Which hearing aid do I need?

Behind-the-ear, in-the-ear or receiver-in-canal? Find out here! For some people having to wear a hearing aid will come as a shock. After all, doesn’t a hearing aid look like a refrigerator dangling behind your ear? Fortunately, that is a thing of the past. In this blog, I explain what hearing solutions are available and which model best matches which type of hearing loss.

Types of hearing loss

Let’s take a quick look at the things a hearing care professional considers. Hearing loss is divided into four different degrees of loss:

-Mild hearing loss (20-30 decibels (or dB)

-Moderate hearing loss (30-60 dB)

-Severe hearing loss (60-90 dB)

-Profound hearing loss to deafness (90+ dB)


Attention is also paid to the frequency range of the hearing loss, as the choice of hearing aid may depend on which frequencies must be amplified. Based on the degree and frequency range of the hearing loss, a suitable solution is chosen. Other factors are taken into account, but put simply in most cases you can assume that the more severe the hearing loss is, the bigger the hearing aid will be.

This implies that even the best in-ear or receiver-in-canal hearing aid may be unsuitable for your hearing loss, as the device simply cannot provide sufficient amplification. That’s something to remember when buying a hearing aid.

Please note that the explanation above is a simplification of the way hearing loss is assessed. A detailed explanation would make things too complicated for the purpose of this blog. Just bear in mind that there may be exceptional reasons to select another type of hearing aid.

Types of hearing solutions

Here’s a handy overview of the various types of hearing aids and the meaning of the abbreviations used:

In-the-ear hearing aid (ITE)

Receiver-in-canal hearing aid (RIC)

Behind-the-ear hearing aid (BTE)

Lyric hearing aid

In-the-ear hearing aid (ITE)

TE hearing aids are very popular because they are very subtle. This type of hearing aid is made-to-measure and is not suitable for all ear canals, as there must be sufficient room to accommodate the required technology. ITE hearing aids come in different varieties, the smallest of which is called CIC (for ‘completely in canal’). You can see one in the photo to the right (but you’ll have to take a close look!).

These hearing aids are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss. Sometimes an ITE hearing aid can be made to measure in the event of severe hearing loss, but that depends on the hearing-loss frequencies.

Experience has shown that for someone who has little to no hearing loss in the lower frequencies, this type of hearing aid usually provides an unpleasant hearing experience. That’s because the ears are practically closed off, so that the ear canal will function as a kind of sound box and you will hear your own voice as a very strange sound. That’s why this type of hearing aid is usually not recommended in case of hearing loss in the higher frequencies only.

Receiver-in-canal hearing aid (RIC)

This is the most commonly used type of hearing aid. It is positioned behind the ear, with a tiny wire going into the ear. The ear contains a tiny speaker that produces the sound. These speakers are capped with what are called ‘domes’. The domes ensure the right amount of closing off and keep the speakers in position inside the ear.

This type of hearing aid is suitable in case of mild, moderate and – in many cases – severe hearing loss. Because these hearing aids are not limited by the size of the ear canal, they can usually provide more amplification than ITE devices.

Behind-the-ear hearing aid (BTE)

BTE hearing aids are also positioned behind the ear, but instead of a tiny wire, a tiny tube runs from the device to a made-to-measure earpiece inside the ear. These hearing aids are a little sturdier and easier to put in and remove for people with impaired motor skills.

They are suitable in cases of moderate to profound hearing loss. Thanks to the made-to-measure earpiece and the power of the device, their range of amplification is very large.

Lyric hearing aid

Lyric hearing aids are in a class of their own. They are inserted so deeply into the ear that they are not visible from the outside. These hearing aids use a built-in battery that must be replaced every three months. Inserting and removing the hearing aid is done by a Lyric specialist. This is one of the best hearing aids available, as it uses the auricle’s natural function and provides amplification close to the eardrum.

These hearing aids are suitable in case of mild to moderate hearing loss. In some cases, they are also suitable in case of severe hearing loss. Ask your hearing care professional when purchasing a hearing aid.

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By Yvan Karman