There are three basic kinds of contemporary hearing aids — RIC (receiver-in-canal), BTE (behind-the-ear), and ITE (in-the-ear). Which one is best for you is based on the details of your hearing loss issues and your own aesthetic considerations.
With the receiver positioned directly into your ear, RIC hearing aids provide a lower-profile user experience. There is still part of the unit that rests behind your ear, but the receiver is actually in your ear canal and connected to the processor part of the unit via a thin tube. This is the kind of hearing aid that delivers the most “natural” sound.
There are two kinds of BTE hearing aids, which are open-fit and closed-fit. Both have the receiver outside of your ear and can include directional microphone systems that can seriously enhance hearing in louder environments.
A closed-fit model has an earmold that occupies your outer ear. This both increases amplification capabilities and helps prevent feedback. The earmold will be shaped to your ear to provide maximum comfort and a feeling of “security” that the device will not fall out. An open-fit model does not include an earmold, but instead, a thin tube runs into your ear. This cuts down on moisture buildup and provides a comfortable wearing experience.
Finally, ITE hearing aids are custom made for the user, with the entirety of the device in the ear canal — no part of the unit is behind-the-ear. An impression of your ear is made to ensure the best fit and operation.
ITEs come in IIC (invisible-in-canal) models, which are small and cannot be easily seen, and CIC (complete-in-canal) models, which fill the ear canal. CICs are more conspicuous, but when compared to RICs and BTEs they are actually more understated.