Dennis Hampton, Ph.D
280 Mamaroneck Ave.
White Plains, New York 10605
(914) 761-4455

Hearing Aid Sizes and Styles:
Is Smaller Better?

Before the 1940's, there was no such thing as a truly portable hearing aid. Even hearing aid batteries weighed several pounds! In the 40's, the development of the body hearing aid was considered a major breakthrough. Today, the body hearing aid is considered too bulky and is used by less than 1% of hearing aid users-usually as a last resort.

In the 1950's, the invention of the transistor led to the behind-the-ear hearing aid. This style eliminated the need for cords and large batteries and quickly became popular. This hearing aid still has many advantages, but some people now consider it too large or too noticeable. Today, about 16% of hearing aids are this style.

The 1970's saw the introduction of in-the-ear and canal hearing aids. These two styles put all the hearing aid components within the ear or ear canal. These styles are still popular and make up about 60% of hearing aids dispensed. But today, with further miniaturization, many people consider even these small hearing aids too large.

In the 1990s, many people began using the ultra-miniature completely-in-the-canal aid. These hearing aids are so small that often a tiny "pull string" is attached so the hearing aid can be removed from within the ear canal. This model now makes up about 21% of all hearing aids used.

Which is the best style? Is smaller better?

There is no single "correct" style that is best for everyone-it all depends on the nature of your hearing loss, the size and shape of your ear canals, manual dexterity and other factors. But looking back over the past 50 years, there is an interesting and consistent trend: the hearing aid style that was considered a major improvement when first introduced is later considered "too large" or "too noticeable" when newer, smaller choices come along-but perhaps that's just human nature.