Types of Hearing Aids

There are three basic types of hearing aids.


Linear aids are the most basic and economical hearing aid. This hearing aid is completely manual. You have to manually adjust a volume control to suit the situation. Many hearing aids of this type use analog (non-digital) circuits.


Semi-automatic hearing aids will automatically reduce the volume of loud sounds. It is still manually adjusted for softer and medium sounds. Some of these aids are analog and some are digital.


Automatic hearing aids will adjust depending on the situation. If you are in a quiet room, it will increase its volume to improve speech reception. If you are in a noisy room, it will automatically reduce the volume to maintain comfort, reduce distortion and improve voice discrimination. Most of these hearing aids are digital.


How Technology can improve the way you hear.

Technological advancements have been accelerating in the last few years. We can now fit hearing losses more accurately and improve understanding to a higher degree of precision than ever before. Below is a brief description of some of these advances.


Digital reproduction of sound is a great improvement over analog hearing aids. Analog hearing aids use older technology such as is used in record players and cassette players. Digital hearing aids contain computer chips which convert audio signals into digital numeric codes. Depending on the model of hearing aid selected, the computer chips can perform complex processing of these codes such as automatically setting the volume, reducing background noise, and automatically reducing feedback. Digital hearing aids offer high precision and less distortion. Performance of digital hearing aids is akin to digital devices such as high-definition TVs, CD players and DVD players.

Digital Signal Processing (DSP)

Hearing instruments with Digital Signal Processing use computer based algorithms to automatically adjust the hearing aid. It can detect if the environment is too loud or speech is too soft and corrects itself accordingly. The most advanced DSPs can even recognize the difference between noise and speech. It will reduce the noise and enhance speech.


Most digital hearing aids are also programmable. The hearing aid is able to be programmed or set to the individual’s hearing loss via a computer. It does not have just one prescription like eyeglasses. If the hearing aid needs to be adjusted, a cord is connected to the aid and it is reprogrammed. This offers great flexibility, accuracy and access to many features.

Multi Memory Option

Much like eye-glasses may have two or three settings (bi-focal and tri-focal), digital programmable hearing aids may optionally have multiple memories to optimize the hearing aid to specific situations. For example, one memory could be optimized for normal environments and a second optimized for restaurants. To change the memory, the user simply depresses a button on the hearing aid. Some hearing aid models will even detect the environment you are in and automatically select the memory for you. Depending on the model, up to 4 memories may be available.

Multi Microphones

Most hearing aids use omni-directional microphones. Omni-directional means all directions are amplified by the same amount. This is similar to the way the normal human ear hears. However, most hearing impaired individuals loose ability to separate speech from noise. Hearing aids may optionally include a second microphone which will change the listening pattern from omni-directional to directional. In other words, the hearing aid will amplify signals from the front more than signals from behind. This is of great advantage when in a noisy situation such as restaurants where conversation is toward the front. This feature is selected manually on some models and is automatic on others. The most advanced models can automatically locate and track background noise as it moves.

Styles of Hearing Aids

Completely in Canal
Completely in the Canal (CIC)
The CIC is the smallest style of hearing aid. It fits deeply in the canal and is almost invisible. Its advantages are low gain requirements, less wind noise, and reduced feedback (whistling). Many people can use this style of aid with the phone without feedback. This aid fits mild to moderate hearing losses and is a great choice for active individuals.
In The Canal
In the Canal (ITC)
This is the most popular size of hearing aid. Technological advances allow a wide variety of options to fit in an ITC, yet it is still small and discreet. This hearing aid fits mild to moderate hearing losses.
Half Concha
Half Concha
The Half Concha is a moderate size hearing aid. Somewhat larger than ITC hearing aid, it is slightly less expensive. The Half Concha fits mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
In The Ear
In the Ear (ITE)
The ITE is the normal style of hearing aid. Its larger size allows better control of feedback and can fit more severe hearing losses. It also is able to use larger, less expensive electronic components making this hearing aid both flexible and affordable. The ITE can fit mild to severe hearing losses.
Behind The Ear
Behind the Ear (BTE)
The BTE hearing aid sits behind the ear and is connected to an ear mold placed in the ear. This hearing aid fits the widest range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. It is most beneficial for precipitous (high-frequency) losses, severe to profound hearing losses, and situations where the anatomy of the ear precludes the use of hearing aids which fit all in the ear.
Open Behind The Ear
Open Behind the Ear (Open BTE)
A small BTE is connected to a thin tube and ear tip. This leaves the ear canal very “open” and does not “plug-up” the canal. This aid is appropriate for high frequency losses with normal low frequency hearing. Open BTEs allow the individual to hear the low frequencies normally and supplements only the high frequencies. The benefit of this design is that it makes both the user’s voice and others voices sound more natural. It is also very comfortable.

What style of hearing aid is right for me?

Many people initially choose a style based on size. They want a “little one”. The decision on which type to choose needs to be based on a variety of factors.
Physical Factors:
The shape of the outer ear may preclude certain styles. If the ear is deformed for example, BTE hearing aids may not fit correctly.
2. If the depth of the concha or bowl of the ear is shallow, certain in-the-ear styles may not be suitable.
3. The ear canal may be narrow or have a sharp bend. This may make a CIC hearing inappropriate.
4. Prolapsed ear canals are canals which have “collapsed” and may be nearly closed.
5. Manual dexterity is a factor. Some people find it difficult to adjust small hearing aids, handle the replacement of some batteries sizes, or insert the smallest types of hearing aids.
6. Some medical conditions may not allow the use of hearing aids which block the ear canal. For example, ears which drain due to infections or ears which produce excessive ear wax. These ears may require hearing aid styles which allow a lot of ventilation in the ear or are easier to clean.
Hearing Loss Factors:
The shape of the audiogram (your hearing loss) may dictate certain styles of hearing aids to provide you the best hearing and comfort. For example, some vision problems cannot be corrected with contact lenses. In the same way, some styles of hearing aid may not effectively correct some types of hearing loss.
The degree of your hearing loss affects the choice of the hearing aid. Profound hearing losses cannot be fit with CIC hearing aids due to feedback and power requirement issues.
The requirement of special features such as telephone coils to hear better on the phone, multiple microphones to hear better in noisy situations, a multi memory button and an audio input connection to add external devices to your hearing aid must be taken into account. We will examine all of these factors with you and recommend the appropriate style of hearing aids to maximize the benefits.

Contact us to schedule an appointment to have your hearing tested and evaluated.


Logo, Gainesville Hearing Aid Center