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AARP Bulletin

Guide to Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Styles: Pros and Cons

Learn about the 7 most common devices that can help enhance hearing

En español l All hearing aids have a microphone that picks up sounds and converts them to electrical signals. Those electrical signals go to an amplifier and then to a receiver that converts the signals to sound waves and sends them to the ear. Learn more about the seven most common devices. Costs are per aid.

Roll mouse over hearing aids to see position on the ear:

behind-the-ear hearing aid
behind-the-ear hearing aid demonstration

Behind the ear (BTE): Plastic tube carries sound to a custom ear mold (not shown). PROS: Larger size makes it easier to manipulate. Tends to last longer than smaller devices. Accommodates directional microphone, volume control. CONS: Conspicuous. Awkward for phone use. COST: $1,580-$2,769.

mini behind-the-ear hearing aid
mini behind-the-ear hearing aid demonstration

Mini behind the ear (Mini BTE): Plastic tube connects to an earbud inside the ear canal. PROS: Leaves the ear canal open, for more natural sound, especially your own voice. No custom mold required. No "plugged up" feeling. CONS: Harder to use with the telephone. COST: $1,580-$2,769.

receiver in canal hearing aid
receiver in canal hearing aid demonstration

Receiver in canal (RIC): Microphone, amplifier are behind the ear; connected with wires to a receiver in an earbud or custom mold in the canal. PROS: One of the least noticeable devices. Can give superior sound quality. CONS: Harder to use with the phone. COST:  $1,694-$2,993.

Recently several manufacturers have developed advanced RIC hearing aids (average cost around $3,000) that are compatible with and can be adjusted using an Apple mobile device like the iPhone, iPad or iPod. 

in the ear hearing aid
in the ear hearing aid demonstration

In the ear (ITE): Custom-made shell fits in the outer ear. PROS: Easy to insert; can house a directional microphone and volume control; easy to use with the telephone. CONS: Conspicuous and bulky. COST: $1,600-$2,757.

in the canal hearing aid
in the canal hearing aid demonstration

In the canal (ITC): Custom-made device fits into the ear canal opening. PROS: Barely noticeable; large enough for directional microphones and volume control. Cons: Prone to feedback. COST: $1,716-$2,861.

completely in the canal hearing aid
completely in the canal hearing aid demonstration

Completely in the canal (CIC): Fits entirely in the ear canal. PROS: Least visible; easy to use with phone; outer ear acts as a funnel, helping with sound location. CONS: Expensive; too small for directional mikes; can be hard to change batteries; prone to feedback. COST: $1,695-$2,958.

completely in the canal hearing aid
completely in the canal hearing aid demonstration

Invisible in the canal (IIC): Fits deeper into the ear canal. PROS: Invisible; easy to use with phone; no feedback. CONS: Requires dexterity to change batteries; batteries have short life. COST: $1,695-$2,958.

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