In the past, analogue hearing aids were bulky and could perform only basic changes to incoming sounds — like increasing sound overall or boosting treble and bass sounds.

Nowadays, we have digital hearing aids. These modern hearing aids shape the sound more precisely to fit your hearing loss. They can filter out noise to help you better understand everyday sounds and are much smaller and more discreet than the old hearing aids.

Almost all hearing aids today are digital, and there is such a variety now that it can be hard to know which type of hearing aid to choose.

Finding the right hearing aid for you

Everyone is different and so too is the fitting style of hearing aids for each person. It’s important to note that, depending on your individual style and level of hearing assistance required from your aid, the type/shape of the aid needed may vary.

Having a hearing aid that suits your needs and fits comfortably in the ear is the most important part of a healthy relationship between you and your hearing aid. There should be no compromise between comfort and sound quality.

Whatever style you choose, a good fit in the ear is essential because it allows sound to be channelled into the ear without letting any amplified sound leak out which leads to feedback (whistling).

We’ve put together this guide to explain the different types of modern hearing aids to help make your choice a little easier.

What are the different styles of hearing aids?

There are two main types: those that fit behind the ear (also known as open-fit style) and in-the-ear aids.

If you have any problems with your vision or dexterity, you may find behind-the-ear hearing devices easier to handle. A Specsavers hearing care professional will help you choose a style which best suits your hearing and lifestyle at your appointment.

Receiver in the canal (RIC)

These hearing aids have a small case that fits behind the ear. The case contains the microphone and amplifier. A wire conducts electrical signals to a speaker that fits inside the ear, where it produces the sound.

Behind the ear (BTE)

BTE aids are similar to RIC aids except that the speaker is not inside the ear. Instead, the speaker is in the case behind the ear, and the sound travels into a plastic tube. The plastic tube transmits sound into the ear. These hearing aids are available on the NHS.

In the ear (ITE)

If you look at someone’s ear, you will see a bowl-shaped dipped area. This is called the concha. In-the-ear aids fit the microphone, amplifier, and speaker into a shell that fits within the concha and ear canal. 

Completely in the canal and instant fit (CIC)

People who are looking for something smaller may opt for complete in the ear canal (CIC) aids that only fill the ear canal. 

They may be seen if you look directly at the person’s ear canal opening, but are otherwise unnoticeable. These aids do not fill the concha of the outer ear.

Invisible in canal (IIC)

The smallest hearing aids fit deeply in the ear canal. They usually have a darker colouring so that they are not easily seen and are the most discreet type of hearing aid available. 

Digital hearing aid features

When you and your audiologist select your hearing aids, it’s important to think about how they are going to be used to improve your hearing and quality of life.

If you are someone who enjoys music or watching TV, you might be best suited with a hearing aid that has Bluetooth® connectivity. Or, if you are someone who loves social situations and conversations, you might consider a hearing aid that incorporates premium sound-filtering technology.

Apps and Bluetooth®-enabled hearing aids

Today’s hearing aids can connect directly to many Bluetooth compatible mobile phones, TV and other audio devices, so you can enjoy clear sound streamed straight into your ears. 

An app on your smartphone can transform it into a control centre where you can change your hearing aid settings and check your battery life.

Find out more about hearing aid apps here.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still control your hearing settings easily by using a wireless remote control. This is available with many modern hearing aids, simply ask your hearing aid audiologist for advice.

Rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable hearing aid batteries. Many people love the convenience of popping their hearing aids in and out of a charger every night. Rechargeable hearing aids also eliminate the difficulty of changing small and fiddly hearing aid batteries.

Sound-filtering technology

Hearing aids come in technology levels ranging from basic to premium. The exterior portion of the hearing aids will not change, but the technology may be different. Hearing aids with more advanced technology have computer chips embedded in them that provide more features. Premium hearing aids offer the most sophisticated programs for helping you hear better in background noise. These features may be important to you if you lead an active lifestyle.

Speciality hearing devices

There are also speciality hearing devices that work for people with particular or more advanced conditions.

Lyric

Extended-wear hearing aids are placed in the ear canal and worn for several weeks at a time. They are removed and replaced by a hearing care professional.

CROS

These hearing aids systems are prescribed when someone has one ear that is close to normal and one ear that has severe to profound hearing loss (unilateral hearing loss). A microphone worn on the poorer hearing side transmits sound to a receiver placed on the good ear. The receiver sends the sound into the good ear.

BI-CROS

Bi-CROS hearing aids systems similar to CROS hearing systems, except that the better ear also has some hearing loss. The device on the ear with poorer hearing amplifies sounds to compensate for the hearing loss before transmitting the sound into the better ear.

Cochlear implants

These are surgical devices inserted into the inner ear of people who have severe to profound hearing loss. When someone has more severe hearing loss, traditional hearing aids may not work well enough, so cochlear implants may be considered.

What brands of hearing aids are available at Specsavers?

We offer hearing aids from some of the leading manufacturers: Signia, Phonak and Philips.

We also offer the Specsavers Advance line, our own range of hearing aids. These are built by leading manufacturers specifically for Specsavers and offer some of the latest technology, including rechargeable Bluetooth®. Explore our collection of brands.

Choosing the right hearing aid for you

Our hearing experts are here to guide you through every step of the way on your journey to better hearing — book your hearing test today.

In the meantime, you can read more about the different types of hearing loss on our audiology hub.

FAQs

What is the best hearing aid for a small ear canal?

There are many different styles of hearing aids to suit different ear shapes and sizes. Book an appointment with a Specsavers audiologist to discuss your different options. We also offer a 100 day money back guarantee, if you find one style uncomfortable, we can change to another style to suit you.

Do ‘in the ear’ hearing aids provide a better quality of sound?

Modern practice for the fitting of hearing aids is to keep the ear canals as 'open' as possible so that natural sound can pass in and out to support the amplification provided by the hearing aids. Whilst ITE hearing aids can be effective for some people, many others report the feeling of being 'blocked up'. The most popular hearing aids are now the open-fit style which are available from both the NHS and privately.