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World's Smallest Hearing Aids - Discover the invisible, small and discreet hearing aids available

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert & Founder

Updated: 21st February 2024
The World's Smallest Hearing Aids 2024

The World's Smallest Hearing Aids

Exploring the invisible, small, and discreet hearing aids available in the UK

 

Discrete hearing aid styles are becoming more popular

Invisible hearing aids are small hearing solutions that cannot be seen outside your ear.  This is because they sit deep inside your ear canal and are generally custom-fit.  So you will benefit from both a personalised hearing experience and a comfortable fit - unique to your ear shape.

If discretion and comfort are your priority, then invisible hearing aids are worth considering.  In this article, we go through the features, benefits, and impact of invisible hearing aids on hearing health.

 

What are invisible hearing aids?

Invisible hearing aids, also known as In-the-Canal (ITC) hearing aids or Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) hearing aids, are designed to be as discreet as possible.  This means that they are not noticeable to others when being worn - potentially giving wearers more confidence and comfort in social situations. 

Many people with hearing loss are concerned about the devices themselves being too conspicuous.  We know that looking after your hearing health is the most important, but confidence is also key and often being self-conscious about wearing your hearing aids affects that.

In some cases, it is the reason why so many people do not seek professional help with their hearing loss in the first place.  With every year that goes by (and the smaller hearing aids become), we hope this inspires change.  

 

What other small hearing aids are available today in the UK?

Small and discreet hearing aids are broken down into different In-Ear categories. These are:

ITE hearing aids:  In the Ear hearing aids are quite small and as the name suggests, sit just in the ear canal. They can still be seen but are far more discreet than the Full Shell or Half Shell aids (ITC). Some manufacturers also offer colours to match hair or skin tones.  

They are less visible than traditional hearing aids but may be noticeable to others if they are looking closely.

CIC hearing aids:  Completely in the Canal hearing aids sit further into the canal and are almost unnoticeable.  They are almost completely hidden from view and are not visible when worn.

IIC hearing aids:  Invisible in the Canal hearing aids are the most discreet type of hearing aid and are designed to be virtually invisible when worn. They are custom-made to fit deep inside the ear canal and are only visible if someone is looking directly into the ear.

   

Are small and invisible hearing aids available on NHS?

Quite a lot of consumers choose to go private for their hearing aids to benefit from a more discreet in-the-ear device, which is historically not as available on the NHS if not at all.  The latest and most modern hearing aids that private audiologists have to offer such as advanced technology, mobile compatibility, and sophisticated Bluetooth connectivity.

 

IIC Hearing Aids

Small, Invisible and Discreet Hearing Aids

Are invisible hearing aids any good?

 

Are invisible hearing aids suitable for everyone?

The honest answer here is no.  If you are conscious about wearing hearing aids like Reciever in the Ear (RIC) or Behind the Ear (BTE) models, then - yes - invisible devices might be worth considering and opting for.  However, they are not appropriate for everyone or every ear.  

ITE hearing aids are generally compatible with people who have mild to moderate hearing loss.  Because they are small they are not suitable or recommended for people who have severe to profound hearing loss. 

They are also much trickier to handle and put into your ear or can be a challenge when you replace your batteries.  So if vision or dexterity is an issue, this type of hearing aid is probably not the best style for you.

 

Ear shape is a factor when thinking about small hearing aids

Comfort is so important when choosing hearing aids.  If they are a bad fit they won't just deliver poor sound,  but they will also hurt your ears and cause irritation.  Invisible hearing aids are known to be comfortable, but they are not compatible with all ear shapes. 

For instance, if your ear canals are short or thin an ITE hearing aid may not sit comfortably within your ears.  However, there are options to try this style of hearing aid before you commit to purchasing with your audiologist - which we would highly recommend.

  

Small Hearing Aids

Invisible & Small Hearing Aids Pros and Cons

What are the advantages and disadvantages of invisible hearing aids?

 

What are the advantages of invisible hearing aids?

Invisible hearing aids have several benefits, including:

Discretion

The main advantage of invisible hearing aids is that they are not noticeable to others when being worn. Being placed inside the ear canal, they are virtually invisible to others, addressing the stigma associated with wearing visible hearing devices.

This can be particularly important for people who are self-conscious about their hearing loss, or who do not want others to know that they are wearing a hearing aid.

 

Comfort with customisation and fitting

Invisible hearing aids are generally more comfortable to wear than traditional hearing aids, as they do not have any visible parts that can rub against the skin or get caught in the hair.

