Hearing loss has been a problem for people as long as there have been people. Early attempts to circumvent a malfunctioning ear were crude and ungainly, and they rarely worked as well as anyone hoped they would.

While the invention of the battery and the remarkable advancements in microphones improved the hearing aid by leaps and bound, it wasn’t until the advent of the technological and digital ages that true solutions finally arrived.

Because of the rapid and remarkable changes that have come about in the last few decades, advancements in hearing aid technology are hard to over-state. Smaller and more comfortable, today’s hearing aids boast exceptional sound quality and almost total customization. Regardless of your needs, financial standing or your proclivity toward vanity, there’s a hearing aid that will work for you. From invisible to nearly so and all of it with more specialized technology than you can shake a stick at, here are seven different types of hearing aids that have brought the future close.

Behind the Ear (BTE)

Behind the Ear (BTE) hearing aids are the largest and most visible of contemporary hearing aids, but they’re still quite small when you look back through the annals of hearing aid history. BTE hearing aids are utilized often, because they work for almost all ages and types of hearing loss. The hearing aid simply hooks over the top of the ear and rests unassumingly behind it. The hearing aid then picks up sound in your environment, amplifies it and transports that amplified sound to an ear mold that fits just inside your ear canal.

Behind the Ear Super Power (BTE SP)

Similar to the standard BTE in fit, form and function, the Behind the Ear Super Power (BTE SP) hearing aids pick up more sound and are able to amplify it even more effectively than BTEs. This greater amplification allows for increased hearing and comprehension among people with significant hearing loss.

Completely in Canal (CIC)

A Completely in Canal (CIC) hearing aid is exactly what it sounds like. Molded to fit inside your particular ear canal, a CIC hearing aid is among the least noticeable of all in-ear aids, and it works best for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Other advantages and disadvantages of this style include:

  • More protection from wind noise due to location inside the ear
  • Works more easily with the telephone compared to other designs
  • Shorter battery life due to the smaller batteries used
  • No extra features like directional microphones or volume control

In the Canal (ITC)

In the Canal (ITC) aids are also molded to fit your particular ear, and they fit mostly — but not completely — in the ear canal, making them more noticeable than a CIC hearing aid. Also used for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, the main advantage of this style over the Completely in Canal style is that it can include features like volume control, although its small size can make adjustments difficult.

Invisible in the Canal (IIC)

This type of hearing aid fits completely inside the ear canal. In fact, it is usually placed so deep into the canal that you can’t even see it when you look directly into the ear. Surprisingly, the fit is still comfortable. The hearing aid’s shell is customized to the specific ear canal in which it will be placed after a mold has been taken. Through specialized venting and deep placement, the hearing experience is also much more natural for the wearer. Depending on style and size, some IIC aids can be controlled through a mobile phone, so the hearing aid doesn’t have to be removed in order to make adjustments.

Mini Behind the Ear (Mini BTE)

One newer kind of Behind the Ear aid is the Mini BTE. While it still fits on or behind the wearer’s ear, a very slim, transparent tube connects the hearing aid to the canal. Mini BTEs often have an “open fit” ear piece, but they can also make use of an ear mold. They tend to be more comfortable than traditional BTEs, give less feedback and, because they’re smaller, are less noticeable than other BTE models.

Receiver in Canal (RIC)

A Behind the Ear aid that places the receiver directly into the ear canal instead of behind it, the Receiver in Canal (RIC) hearing aid makes use of silicone ear inserts to ensure a comfortable fit in the wearer’s ear. This style of aid tends to provide improved sound quality, and because it doesn’t require a mold, it allows for immediate fitting.

The days of unwieldy and poorly functioning hearing aids are long gone. From aids that fit completely inside the ear canal to aids that sit small and silent behind the ear, compensating for hearing loss has never been so successful or so little noticed.