Types of hearing aids

All of today’s hearing aids use digital technology. There is now a wide choice of makes, models and styles available both privately and through the NHS.

Hearing aidsThe hearing care professional who performs your hearing test will usually advise you if a hearing aid will help you as well as what styles and technologies are available to meet your lifestyle requirements. Not all models and styles are suitable for all types of hearing loss.

The most frequently used styles include:

Behind the Ear (BTE) - This describes the type of hearing aid that sits on top of the ear where the main body of the aid rests behind the ear. The BTE aid is attached to a piece of tube that is measured to fit the size of your ear. On the end of this tube is a part that helps deliver the sound correctly in to the ear. This part can be an ear mould, a dome or a customised tip.

Custom (ITE/ITC) – This describes the In-the-ear or In-the-canal styles of hearing aids where the hearing aid itself fits entirely within the shape of the ear. There are different sizes of custom products - some completely fill the concha part of the ear while others fit discretely in to the ear canal.

Receiver-In-Canal / Receiver-In-The-Ear (RIC/RITE) – This describes a wide range of very small BTE products. Part of the hearing aid called the receiver sits inside the ear canal. This is connected to a small BTE by a very thin wire.

Ear moulds – These are usually used with BTE style hearing aids. An impression of the ear is taken and a mould made that fully or partially fills the ear. This channels the sound down the ear and also anchors your hearing aid securely in place.

There are many different materials that ear moulds can be made from including non-allergic materials. Ear moulds can be coloured, have glitter and pictures in or even have a persons initials inserted.

Instant fit technology & domes – These are used with BTE style hearing aids. The soft dome sits in the ear canal attached to a thin piece of tubing which is attached to the top of the BTE. The domes and tubes are available in different sizes and should be replaced regularly.

Tubes – BTE, RIC, Ear moulds and instant fit technology all use different tubes to attach the part that sits in the ear to the BTE hearing aid. It is important to follow the instructions that you are given regarding the tubes as it will have a significant impact on the quality of sound that you receive. If you are not sure if you should clean the tube or when it should be replaced ask your hearing care professional.

Meeting your needs

The hearing aid technology available through the NHS and private purchase can meet the needs of more people than ever before. There are fully waterproof aids that you can swim in, wireless systems for those with single sided deafness and even devices that sit in the ear canal all day everyday (even in the shower) and are changed by the hearing care professional on a monthly basis. New products are being released all the time.

The digital processing of the aids can be finely tuned to make sure that the sound is right for you therefore it is very important to talk to your hearing care professional if you are not happy with the sound of your hearing aids.

For more information and examples of some of the products available see


Related links in this section

Hearing technologies homepage

Audiology services and hearing aid provision

Any Qualified Provider (AQP)

Implantable devices

Hearing aid accessories and related technologies


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Updated: September 2014
Review due: December 2015

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First published: Tuesday 17 September 2013
Updated: Tuesday 15 August 2017