Hearing in Style: Hearing Aid Styles Explained
When it comes to fashion accessories, we’re spoiled for choice. A quick stroll through a department store will surely prove that — the sheer number of options for things like wristwatches, jewelry and neckties is staggering, and finding something that fits our personalities is just a matter of looking around.
But usually, hearing aids aren’t considered so much a fashion accessory as they are dismissed as a medical device doomed to unattractive design. Consequently, many at the beginning of their search for hearing solutions are expecting little more than a short list of cumbersome, uncomfortable and unappealing options.
But just like wristwatches and jewelry, modern hearing aid designers and manufacturers are thinking about more than just function — the past few years have seen enormous strides forward in hearing aid form. Now, hearing aids are not only designed to fit your unique hearing needs with sophisticated settings, but also your sense of style, too.
While some hearing aid styles are designed to fit certain activity levels – including plenty designed for more athletic and outdoorsy wearers – most wear styles are designed with two things in mind: comfort and aesthetics. Depending on your needs and wants for both, there’s plenty of options out there for you to choose from.
In-the-ear, or ITE aids as they’re more commonly referred to, are exactly what they sound like – hearing aids that sits inside the ear and ear canal. Distinct from canal aids, which are contained almost entirely within the inner part of the ear, ITE aids are partially visible as they fill out most of the outer part of the ear. These are usually bigger than canal aids but smaller than behind-the-ear aids.
The style comes into play with the color choices for ITE aids. Most are a beige, skin-toned color, so that they can blend easily with the natural tone of your skin. Phonak’s line of ITE hearing aids have five different shades of skin-toned aids, and even have customizable colored shells for those that want to add a bit of personality. All are exceptionally comfortable, and since they’re nearly flush to the ear, almost undetectable, too.
In-the-Canal (ITC) Completely-in-Canal (CIC)
Just short of invisible implant hearing aids are canal styles – including In-the-Canal (ITC) and Completely-in-Canal (CIC). The CIC style boasts near invisibility thanks to it’s micro-design and masterful shape, and although it is still partially visible from the ear, it’s all but undetectable when worn.
The ITC style is slightly larger and more visible outside of the ear. The CIC style, as its name suggests, is only visible with the small section from the opening of the ear canal. For both, the functioning part of the aid rests snugly within the ear, which means these are best for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. They’re also generally custom fit, which makes them supremely comfortable, while also utilizing the same skin-toned color to keep them concealed, just like ITE styles.
Behind-the-Ear or BTE aids are a bit larger than In-the-Ear, and sit behind the ear with a tube connecting it to an earmold. These BTE aids could be misconstrued as more cumbersome, but because of tactful design, are made to be both light and secure. Since they’re entirely visible, they aren’t designed with the purpose of remaining incognito. Instead, BTE aids often take on design elements like that of smartphones – with smooth matte cases, slick chrome accessories and smooth curving shapes.
Since BTE aids are open to the elements much more than other styles, they often boast specialized coating that keeps them both water and dustproof. Many aids designed for active lifestyles are BTE styles for that reason. Generally, BTE styles are the most versatile of hearing aid styles, and are exceptionally customizable and adjustable, too.
BTE Open Fitting and Receiver-in-Canal Aids
Distinct from standard BTE aids, BTEs with open fittings are slightly different not in their placement, but how they connect to the ear. Rather than a larger and sturdier tube that connects to the ear mold, these open fitting aids have a thin and flexible tube instead. This avoids the usual pitfall of BTE aids that can make the ear feel plugged up, but with the same benefits in style and comfort.
Similar to the open fitting BTE aid is the receiver-in-canal aid, which looks nearly identical in design but has an important technical difference. Instead of the speaker being placed outside of the ear, receiver-in-canal aids swap that function into the canal itself, and the flexible silicon tube of the open fitting styles is replaced with electrical wires. But just like their BTE counterparts, receiver-in-canal aids are visible, and consequently take on decidedly more chic appearance.