With the plethora of choices in hearing aids these days, it can be confusing to sort out which style may be the best fit for your type of hearing loss, your lifestyle and your personal preferences. While your best resource for making this important decision is a knowledgeable audiologist, this guide can help clarify the basic differences in hearing aid styles and help you anticipate your specialist’s recommendation.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

BTE hearing aids house the hearing components behind the ear. A small tube connects the case to the earmold or hearing piece that directs amplified sounds into your hearing canal. BTE hearing aids are usually recommended for children since they can be fitted with a wide variety of earmold styles and sizes. They’re also sturdier than other styles, easiest to handle, and easy to clean. Because of their size, BTE hearing aids also provide the most powerful amplification, making them ideal for even severe hearing loss.

Mini BTE hearing aids

The Mini BTE is a newer variation of the BTE that features a smaller case and thinner tubing. It also allows for an “open fit” earmold, which rests in the ear. This feature reduces the plugged sensation in the ear canal and increases comfort, overall. The Mini BTE also tends to reduce feedback and looks more cosmetically appealing than the traditional BTE style. Mini BTEs are ideal for individuals with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing devices

ITE hearing aid components fit into a small shell case that fills the outer ear. While they’re smaller than BTE styles, they’re still fairly easy to handle. The main drawback of these smaller models is that their sound amplification is not as strong as BTE models, but if you only have mild-to-moderate hearing loss, this might not be a concern.

In-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids

ITC and CIC hearing are the smallest available hearing aids currently being designed. Their tiny cases fit either partially or completely within the ear canal. These are the most cosmetically discreet hearing aids, which makes them popular among those new to hearing aids and young adults. Besides their cosmetic appeal, they have some listening advantages over larger models. Due to their size, these models tend to be difficult to handle and adjust, so they’re not ideal if you have arthritis or dexterity issues. They are generally recommended for individuals with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

Within these basic styles, there is still a great deal of variety and customization potential. Talk with your audiologist about which combination might be best for you.