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Types of Hearing Aids

With a wide range of hearing aids to choose from, finding the right one for you can be challenging. We're here to simplify the process by explaining the differences and helping you make an informed decision.

If you have any concerns or have noticed a change in your hearing, book a free hearing health check and our trained professionals will be happy to help

Updated: 3rd April 2024

What types of hearing aids are available?

different types of hearing aids

With so many options available, it can be tricky to choose the correct hearing aid for you. But don't worry, we're here to help simplify things for you. We'll go through what to consider, and the pros and cons of each style. Many of today's hearing aids are more discreet and powerful compared to older models. There are two main styles to choose from:

In-the-ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids and Invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aid

Best for: Mild to moderate hearing loss:

Both CIC and IIC hearing aids offer a discreet option. CIC aids fit deeper in your ear canal, while IIC aids sit entirely within the ear canal. These choices are perfect if you want to keep your hearing aids low-key.


  • A discreet option for a less noticeable look in the ear.
  • You can use headsets and phones without taking them out
  • They provide excellent sound quality and a more natural feel


  • They're small and can be tricky to adjust, especially for those with dexterity issues
  • They have limited processing capacity. Not the best choice for severe hearing loss
  • Battery performance is often reduced
  • IIC aids might not fit if you have narrow ear canals

Behind-the-ear (BTE) Hearing Aid

Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) and Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids

Best for: All levels of hearing loss

RIC and RITE hearing aids are designed with behind-the-ear components connected to a receiver within the ear or ear canal, using a small wire to transmit sound. 


  • Often equipped with rechargeable batteries, making them environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
  • The ear canal remains partially open, offering a more natural feel.
  • Adjustable receiver levels accommodate changing hearing needs.


  • Requires more frequent cleaning and is susceptible to dirt and skin debris.
  • Less discreet as they are partially visible behind the ear.
  • Headsets and telephones may be less convenient as they need to be held over the microphone.

What Style of hearing aids are available?

In-the-canal (ITC) Hearing Aids

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids and invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aid

Best for: Mild to moderate hearing loss

Slightly larger than IIC and CIC hearing aids, ITC aids offer a comfortable fit within the ear canal, custom-molded for precise sizing in the lower third of the external ear canal.


  • A discreet option for a less noticeable look in the ear.
  • Works well with headsets and phones, fits directly in the ear
  • Excellent sound quality and a less bulky, natural feel in the ear.


  • Small size can be hard to remove or adjust, especially for those with dexterity issues
  • Not ideal for severe hearing loss due to limited processing capacity
  • Battery performance may be reduced
  • People with narrow ear canals may not be able to wear them

Invisible in the canal (IIC) Hearing Aids

Best for: Mild to moderate hearing loss

Smaller and more discreet than CIC hearing aids, IIC aids offer complete invisibility within your ear canal. Custom-made to fit your ear's unique shape, they provide optimal comfort and seamless integration into your external ear canal.


  • Our most discreet option, that appears almost invisible in the ear canal.
  • Comfortable custom fit
  • Natural sound capture


  • Limited space for extra features
  • Smaller battery, may need more changes
  • Best for mild to moderate hearing loss

Low-Profile Hearing Aids

Best for: Mild to moderate hearing loss

Slightly bigger than IIC hearing aids, low profile models still offer a discreet look. They sit just inside, or at the edge of your ear canal, and are custom-made for a comfortable fit.


  • Easier to handle and adjust due to their size
  • Accommodate larger batteries for longer use
  • Can have more features like volume control and wireless connectivity.


  • More visible compared to IIC models
  • Some users may experience occasional whistling sounds.
  • Slightly more vulnerable to earwax and moisture due to their placement.

Receiver in the ear (RITE)

Best for: Mild to moderate hearing loss

Different from IIC and CIC models, RITE aids have a component behind the ear connected to a receiver in the ear canal by a thin wire. They combine functionality and a discreet appearance, for a sleek design that ensures natural sound quality.


  • RITE aids provide clearer and more natural sound because the receiver is inside the ear canal, reducing sound distortion.
  • Their sleek and modern design makes them less noticeable.
  • Suitable for a wide range of hearing loss, from mild to moderate.


  • Some users who wear glasses may find that RITE aids occasionally interfere with the glasses' arms, requiring adjustments or causing discomfort over time.

Behind-the-ear with earmould

Mild to severe hearing loss

BTE hearing aids are quite different from IIC and CIC models. They have a main component that sits comfortably behind your ear, connected to a custom-moulded earmold inside your ear canal. These earmolds are shaped to fit your ear precisely, ensuring great sound and comfort. BTE aids are designed to handle a wide range of hearing losses and provide a robust, versatile solution.


