AARP Eye Center
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.
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.
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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 (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 (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 (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 (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.
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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