Hearing Aid Styles


A hearing aid is a small electronic device that can be worn in or behind your ear. They amplify sounds so that a person with a hearing impairment can communicate more effectively. Hearing aids are useful in improving the hearing and speech understanding of people who have hearing loss and assist individuals to hear in both quite and noisy situations. Hearing aid styles differ by size, their placement on or in the ear and the degree to which they amplify sound. There are several factors that should be considered when determining what style is most appropriate for you. Together with your hearing practitioner you will discuss the different styles of hearing aids and which aid would most suit your needs.

Open Fit

An open fit hearing aid fits behind the ear and is connected to a plastic ear mold or dome that fits comfortable inside of the ear. Many of these plastic domes have tiny air pockets which allow air to pass through the ear canal making sound more natural and reducing the effects of occlusion. This hearing aid amplifies high frequency sound without blocking the ear canal. Sound travels from the hearing aid through a narrow tube and into the ear. This narrow tube sits flush against the face, making this style of hearing aid cosmetically appealing.

Behind the Ear (BTE)

The electrical components of the hearing aids are held in a slim case that sits behind the ear. It is connected to an earmold that fits inside the ear and is attached to the hearing aid by a thin, clear tube. Sounds processed by the hearing aid are sent through the ear by this tube and earmold. BTE aids are used by individuals of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. It is the largest hearing aid and allows more power than other styles.

In the Ear (ITE)

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic known as the shell. ITE’s are the largest of the custom products.

Canal Hearing Aids (ITC or CIC)

Canal aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.

Hearing Aid Technology

Hearing aids of the past have been mostly analog. Analog hearing aids amplify sound by making the continuous sound wave larger. There are two types of analog aids: conventional and programmable. Analog hearing aids are the most basic level of hearing aid technology. The specifications prescribed by your hearing care professional are built into the hearing aid by the manufacture. Fine tuning can be done manually. With analog hearing aids there are only so much that can be done by your hearing practitioner in terms of adjustments. These hearing aids are least flexible and carry very little adjustment capability.

Programmable analog hearing aids are digitally controlled by a computer. They can be adjusted or modified in the office. This approach can offer a greater degree of adjustment flexibility.

Most hearing aids on the market today use digital technology. Digital hearing aids take the continuous sound wave and break it into tiny pieces of information. This is called digitizing the signal. All digital hearing aids perform this. The word digital in terms of hearing aid technology refers to the method of how the hearing aid processes sound. The hearing aid has a powerful computer chip that can process sound faster than 100-200 million calculations per second. The more sophisticated the digital hearing instrument, the greater ability to amplify the softest sounds of speech while at the same time minimizing unwanted noise. With the rapid increase of digital technology, manufactures have produced various levels of digital hearing aids from very basic to high end. Advantages of digital technology include a larger accuracy in adjustments and more versatile sound processing. Come to Markham Hearing Centre to learn more about the advancements in digital technology!

Help for Both Ears

Just as we need two eyes to see better we also require two ears to hear well. Eighty percent of individuals with hearing impairment have loss in both ears. Hearing with both ears compared to one produces strong results for those who has a hearing impairment in both ears. Some of the advantages are:

  • Keeps both ears active – research shows when only one aid is worn, the unaided ear tends to strain itself to hear as well as the aided ear. Wearing two hearing aid keeps both ears stimulated slowing down the deterioration of loss.
  • Better understanding and localization of speech – By wearing two hearing aids the brain can focus easier on the conversation. With two aids you will also find the ability to locate the direction of sound better. i.e In traffic you can tell which direction a siren is coming from.
  • Smoother Sound Quality – with the use of two aids the volume will not have to be as high. This will result in better sound quality and less distortion. Also, with the volume settings lowered the chances of feedback are reduced.
  • Understanding better in a noisy situation – With two hearing aids speech intelligibility is better.
  • Balanced Sound – When wearing two hearing aids, you will increase your hearing range. This greater range provides a better sense of balance and sound quality. A person will also be able to determine sounds coming from a further distance.

Adapting to your Hearing Aid

Adapting to your hearing aid will take some time. This is usually around 4-6 weeks for your brain to familiarize itself with the sounds it was missing. Every individual is different and how they adapt to their hearing aids will also differ. At the Markham Hearing Centre we focus on patient aural rehabilitation. We help guide our patients through their adaptation process so it is a comfortable experience. Hearing new sounds can initially overwhelm your brain. Take time to become familiar with your hearing aids. The first days of your fitting you may want to use your hearing aids in familiar environment such as your home and where them for as long as comfortable.