  • BTE aids offer powerful amplification suitable for various hearing losses, from mild to severe.
  • Because most of their electronic parts are outside the ear, BTE aids are less prone to earwax and moisture damage.
  • They often have external controls like volume wheels or buttons for quick adjustments in different listening environments.


  • BTE hearing aids are more visible because of the component behind the ear, unlike in-the-canal models.
  • People who wear glasses might find that the arms of their glasses interfere with the BTE component.
  • Their placement behind the ear can make them more sensitive to wind noise, affecting the outdoor listening experience.

Hearing Aid Features to look out for

When you're looking into different hearing aids, there are some important things to think about for a great hearing experience. First, consider how they're powered. Many modern ones have rechargeable batteries, which are not only good for the environment but also save you money in the long run.

Next, think about how discreet you want the hearing aid to be. Some, like the Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) models, are designed to be almost invisible, so you can enjoy better hearing without anyone noticing.

In our digital age, connectivity is key. Lots of hearing aids now come with Bluetooth, so you can easily connect them to your smartphone, TV, and other gadgets.

In our increasingly digital age, added connectivity has become paramount. Many hearing aids now come equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, allowing seamless integration with smartphones, televisions, and other devices.

Rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable devices have built-in power units that do not require regular removal.

Telecoil technology

Is useful during phone calls – it transfers the speech signals from your phone directly to your ear.

Bluetooth compatibility

Bluetooth has greatly enhanced the overall user experience and enabled hearing aids to function as highly personalised devices.

Frequently asked questions

What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that helps those with hearing loss hear sounds and speech more clearly while reducing background noise in noisy environments.

When are hearing aids needed?

Hearing aids are needed if you're experiencing any form of hearing loss, including mild cases. If you struggle with speech understanding, increased TV volume, background noise interference, or significant hearing changes, consult an audiologist or Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.

How do hearing aids work?

Hearing aids consist of a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. They receive sound through the microphone, amplify it, and deliver it to the ear via the speaker. Find out more about how hearing aids work.

What types of hearing aids are available?

Two main types are In-the-ear (ITE) and Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. Modern models are discreet and powerful.

What features do you need to look out for?

While the right hearing aid will depend on several factors, from the degree of your hearing loss to your budget, there are several additional features available that could help to improve your hearing experience:

  • Rechargeable batteries: being able to recharge the batteries in your hearing aid is both better for the environment and more cost-effective
  • Telecoil technology: also known as t-coils, these are small copper wires that are added to hearing aids to pick up magnetic signals from loop systems, removing background noise and amplifying sounds directly to your hearing aid. They make it easier to hear in a range of environments such as theatres, cinemas, or places of worship
  • Bluetooth compatibility: allows your hearing aid to connect to devices such as your mobile phone or wireless speakers
  • App integration: a range of modern hearing aids also come equipped with smartphone apps where you can adjust your aids or even translate different languages

What's the difference between open and closed fittings?

Hearing aids can be either closed or open in design. 

An open design means that the sound waves will reach your eardrum more naturally. Behind-the-ear hearing aids can have open fittings; the sound tube and earpiece sit in your external ear canal. Because the hearing aid doesn’t fill your whole ear canal, it’s possible to hear louder sounds naturally. Open-fit models also give you better ventilation of your ear canal.

A closed design means that your external ear canal is mostly filled by either an earpiece or an in-the-ear hearing aid. But this doesn’t mean that air can’t circulate – hearing aids have vents that allow air through. By fitting a closed design to your ear canal, the sound is transmitted to you more directly, so the full range of your hearing aids’ features can be used more effectively.

How much do hearing aids cost?

Hearing aids come in various price ranges. Boots Hearingcare offers a variety of options to suit different budgets.

Find out more about hearing aid prices.

What other hearing designs are out there?

Specialist alternatives like bone conduction, bone-anchored, middle ear, cochlear, or brainstem implants are available through the NHS. Consult your GP for more information.

What is a hearing amplifier?

A hearing amplifier is a small electronic device designed to enhance sound for individuals with mild hearing loss. It amplifies environmental sounds, making them louder for better perception.

Can I use a hearing amplifier instead of a hearing aid?

While hearing amplifiers can be a cost-effective solution for mild hearing loss, they lack the customisation and features of hearing aids. For severe hearing loss or personalised adjustments, a hearing aid is recommended.

emma jarvis

Written By:
Emma Jarvis

Digital Optimisation Lead

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Medically Reviewed By:
Asher Mathew Salmon
Audiology Expert