Hearing Aid Alphabet Soup

Purchasing a hearing aid can be an overwhelming experience. This is often made even more difficult by all the acronyms that are thrown at consumers to describe the myriad of options to help them experience better hearing. Have you ever left a hearing care professional's office with your head spinning? Let our hearing aid acronym guide help you out!

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) - The BTE style is the world's most common hearing aid style. BTEs consist of a case, an earmold or dome. The case contains the electronics, controls, battery, microphone(s) and often the loudspeaker. BTEs sit on the top or behind the outer ear. The sound in a BTE is delivered either via a small clear tube (often refereed to as a power BTE). The BTE is also available in a "mini" version that sits even more discreetly behind the ear and offers a nearly invisible tube that delivers sound to the ear.

  • Discreet design
  • For moderate to severe hearing loss
  • Sound routed via a small tube to the ear
  • Advantages: Easy to use, easy to clean an maintain
  • Disadvantages: Slightly larger than other hearing aid styles

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) - RICs are smaller devices worn behind the ear with a small wire running down into the ear canal attached to a small speaker. Unlike BTEs, the receiver in a RIC is housed entirely within the ear. RICs are considered to be the most cosmetically appealing of all hearing aids are seeing a increase in popularity over the past few years.

  • Comfortable open fit
  • Sleek design barely visible when worn
  • For mild to severe hearing loss
  • Advantages: Improved sound quality, smaller design, ability to easily replace receiver, easy to fit
  • Disadvantages: Small batteries which can have a short life and are difficult to handle

In-The-Ear  (ITE) - In-the-ear hearing aids are custom fitted devices that sit inside the entire ear or concha.

  • Easy to adjust
  • For mild to severe hearing loss
  • Custom-made
  • Advantages: Custom-made, large size easier to handle and adjust, larger battery which provides longer battery life
  • Disadvantages: Size, earwax and moisture can easily buildup and affect performance

In-The-Canal (ITC) - ITC hearing aids are custom-made to fit almost entirely inside the ear canal, making them difficult to notice.

  • For mild to mildly severe hearing loss
  • Variety of technology level choices that previously required a larger aid
  • Custom-made
  • Advantages: More discreet than a ITE,  can accomodate important features such as a volume control wheel, push button, and directional microphone
  • Disadvantages: More susceptible to moisture and wax issues, some users experience occlusion or the feeling of being "plugged up."


Completely-In Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids - CIC hearing aids fit deep inside the ear canal and are essentially invisible to the eye.

  • Virtually undetectable
  • Custom-made
  • Advantages: Custom made, discreet design, less prone to wind noise, most naturally resemble the natural hearing process due to to placement deep inside ear
  • Disadvantages: Due to small size  not recommended for people with dexterity problems; small battery; may have wax and moisture issues 

Invisible-In-The-Canal Hearing Aids (IIC): Rest in the second bend of the ear canal, where virtually no one can see them.

  • For mild to moderately severe hearing loss
  • Nearly invisible in most ears
  • Custom-made for you
  • Advantages: Custom made, discreet design, most natural hearing
  • Disadvantages: Requires deep ear impression which may be unforgettable for some patients, due to small size  not recommended for people with dexterity problems 

By Starkey Hearing