Jefferson University Hospitals

Styles of Hearing Aids

There are many different styles of hearing aids to choose from. Determining which style is best for you depends on multiple factors, including:

  • Type and severity of hearing loss
  • Visual and dexterity abilities
  • Cosmetic concerns
  • Features and controls needed
  • Size and shape of ear

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids

Behind-the-ear (BTE) aids consist of a small plastic case worn behind the ear. The circuitry of the hearing aid is housed in this plastic case, which is connected by a clear tube to an earmold. The earmold is a custom-fit piece that delivers sound into your ear. Some advantages to this style include increased power for more severe losses, decreased whistling (feedback) in some cases and less of hearing aid damage for those with excessive earwax or drainage from the ear.

Open-Fit BTE Hearing Aids

Open-fit BTE aids are similar to the traditional BTE aids in that the plastic case rests behind the ear. The main difference with this style is that instead of a custom earmold, a thin tube connects to a small dome that fits in the ear. This type of hearing aid may be appropriate for those with normal hearing at some pitches but hearing loss at other pitches. It may allow you to utilize some of your natural, normal hearing while amplifying only those pitches where you have hearing loss. This may reduce the perception of feeling "plugged up."

In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom made and fit entirely in your outer ear. All of the hearing aid circuitry is contained inside this one-piece, which fills the bowl of the outer ear. While these aids can be smaller than BTEs, they can usually fit many of the features, such as volume control, directional microphones, and telecoil, to name a few. The sizes of these aids, however, can limit their power output and therefore are not appropriate for severe to profound hearing loss.

Canal Hearing Aids

Canal hearing aids are the smallest custom-fit hearing aids. In-the-canal (ITC) aids fill the entire ear canal, while completely-in-the-canal (CIC) aids are even smaller and sit further down in the canal where they are almost hidden. This style has many cosmetic advantages due to their small size. However, they may be limited to how many special features can be added due to their small size.

Other Hearing Aid Considerations

When traditional hearing aids are not an option, there are a few special hearing aids that may be a more appropriate fit: SoundBite™, Lyric®, CROS, Bi-CROS and Baha.

SoundBite Hearing System

For patients with single-sided deafness and bilateral conductive hearing loss, the SoundBite™ Hearing System uses bone conduction to transmit sound through the teeth. It consists of a removable hearing device that is placed in the mouth – custom-made for the upper, left or right, back teeth – and a small microphone unit that is worn behind the impaired ear. Both components have rechargeable batteries and a system charger.

The hearing system is not worn during sleep. Dental work or alterations to the teeth are not required.

Lyric2 Extended Wear Device

The Lyric2 is an extended wear device that can be worn 24/7 for up to two months at a time. There's no need for daily insertion or changing batteries. And you don't have to remove it before bed, exercising, showering or talking on the phone. Lyric2 is positioned completely inside your ear canal by one of our Lyric-trained hearing professionals.

Once you are sized for a Lyric2 and it is placed inside your ear canal, it will be programmed so that you can enjoy all the benefits of exceptional sound quality. Some of its many benefits include reduced occlusion, feedback and improved directionality. Should you need to, you can turn the device on and off as well as adjust the settings and volume.

CROS Hearing Aid System 

A CROS hearing aid system is appropriate for a specific group of people seeking hearing aids. You may be a candidate for a CROS hearing aid system if you have hearing loss on one side that is so severe it cannot be aided by a traditional hearing aid and have normal hearing, or at most a mild high-frequency hearing loss, in the other ear. This is usually referred to as single-sided deafness.

A CROS aid system consists of two devices, one worn on each ear. The device on the ear with hearing loss consists of a microphone to pick up sounds from that side and a transmitter. The transmitter wirelessly sends the signal to the device on the better, normal hearing ear. The sounds are not amplified; they are simply sent to the better hearing ear. It should be noted that the device on the better, normal hearing ear is typically an open fit, so that this ear is not "plugged up."

Bi-CROS Hearing Aid System

A Bi-CROS system is similar to a CROS system but is for people who have severe, unaidable hearing loss in one ear and aidable hearing loss in the other ear. Bi-CROS aid systems are similar to a CROS system in that a device is worn on both ears. The poorer-hearing ear wears a device with a microphone and transmitter for sending sound to the better hearing ear. The distinguishing feature of a Bi-CROS system is that the better hearing ear not only receives signals from the poor side, but it also amplifies those signals along with amplifying signals on the side of the better-hearing ear. It is essentially a hearing aid that also receives signals from the poorer-hearing side.

Baha Hearing Aid

A Baha is a surgically placed device that can be beneficial to people for whom a traditional hearing aid may not be appropriate. Someone with single-sided deafness, a mixed hearing loss or a conductive hearing loss may be a candidate for this type of hearing aid.

The Baha works by sending sound directly through the bones of the skull. A sound processor is attached to a titanium screw that is surgically implanted in the temporal bone. Sound is picked up by the processor which in turn sends auditory vibrations to the screw. The sound will travel through the bones of the skull and cause vibrations of the fluids in the inner ear. These inner ear vibrations are then transmitted via neural impulses and are perceived as sound. This process allows sound to bypass the outer ear and middle ear, which is why this device usually works well for those with conductive hearing loss.

In the case of those with single-sided deafness, the vibrations of the skull are picked up by both inner ears (cochleas) and therefore allow sound to bypass the poorly-functioning cochlea and be picked up by the functioning cochlea. This does not return hearing on the deaf side; instead the screw and processor are placed on the poorer-hearing side and sound is sent through bone conduction to the better hearing cochlea. This may allow the user to listen to conversation on their poor side without turning the head.