How the Different Types of Hearing Aids work

Did you know that more than 28 million American adults could do with a hearing aid? Phonak helps you become a hearing aid provider through it’s development and production of hearing solutions that help your patients thrive emotionally and socially.

According to that survey, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and two other organizations found that more people have hearing disabilities than they acknowledge.

However, not all hearing aids are the same. If you are interested in knowing more about them, keep reading to learn about the different types of hearing aids and how they work.

1. Behind the ear (BTE)

The BTE hearing aid is the most common and is the most visible. You will find its components inside a casing that tucks behind your ear. A clear plastic tube directs the amplified sound to an earmold or earbud fitted inside your ear canal. 

BTEs are generally the biggest and the most robust, recommended if you have mild or severe hearing loss.

How the Different Types of Hearing Aids work


  • Easier to fit
  • Sizeable, therefore easy to handle
  • More rugged, ensuring it lasts longer
  • Size allows a manufacturer to pack more features
  • Larger batteries, so they will last longer before needing replacement. Rechargeable options are also available


  • Most conspicuous 
  • It may not provide a comfortable fit sitting behind your ear

2. Receiver-In-Canal (RIC)

Unlike the BTE, RIC hearing aids have their speakers and receivers inside the ear canal. A thin electrical wire connects the receiver to the main device. Due to the setup, RICs are generally smaller than BTEs, yet typically sleek and feature-packed.

They pack as great a punch as BTEs, a great option if you have mild to moderate hearing impairment.


  • Quick fitting
  • Open fit allows for natural sound quality
  • Smaller, so more discreet than the large BTEs
  • Relatively big and rugged, allowing for more features 


  • Large 
  • Speaker is likely to get clogged by earwax and moisture 

3. In-the-ear (ITE)

As the largest of the custom-fitted designs, it allows for bespoke fitting based on the shape of your earmold. 

All its components fit inside a plastic casing that slides smoothly onto your ears’ outer portion. It’s large enough to accommodate manual controls, perfect for managing mild to intense hearing loss.


  • Discrete 
  • Personalized for a snug fit 
  • Choice of full or half shell
  • Large enough to contain volume controls and memory storage
  • Larger battery than the other customized designs for longer battery life


Susceptible to wind noise 

The largest of the made-to-order hearing aids

4. In-the-canal (ITC)

Similar to custom design based on ear mold. It’s way smaller than ITEs, with only a tiny portion of its hearing aid shell showing on your outer ear. 

They allow for wide-ranging customization of faceplates and are large enough to include volume and memory manual controls. It will help you power through mild to severe hearing impairment. 


  • Bespoke fit equals great fit
  • More discreet 
  • Enough room for volume controls and memory


  • Smaller batteries require frequent charging
  • Manual controls are harder to reach

5. Completely-in-canal (CIC)

The CIC hearing aid is a personalized design meant to fit inside your ear canal. The only visible bit is its “handle,” which peeks out of your canal, allowing for easy insertion and removal of the hearing aid. 

They are tiny compared to the others, which can pose handling issues. They are not as robust as the other options, so they only handle mild to moderate hearing loss issues.


  • Tiny and discreet 
  • Personalized ensuring tidy fitting


  • Challenging to attach and remove
  • Smaller battery requires regular changing
  • Too small to have manual or memory controls

6. Invisible (IIC)

The tiniest and most inconspicuous. An IIC is also a customizable hearing aid inserted into the second bend of your ear canal. 

Since it sits completely inside your ear, it’s invisible when worn. For good ear health, it has a tiny “handle” that you use to take out and insert. IICs are simple, only good for mild to moderate hearing difficulties.  


  • Personalized to your ear
  • Small and invisible to other people
  • It sits deep inside your ear


  • Too small to house memory or manual controls
  • Small size is a challenge if you have dexterity issues
  • Small battery requiring recurrent changes

Additional features that may help you hear better

Telecoils: enhance your hearing capacity by reducing the sounds from noisy surroundings and only picks up sounds from the telecoil compatible phone.

Noise reduction: most of the hearing aids have it, with some containing wind noise reduction as well.

Rechargeable batteries: make for easier maintenance without changing batteries.

Directional microphones: only pick up sound coming in front of you, ignoring side and backward noise.

Remote controls: allow you to adjust the features without touching the hearing aids, great for fine-tuning the device.

Variable programming: some come with the ability to store pre-programmed settings that suit different environments. 

Wireless connectivity: offers capacity to connect with other devices, such as smartphones and music players, via Bluetooth. 

Synchronization: if you have two hearing aids, it helps if they synchronize, so any adjustments on one earpiece, such as increased volume, registers on the other.

Learn about hearing aids

More than 28 million adults in the US need hearing aids. The various hearing aids, such as completely-in-canal, in-the-ear, and behind-the-ear hearing aids, enhance voices and filter out noises, providing relief even to people with severe hearing abilities.


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