When you’re in the market for hearing aids, you’ll come across a variety of different types. Some look like small, self-contained earbuds while others have loops and attachments that fit behind the back of your ears. 

It turns out that different types of hearing aids offer various advantages and disadvantages to the wearer. Some are small and discreet, barely visible from the outside. Others are bigger and bulkier but come with more features and longer battery life. We’ll look at the main types of hearing aids and which you might want to choose for your hearing loss. 

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

BTE hearing aids have been around for several years. These feature two main sections connected to each other by a tube. One part of the device loops over the back of the auricle and contains the battery, microprocessor and some controls. The other part sits inside the ear and contains the speaker. 

BTE devices are larger than some of the newer form-factors to hit the market, but they still offer advantages. For one thing, they are usually easy to find if you set them down. But they also have more space for circuits, batteries, microphones and speakers, leading to longer battery life and higher performance. Many manufacturers place the microphone on the part of the device that sits behind the ear, reducing annoying feedback interactions with the speaker. 

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids look similar to BTE hearing aids. The difference is that the device pumps sound into the ear via a tube instead of a bud-like device, containing a speaker. 

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids

ITE devices are worn in the outer ear bowl and offer an easy-to-handle device that is still private. Patients typically ask their audiologists for these hearing aids when they want something more discreet than a traditional BTE device. ITEs contain all of the components of regular hearing aids, but without any components looping over the back of the auricle. 

Aside from being less visible, ITE hearing aids may offer additional, practical advantages. For instance, patients involved in contact sports will often choose ITE devices because they sit flush to the ear opening, lessening the chance of damage during physical activity. 

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids

ITC hearing aids are similar in appearance to ITE hearing aids. However, they tend to be smaller and more discreet, with the bulk of the component housing sitting in the ear canal itself. Like ITE devices, they may have exterior memory and volume controls, but where these are placed and the level of functionality you get depends primarily on the manufacturer. Patients looking for more discreet devices will typically choose in-the-canal hearing aids over other varieties. 

Each hearing aid offers advantages and disadvantages. It is up to patients to select the best option, given their circumstances with help from hearing healthcare professionals.