In regards to fit, audiologists take impressions of the wearer's ear canal, ensuring a perfect fit. This personalised fitting contributes to enhanced comfort and reduced chances of discomfort or feedback, making them ideal for extended wear.

 

Improved sound quality

Because they are located closer to the ear drum, invisible hearing aids can provide better sound quality than traditional hearing aids. They are also less prone to feedback (whistling) than traditional hearing aids, which can be a common issue for people with severe hearing loss.

Invisible hearing aids utilise sophisticated digital processing technology, allowing for advanced sound processing and noise reduction. These devices can adapt to various listening environments, delivering clear and natural sound to the wearer.

 

Speech understanding

Speech understanding is crucial for communication, and invisible hearing aids are designed to prioritise this aspect. The proximity to the eardrum ensures that sound vibrations are accurately transmitted, leading to improved speech perception even in challenging listening environments.

 

Compatibility with active lifestyles

Invisible hearing aids are an excellent option for individuals with active lifestyles. Whether they are engaged in sports, outdoor activities, or simply prefer a less obtrusive hearing solution, these devices offer a seamless fit and eliminate worries about their appearance.

 

What are the disadvantages of invisible hearing aids?

Small hearing aids come with certain limitations and considerations.  While invisible hearing aids offer numerous benefits, they might not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with severe hearing loss may require more powerful devices, which might be challenging to fit into the small form factor of invisible hearing aids. 

Here are some of the main disadvantages of invisible hearing aids:

Features

Invisible hearing aids historically don't have the same feature catalogue as other styles.  This is because of the size of the devices and not having enough room to store such technology.  This means that invisible hearing aids have shorter battery life.

 

Sound

Because invisible hearing aids sit inside your ear, the sound is collected and amplified.  You don't have the assistance of directional microphones, which are hugely beneficial if you find a conversation in noise difficult to understand.

 

Connectivity

BTE hearing aids provide advanced Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and streaming audio and TV programmes.  You might miss out on Bluetooth connectivity with most IIC or ITE hearing aids, so if this is important to you then you need to look at other options.

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Small & Invisible Hearing Aids

Despite their many benefits, invisible hearing aids do have some drawbacks. They are typically more expensive than traditional hearing aids, and may not be suitable for people with severe hearing loss or certain types of ear shapes. 

Invisible hearing aids are a good option for people who want a discreet and comfortable way to improve their hearing. If you are considering getting a hearing aid, it is important to consult with a hearing healthcare professional to determine the best solution for your individual needs.

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This article was written by audiology expert Paul Harrison

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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Common FAQs when researching hearing aids and hearing loss

Is this the best model for me?

If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?

In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.

  • Audiologist level of knowledge. The audiologist you have seen will hopefully have a wide knowledge of all available hearing aids, however some will only be familiar with a small number of brands and therefore may not really be in a position to know which model is the best for you. It is OK to challenge their recommendation and ask them to justify why this particular brand is the one for you.
  • Do research. Read about the hearing aid that was recommended. Does it seem like it will suit your lifestyle? Does it have more or less features than you need? 
  • Be aware of sales targets. Many high street retailers have specific tie-ins to a particular manufacturer/brand. The hearing aid they have suggested may still be the correct one for you, but do your research so that you know why they might have recommended it.

If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.

Do I need one hearing aid or two?

If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:

Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.

Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.

Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.

Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.

What are the benefits of rechargeable hearing aids?

For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up. 

For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.

One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.

Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.

Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.

 

Are behind the ear aids better than in the ear aids?

For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.

The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.

However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.

People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.

There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.

Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.

What are channels, and how many do I need?

Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.

The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.

Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.

Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.

As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.

Where can I get the hearing aids covered?

Hearing aids are easily lost, misplaced or damaged and typically are one of the most expensive personal possessions an individual can own. We offer hearing aid warranty cover for £80 per year per aid.  Find out more here

How much does the hearing test cost?

All our audiologists use the very latest technology and provide the full range of tests to accurately measure your hearing for free.  Find out about what we offer all our customers here

Do home visits cost extra?

Hearing Aid UK offers all their customers free home visiting services and home visits for hearing aids - Including hearing tests, fittings, maintenance, check-ups and much more in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience.  Find out more information here

How come you're much cheaper than other places?

Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are dedicated to offering low hearing aid prices. We achieve this by having no head office and low marketing costs.   Our hearing aid prices are amongst the lowest you will find anywhere in the world.

Need advice? Give our hearing aid experts a call for FREE

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