped area of the ear’s outside. This type of ITE is called a full shell. Another type of In-The-Ear device only fills the lower part of the bowl-shaped area. This is known as a half shell. A prevailing ITE hearing aid is the In-The-Canal (ITC) device.

ITC Hearing Aids Include In-The Canal and Completely-In-The-Canal

The most invisible In-The-Ear device is an In-The-Canal hearing aid. In-The Canal hearing aids go partly into the ear canal. Completely-In-The Canal hearing aids get custom-molded to fit totally inside the ear canal. Completely-In-The Canal devices are the smallest and least visible ITC. They’re less likely to pick up wind noise, but often don’t include features like volume control or directional microphones. Earwax can clog both In-The-Canal and CITCs and both hearing devices have small batteries, often with shorter lives between uses. Besides ITC and CITC, Invisible In-The-Canal (IIC) devices sit in or just past the bend in the ear canal. Invisible In-The-Canal hearing aids are very tiny, custom-made devices, designed to be all-but unnoticeable to the observer. ITE and ITCs are discreet with longer battery lives. They can easily suffer damage via ear wax and moisture, though, and make wearers feel plugged up.

Some Consider an Open Fit or Receiver-In-The-Ear BTE Hearing Device

Just as varied as In-The-Ear options, Behind-The-Ear hearing aids fall into several categories. Many BTEs come with earmolds to accommodate volume control and program buttons. Among the assorted styles of Behind-The-Ear devices include Open Fit hearing aides and Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE) BTEs.

Open Fit VS RITE Hearing Aids

Open-fit BTEs have thin tubes. They amplify high-frequency sounds. Open fit hearing devices keep the ear canal open, allowing for low-frequency sounds to naturally enter the ear. They don’t plug the ear like ITE hearing aids. Open-fit hearing aids might be difficult to insert into the ear due, however, because the open fit dome isn’t custom-fit. RITEs are also known RIC (Receiver-In-Canal.) While partially outside the ear, Receiver-In-The-Ears have slimmer tubes than standard or miniature BTEs. Receiver-In-The-Ear amplifiers form part of the ear tip within the ear canal, rather than being part of the instrument’s body. Many Receiver-In-The-Ear devices include technology, like artificial intelligence and wireless connectivity to smart devices and most RITEs have directional microphones. Like ITEs, though, RITEs are susceptible to moisture and ear wax damage.

For more information on hearing aids and hearing evaluations, call MAE Audiological Services Inc at (724) 527–2228. Except for Thursdays and weekends, we are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are happy to explain more about the types and sub-types of hearing devices.