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Which hearing aid style is best for you?

Compare types and prices, then get the right fit

Published: June 24, 2014 01:00 PM

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If you're avoiding noisy places or having trouble in conversation or understanding TV, it might be time for a hearing aid. Medical evidence shows they can improve your quality of life and your relationships with friends and family.

The ideal hearing aid for you depends on the severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your manual dexterity. Smaller aids offer fewer features and might be more difficult to manipulate. People with more severe hearing loss might get better results with a behind-the-ear model with earmolds or an in-the-ear model.

Hearing aids are categorized by the place on the ear they are worn, and possibly by the number of pieces (behind-the-ear aids are two pieces; an in-the-ear aid is one piece). Prices listed below are for a single hearing aid and usually include professional services, such as evaluation, selection, fitting, training, and care. Make sure you know what the price includes before buying. Note that more features usually mean higher costs.

Learn more about digital hearing aids, personal sound amplifiers, and assistive listening devices in our hearing aid buying guide.  

Behind-the-ear model
Illustration: Aaron Ashley


The receiver is inside the ear canal. It goes by various acronyms: behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver in the ear (RITE), receiver in the canal (RIC or RITC), and canal receiver technology (CRT). It has a banana-shaped case and a piece that inserts into the ear canal. Behind-the-ear hearing aids attach to the ear via a custom-made earmold that fits snugly in the ear, or a "dome style" or non-custom canal piece.

Pros: Comfortable, barely visible. Prevents a plugged-up feeling, easy to insert, and compatible with telephones. You usually can get a hearing aid in one day, because custom earmolds are not necessary.

Cons: Wax and moisture may limit life of receiver. Does not allow for significant amplification in the low frequencies. Limited in terms of the potential to add amplification.

Price: $1,850 to $2,700

Standard-tube behind-the-ear model
Illustration: Aaron Ashley

Standard-tube or thin-tube behind-the-ear

Pros: Also called receiver in the aid, or RITA, it can provide considerable low- and high-frequency amplification. Good for people with moderately severe to severe hearing loss who require considerable amplification across many frequencies. On larger models, controls are easy to manipulate and telecoil mode is easily selected and used. Earmold can be easily cleaned. Accommodates larger batteries, so it's easier to handle.

Cons: Custom mold tends to be visible. Vulnerable to sweat and wax buildup. Plugged-up feeling from earmold unless vented.

Price: $1,200 to $2,700

Completely in the canal model
Illustration: Aaron Ashley

Completely in the canal

Pros: This hearing aid does not need telecoil. Low visibility, ease of insertion and removal, and insensitive to wind noise.

Cons: Too small to include a directional microphone. Ear might feel plugged up unless hearing aid is vented. Vulnerable to wax and moisture. Because the receiver is in the ear canal, it could be difficult to control. It can only accommodate a small battery, so battery life is relatively short. Batteries can be more difficult to insert and remove.

Price: $1,365 to $2,860

In-the-canal model
Illustration: Aaron Ashley

In the canal

Pros: Barely visible and easy to insert, it can build up volume control to increase ease of use. Larger units can include directional microphones.

Cons: Same issues as with completely-in-the-canal models, though less severe. Telecoil selector switch makes manipulation more difficult. These models are susceptible to moisture and wax buildup. Battery tends to be smaller, so battery life is relatively short.

Price: $1,300 to $2,750

In-the-ear model
Illustration: Aaron Ashley

In the ear

Pros: This offers more room for features such as telecoil, directional microphone, and volume control. Less of a plugged-up feeling when vented. Relatively easy to insert.

Cons: More visible. Vulnerable to wax build-up and moisture.

Price: $1,200 to $2,700


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