Hearing Link

What are the different styles of hearing aids?

On this page we provide photos and descriptions of the wide range of styles of hearing aids: behind the ear, in the ear, in the canal, CROS etc

Behind The Ear Hearing Aids

Side view of a man wearing a behind the ear (bte) hearing aid

These have a microphone part that fits behind the ear and an ear piece that fits inside the ear. Ear pieces can either be made of plastic moulded to the exact shape of your ear (known as an earmould) or a thin plastic tube with a dome fitted inside the ear, known as an open fitting.

The suitability of the different ear pieces may depend upon the degree of hearing loss of the individual:

  • An open fitting ear piece on a behind the ear hearing aid
  • An earmould on a behind the ear hearing aid

This is a Behind The Ear hearing aid with a custom made ear piece (known as a meatal plug). Some custom made ear pieces differ slightly in that they fill the whole of the ear and are made from clear plastic – typically NHS Behind The Ear hearing aids.



RIC (BTE) Hearing Aids

Closeup of a person wearing a receiver in the canal hearing aid

These look similar to behind-the-ear hearing aids with an open fitting ear piece. The receiver (speaker) is situated within and open fitting ear piece in the canal rather than within the hearing aid.

This hearing aid provides many similar benefits to BTE hearing aids with an open ear piece and can therefore be used with more severe hearing losses than the open ear piece alone.



In The Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

Closeup of person wearing an in the ear (ite) hearing aid

These have the microphone (and all other parts of the hearing aid) contained within a moulded ear piece which sits inside the ear canal. They range in different sizes from a completely in the canal style to a full shell.

There is nothing sitting behind the ear and can be more discrete than behind the ear hearing aids.



In The Canal Hearing AidsClose up view of a woman wearing an in the canal hearing aid. it is only slightly visible.

They are small enough to fit almost entirely in the ear canal.



Completely In The Canal Hearing Aids

A close up view of a woman wearing a completely in the canal hearing aid. It is barely visible.

They fit deeply inside the ear canal.




For someone who is unable to fit a conventional hearing aid into their ear, maybe because of poor dexterity, a communicator may be a good option.

This is a simple analogue amplifier that uses ear pieces like a doctor’s stethoscope in both ears. It is set up the same for both ears and is suitable for up to moderate/severe hearing losses.

An audio amplifier communicator device resembling a doctor's stethoscope


Body Worn Hearing Aids

These are available in analogue or digital technology for one or both ears depending upon hearing loss. Some but not all can be set up separately for individual ears. Wires from a body worn unit are connected to moulded ear pieces.

The unit can be worn in a pocket, on the belt or clipped to clothing depending upon its design. This style is an option for people with poor dexterity and who require a high powered hearing aid.


Bone Conduction Body Worn Hearing Aids

Mostly available with analogue technology, a bone conduction hearing aid picks up sound with a microphone and then transmits the signal via vibrations from a bone conductor device worn on a headband. They are typically worn by people with a conductive hearing loss (and usually when one or both ears are discharging).


Behind The Ear Bone Conduction Hearing Aids

Works similarly to the body worn device but the microphone part of the aid is worn on the opposite end of the same headband that holds the bone conductor. No visible wires are required although the headband is still required.


Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA)

A Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) transmits sound directly to the cochlea (organ of hearing) by way of vibrations passing through the bone of the skull. To wear a BAHA a small screw is fixed into the skull, after a minor operation and the BAHA clips onto this screw.

The ear canals and middle ears are bypassed, making this a suitable option for patients with conductive hearing loss who may also have abnormal ear canals and middle ears and possibly discharge in the ear preventing them from wearing conventional hearing aids.

BAHA has also been used more recently for patients with a complete hearing loss in only one ear to help them pick up sound from the direction of the ‘bad’ ear. More about BAHAS.


Soft-Band Bone Conduction Hearing Aids

A BAHA version that requires no surgical intervention can be worn within a soft-band headband allowing sound to be transmitted through the bone of the skull to the cochlea (organ of hearing). This is very useful for very young children or for people wanting to trial a BAHA before undergoing surgery.


A pair of black coloured CROS BICROS hearing aidsCROS Hearing Aids

For patients with no hearing in one ear and normal hearing in the other ear, a CROS hearing aid can be very useful. Whilst it cannot return hearing to the ‘bad’ ear, a CROS hearing aid has a remote microphone on the ‘bad’ side which picks up sound and passes it to the ‘good’ ear to be interpreted.

The microphone and receiver may be connected to each other by either a wire around the back of the head/neck or a wireless system.



Side view of a man wearing a behind the ear CROS hearing aid

CROS Hearing Aids – unwired

Some CROS hearing aids are wireless.



A pair of CROS hearing aids with a short loop of wire joining themCROS Hearing Aids – wired

Some CROS hearing aids have wires which connect the microphone (which looks like a hearing aid and sits on the ‘dead ear’) to the hearing aid (on the hearing ear).



BICROS Hearing Aid

A pair of black coloured CROS BICROS hearing aids

Similar to a CROS hearing aid but with amplification also provided to the ‘good’ ear which may have some degree of hearing loss.



Thanks to Phonak, Starkey, Siemens and Puretone for supplying the photos on this page.


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