All About Custom Hearing Aids: Styles, Benefits and How to Choose a Device

Dec 22, 2022

Article by Hearing Partners, contributed by Sadrina Shah, Clinical Audiologist at Hearing Partners

Custom hearing aids, otherwise known as in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, are one-of-a-kind devices tailored to fit the shape of your ears perfectly. They’re comfortable and discreet, and offer an improved hearing experience.

If you’re considering custom hearing aids, read about the different styles and what makes them the preferred choice over their behind-the-ear (BTE) counterparts. We also share the drawbacks of this type of device and the factors to consider when choosing a hearing aid. Read on!

Custom Hearing Aid Styles

These tiny hearing aid devices are worn inside the ear canal – some are worn deep within while others sit closer to the outer ear. They come in 4 different styles, each with its own unique features.

 Invisible-in-Canal (IIC)Completely-in-Canal (CIC)In-the-Canal (ITC)In-the-Ear (ITE): Half-shell/Full-shell
Extent of hearing lossMild to severeMild to severeMild to profoundMild to profound
Features
  • Smallest in size
  • Almost invisible
  • Very discreet
  • Allows for manual control with a push-button
  • Discreet
  • Offers the full range of features
  • Can opt for wireless connectivity
  • Offers maximum support for hearing in noisy environments
  • Easiest to handle and control
  • Offers the full range of features
  • Comes with wireless connectivity
  • Offers maximum support for hearing in noisy environments
  • Infographic of the noise levels of common sounds

    Invisible-in-Canal (IIC)

    Suitable for: Mild to severe hearing loss

    Custom hearing aid - Invisible-in-Canal (IIC)

    IIC hearing aids are one of the most discreet ITE hearing aids. They sit deep within the ear canal, making them almost invisible to others. They can be removed by gently pulling on the thin plastic pin attached to the device.

    Infographic of the noise levels of common sounds

    While the size of the device makes it less noticeable, this limits the functions and controls available. This also makes it more challenging to handle, especially for users with dexterity issues.

    Do note that this type of hearing aid may not be suitable for all users – it depends on the size of your ear canal.

    Completely-in-Canal (CIC)

    Suitable for: Mild to severe hearing loss

    Custom hearing aid - Completely-in-Canal (CIC)

    CIC hearing aids are another form of discreet hearing device. However, they’re larger in size and aren’t completely invisible like their IIC counterparts. To address this concern, you can opt to match the color of the faceplate as closely to your skin tone as possible.

    Like the IIC hearing aid, this device also sits in the ear canal, meaning that it might not be suitable for some users.

    As they’re larger in size, CIC devices can accommodate slightly more functions.

    In-the-Canal (ITC)

    Suitable for: Mild to profound hearing loss

    Custom hearing aid - In-the-Canal (ITC)

    ITC hearing aids are slightly larger than CIC devices, making them easier to handle for those who experience dexterity issues. The larger size also translates to a longer battery life and more functions.

    These hearing aids sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl. As such, the faceplate may be more visible to others.

    In-the-Ear (ITE): Half-shell/Full-shell

    Suitable for: Mild to profound hearing loss

    Custom hearing aid - In-the-Ear (ITE): Half-shell/Full-shell

    ITE hearing aids come in 2 styles – half-shell (fills half of the outer bowl) and full-shell designs (fills almost the entire outer bowl).

    These devices are the largest of the custom hearing aids, making them the easiest to use and handle. They often feature the most functions such as directional microphones and volume wheels.

    However, they’re the least discreet, though the faceplate can be made to match your skin tone as closely as possible.

    Benefits of Custom Hearing Aids

    This type of hearing aid offers certain benefits over BTE devices. This includes comfort, design and the overall listening experience.

    Discreet design

    These devices are worn in the ear canal and are free of external wires. They also tend to come in a range of colors to match different skin tones.

    It’s important to note that while IIC and CIC hearing aids are discreet, ITC, half-shell and full-shell devices tend to be more noticeable to others.

    Comfortable and lightweight

    Due to their small size, custom hearing aids tend to be lighter. They’re also more comfortable to wear as they’re customized based on the shape of your ear.

    Moreover, this type of hearing aid is ideal for those wearing spectacles as the device sits in the ear canal, rather than behind the ear.

    Customized design

    With custom hearing aids, you can choose the style and color that best suits your degree of hearing loss, lifestyle needs and preferences.

    Easier to wear

    As compared to BTE hearing aids which come in 2 pieces, custom hearing aids come in a single piece, making them easier to put on. Moreover, as they’re designed to fit the shape and size of your ear canal, they tend to be easier to insert.

    Reduction in wind noise

    Wind noise is naturally reduced with custom hearing aids as they sit securely inside the ear canal, thus shielding them from the wind.

    Reduction in feedback

    As these hearing aids are customized to fit the shape and size of your ear canal, they’re able to prevent any sound leakage that might cause feedback.

