Types and styles of hearing aids - pros & cons

With all of the information and options available on the market today, trying or purchasing hearing aids can be overwhelming. To help you on your journey to better hearing, we’ve listed below pros and cons of each hearing aid style.

It’s important to remember that not all styles are right for every individual. One or more types of hearing aids can be recommended by your hearing professional. The recommendations will be based on factors like level of hearing loss, aesthetic preferences, lifestyle type, needs and budget. The majority of BTE and RIC styles are available in an array of colors and metallic finishes to complement hair or skin tone.

Hearing aid categories: custom and standard

Custom Hearing Aids

Hearing aids that are individually made for one patient are custom hearing aids. Earmold impressions are taken so the hearing aid is “molded” to fit the individual’s ear shape. Starkey Hearing Technologies was one of the first manufacturers to introduce and perfect custom hearing aids, and are widely considered the industry leader in the custom made hearing aid category.

Standard Hearing Aids

Hearing aids that can be fit “off the shelf” while in the hearing professional’s office (impressions and earmolds are seldom required) are called standard hearing aids. The fitting and programming is still customized for each patient, but the actual device may not be.

Styles and types: pros and cons

Invisible In-The-Canal (IIC)

This style is custom-fitted and inserted deeper into the ear canal than the other styles. This style is completely invisible* when it’s worn. The IIC style hearing aids are designed to be removed daily to ensure optimal ear health and work best for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.

*Individual results may vary. Invisibility may vary based on your ear's anatomy. Learn more.


  • Smallest and most discreet hearing aid style
  • Completely invisible in most ears
  • Deep placement of the hearing aid in the ear improves overall sound quality and the sound of the hearing aid wearer’s own voice


  • Uses small batteries, which can be difficult to handle for those with dexterity issues
  • Due to small battery size, batteries need to be changed more often
  • Due to small size, controls (i.e., volume and memory) on the device cannot be included

Completely-In-Canal (CIC)

CIC style hearing aids are custom made to fit entirely in the ear canal. The tip of a small plastic “handle” is the only thing that shows outside the ear canal. This piece is used to insert and remove the hearing aid. This style is for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. Learn more.


  • Among the smallest and least visible style


  • Uses small batteries, which can be difficult for those with dexterity concerns
  • Due to small battery size, they need to be changed more often than larger hearing aids

In-The-Canal (ITC)

ITC hearing aids are also custom made to fit. These types are made to fit partially in the ear canal with a small portion of the instrument showing in the outer ear. This style is for individuals with mild to mildly severe hearing loss. Learn more.


  • Less visible in the ear than larger custom styles
  • Can have controls (i.e., volume and memory) unlike smaller custom hearing aids


  • Using the controls (i.e., volume and memory) can be difficult for patients with poor dexterity
  • Partially visible in the ear

In-The-Ear (ITE)

ITE hearing aids are also custom made to fit within the outer portion of the ear. They can be designed two ways - to fill most of the outer ear (full shell), or to fill only the lower portion of the outer ear (half shell). This style is typically for individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. Learn more.


  • Controls (i.e., volume and memory) that don't fit on smaller hearing aids can be included
  • Easier to handle/manipulate
  • Larger battery provides a longer battery life


  • May pick up more wind noise than smaller devices
  • More visible in the ear than smaller devices

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC)

The RIC style hearing aids are barely visible when worn. This style includes a receiver (or speaker) is inside the ear canal. Instead of a plastic acoustical tube, a thin wire is used to connect the hearing aid to the earpiece, reducing the distortion. RIC hearing aids provide an open and comfortable fit. This style is for mild to moderate hearing loss. Learn more.


  • Because the receiver is not housed in the device, RICs are typically smaller and more discreet than BTEs
  • Offers a comfortable open-fit, allowing natural sound quality of the user’s own voice


  • Susceptible to earwax and moisture clogging the speaker

Behind-The-Ear (BTE)

This style has the hearing technology housed in a casing that hooks over the top of the ear and rests behind it. A clear plastic acoustical tube guides amplified sound into an earbud or customized earmold that is custom fitted inside the ear canal. These types are for individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss. Learn more.


  • Larger external controls, helpful for patients with dexterity problems
  • Useful for children due to durability and ability to connect to assistive listening devices
  • Can offer a longer battery life
  • Less susceptible to damage by earwax or moisture


  • Least discreet hearing aid style

Remember that the key to a good hearing aid fitting is not the hearing aid alone, but working with a professional you trust who can help you choose and fit the right hearing aid for your unique needs. To find a hearing aid that’s right for you, use our hearing aid finder tool! Just answer a few questions and we’ll show you the styles, features and accessories that may fit your needs.

Then, you should schedule a consultation with a local hearing professional to learn more and try the technology for yourself. Call 1-855-970-2990 or click here to connect with one in your area.

By Starkey Canada