If you’ve recently been diagnosed with hearing loss and referred hearing aids by an audiologist, the good news is there are many different types, styles, sizes and features to choose from. One of the first decisions you’ll be making with the help of your audiologist is which of the two basic types of hearing aids to go with: in the ear (ITE) or behind the ear (BTE).

Features of ITE Hearing Aids

ITE hearing aids, often the preferred choice of first-time wearers with milder hearing loss, are designed to fit inside your ear canal. Because the inside of everyone’s ears are shaped slightly different, ITE hearing aids are custom fit based on the impression or mold an audiologist creates. These are available in many different styles, including invisible in the ear canal (IIC), completely in the ear canal (CIC), in the ear canal (ITC) and low profile. In addition to the range of styles they’re available in, ITE hearing aids come in different sizes and colors. Generally, larger styles have more buttons, features and circuitry and require larger batteries. The color of your ITE can be matched to your skin tone so it completely blends in with your ear canal.

Features of BTE Hearing Aids

BTE hearing aids are a bit more conspicuous than their inside-the-ear counterparts, but not without a unique set of advantages. Seasoned hearing aid wearers with more severe hearing loss often prefer this type because of its ability to produce more amplification while controlling feedback. The basic structure consists of a behind-the-ear or over-the-top piece with tubing that connects to the ear canal through a custom earmold or ear tip. Earmolds cover the entire ear canal, while ear tips do not. BTE hearing aids also come in a range of styles and sizes, including the mini BTE, receiver in the ear (RIE), receiver in the canal (RIC) and BTE with an earmold. Although you can get a BTE hearing aid that matches either your skin tone or hair color, they’re also available in a greater range of colors and flashier designs if you prefer to stand out. 

During your visit with an audiologist, ask them questions and express any concerns you have with choosing between these two basic types of hearing aids. Their experience with hearing aids will help you make the right decision for your needs and lifestyle. Keep in mind as your hearing changes, you may need to change your hearing aid type as well.