    Drawbacks of Custom Hearing Aids

    While custom hearing aids offer a range of benefits, there are also some drawbacks to this type of device.

    Limited features and controls

    To ensure that the devices are as discreet as possible, IIC and CIC hearing aids come with fewer features and controls. For example, they don’t offer Bluetooth connectivity, meaning that they cannot be paired with other smart devices for music streaming and phone calls.

    They also come with 1 microphone only, as compared to other devices featuring 2 microphones. However, this doesn’t mean that the hearing experience is compromised – IIC and CIC devices still offer a high sound quality.

    More suitable for adults

    Since the shape and size of a child’s ear canal will change over time, they’re likely to outgrow the hearing aid. Thus, custom ITE devices are more suitable for adults.

    May not be suitable for those with profound hearing loss

    Due to their size, most custom hearing aids tend to be less powerful than BTE models, though there are some exceptions. This means that they work best if you have mild to severe hearing loss, and those with profound hearing loss may benefit more from BTE models.

    Based on your condition, your hearing care professional will suggest the best type of hearing aid for you.

    May be challenging to use for those with dexterity issues

    If you have dexterity issues or find it challenging to handle small objects, you might experience some difficulties using a custom hearing aid. This may be especially so when operating them or changing their batteries.

    How to Choose A Suitable Hearing Aid

    With the different styles of hearing aids available on the market, it can be confusing when it comes to choosing the right device.

    During the consultation with your hearing care professional or audiologist, they’ll consider your needs, preferences and condition before recommending the best device for you. Read on for some of their key considerations.

    Severity and type of hearing loss

    The severity and type of hearing loss you’re experiencing can affect the type of hearing aid suitable for you. To give you the best hearing experience possible, your hearing care professional will recommend a device that can better address your condition.

    Size and shape of the ear canal

    The size and shape of your ear canal are crucial in determining whether custom hearing aids are appropriate for you. During the consultation, the audiologist will check for short or odd-shaped ear canals, as BTE models may be more suitable for these individuals.

    Dexterity

    Your fine motor skills and ability to handle small objects may affect the type of hearing aid that’s suitable for you.

    If you prefer discreet devices despite having some difficulty handling small objects, your audiologist may recommend devices that come with automated features or an accompanying mobile application. This will allow you to adjust the volume and functions more easily.

    Features

    The number of features available on a hearing aid often depends on its size. If you prefer a device with a wider range of features such as a directional microphone and volume wheel, your hearing care professional may recommend a BTE hearing aid.

    Lifestyle

    Half-shell, full-shell and BTE hearing aids tend to be more suitable for those who spend most of their time indoors as these devices are susceptible to wind noise. Additionally, BTE models are better suited to less active individuals and those who don’t wear spectacles.

    Conversely, CIC and IIC hearing aids are often the recommended choice for those who engage in outdoor activities regularly as they can prevent wind noise.

    Budget

    The cost of a hearing aid can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on its technology, features, style, and brand.

    It’s important to note that certain trade-offs may be involved when you opt for a more affordable hearing aid. As such, it’s advisable to evaluate the importance of the different factors affecting the price.

     

    Take our quiz to find out which type of hearing aid is most suited for you!

    Want to know which hearing aid style is more suitable for you? Take a short quiz* to find out!

    *The results of this quiz serve as a suggestion for the type of hearing aid most suited to your needs and preferences. It’s recommended to consult your hearing care professional for advice on the best type of hearing aid for your condition.

    Oticon Own™: An Exceptional Custom Hearing Aid

    Oticon Own™ hearing aids

    Styles available: IIC, CIC, ITC, half-shell, full-shell

    Oticon Own™ is a line of custom ITE hearing aids designed for improved listening, comfort and style. It allows you to enjoy a full sound experience and participate more actively in social activities.

    With our MoreSound Intelligence™ technology, you can better separate speech from background noise. Additionally, adapting to different sound environments is made easier with our Deep Neural Network technology.

    As a testament to its engineering features and innovative design, Oticon Own™ was named a CES® 2023 Innovation Award Honoree in the Wearable Technologies category.

     

    FAQs about Custom Hearing Aids

     

    How much do custom hearing aids cost?

    The price of custom hearing aids often depends on the brand, style and accompanying features. At Hearing Partners, our custom hearing devices range from $2,889 to $7,811.

    Should I get a custom hearing aid?

    Deciding whether to get a custom hearing aid depends on various factors including your lifestyle, budget, and severity of hearing loss. It’s best to consult a hearing care professional for advice on whether a custom hearing aid is right for you.

    Reconnect To Your World With Hearing Aids

    Connection is a basic human need. From birth, children are wired to connect to their mothers. A baby’s cry sparks the production of oxytocin (also known as the “bonding hormone”) in the mother. This hormone serves as a signal for the mother to bond with her child...