There are many different options available when it comes to choosing a hearing aid. Since one of the easiest ways to narrow down your choices is to pick the right style for you, our hearing care professionals have compiled all you need to know about in-the-ear hearing aid devices. In this article, we will take a look at the different kinds of in-the-ear models, explore common features, and offer a few pros and cons to help guide your decision.
Understanding the Different Types of In-The-Ear Hearing Aids
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids come in three varieties: ITE, in-the-canal (ITC), and completely-in-the-canal (CIC). in all three models, the entire hearing aid device is contained in a single shell that is placed inside the ear, with no portion of the device behind or on top of the ear. All three types of devices are uniquely fitted to each patient using custom molds of the wearer’s ear bowl and ear canal.
The main differences between these types of devices are in the size and placement of each hearing aid. Since ITE devices are the largest, they use earmold impressions of both the ear bowl and canal (called a full shell), offering a more secure fit. These hearing aids fit inside the concha bowl of the ear and extend into the ear canal, and provide correction for moderate to severe hearing loss. Full shells devices are easier to handle than CIC models, but are more visible and are more likely to pick up wind noise.
ITC devices can be customized with different earmold sizes. Some devices will sit only in the lower portion of the ear bowl (half shell), while others only use the canal portion of the impression. Half shell devices will treat mild to moderate hearing loss, and are not immediately visible to others.
In CIC devices, no portion of the earmold extends into the ear bowl. Since the device is worn inside the canal, wearers need adequately long ear canals to ensure a snug fit. These hearing aids are recommended for mild to moderate hearing loss while offering the least visibility.
Pros and Cons of Custom ITE Hearing Aids
ITE devices are a wonderful option for many people who want to hear better but do not want the visual distraction of a hearing aid. There are many benefits of ITE devices, such as:
- Size. ITE devices are usually chosen for their cosmetic appeal.
- Strong correction. Many ITE devices can treat a moderately high degree of hearing loss.
- Comfort. Custom-molded devices are made to fit a wearer exactly, making them comfortable to wear all day.
- Versatility. Unlike some behind-the-ear models, ITE hearing aids can remain comfortably in place while a wearer talks on the telephone or wears glasses, and does not have to be taken off frequently.
The major drawbacks of ITE devices include:
- Price. Since custom in-the-canal devices offer high power and a discreet listening experience, they can be more expensive than behind-the-ear models.
- Adults only. While these devices can correct a wide variety of hearing losses, they are not suitable for children. Children’s ear canals frequently change shape, making it likely that they will outgrow custom devices.
- Few surface controls. Since they are meant to sit inside the ear for long periods of time, in-the-canal hearing aids do not have many manual controls on the outer shell. The on-off switch may require more manual dexterity, so these aids often have only one listening mode to avoid the hassle of making adjustments.
- Smaller batteries. People who have difficulty with fine motor skills or handling small items may wish to opt for larger devices, as the batteries in custom in-the-canal hearing aids are usually smaller.
- Limited features. Due to their smaller size, in-the-canal devices often have fewer features than larger hearing aids. For example, the Widex CIC-Micro is nearly impossible to see with the naked eye, but does not offer wireless connections to any hearing accessories and only has one listening program.
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