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Invisible Hearing Aids: The Smallest Hearing Aids, Explained

Invisible Hearing Aids - featured. Happy woman with hand cupped around right ear on a yellow background

The latest in-canal hearing aids are so tiny that no-one can see you're wearing them. Here's our guide to invisible hearing aids

Invisible hearing aids are the smallest hearing aids you can buy. While not literally invisible, their diminutive size means they fit inside your ear canal, with no visible parts or wires, so no-one can see you’re wearing them. If you’ve been put off buying hearing aids in the past because you’re concerned about them being on show, a pair of invisible hearing aids could transform your hearing and your life.

Most hearing aids described as “invisible” are completely-in-canal (CIC) or invisible-in-canal (IIC) models, both designed to sit deep inside your ear. They’re not usually powerful enough to improve severe hearing loss, but they can enhance and clarify sound for those whose hearing loss is mild to moderate.

Invisible hearing aids often cost more than larger in-the-ear (ITE) and behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, but you can buy a good pair for well under $1,000.

In this article, we’ll reveal some of the best invisible hearing aids available at different price points, and explain how such tiny devices can help you hear better – without anyone knowing you’re wearing a hearing aid.

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Why should I buy invisible hearing aids?

The big advantage of invisible hearing aids is their tiny size. Unless someone is staring right inside your ear, this type of hearing aid won’t be visible. What’s more, these devices have no external tubes or wires, which make those hearing aids that sit on the outside more obvious to onlookers.

Many invisible hearing aids are available in brown and black colors, making them even more difficult for people to spot.

If you suffer from hearing loss but feel too self-conscious to wear a hearing aid – and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in this regard – then this discretion could make invisible hearing aids a game changer for you.

About 48 million people in the US experience hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. However, take-up of hearing aids remains low, with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reporting that only one in six Americans with hearing loss wears hearing aids. By contrast, 64% of all Americans wear prescription glasses.

The NCOA cites “stigma” as a key reason that people shy away from hearing aids – and hearing aid makers agree. “Big and beige is no longer an option”, says Minnesota audiology giant Starkey, which provided hearing aids to Ronald Reagan, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. The firm’s new Signature range includes its smallest hearing aid yet, and claims to be “the best small non-wireless hearing aids in the industry”.

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Do invisible hearing aids have other advantages?

Invisibility isn’t the only reason to invest in the smallest in-canal hearing aids. Here are a few more…

  • Unlike larger hearing aids, which can get in the way behind your ear, invisible hearing aids don’t make wearing glasses, hats, headphones, wigs or face masks uncomfortable.
  • Many people find invisible hearing aids more comfortable than BTE hearing aids, whose large behind-the-ear units can feel itchy.
  • Invisible hearing aids fit more securely inside your ear than larger hearing aids. If you’re an active person, you’ll welcome the freedom to move around without feeling your hearing aid slipping out of place.
  • Larger hearing aids can be sensitive to wind noise, because they’re exposed to rushing air. In-canal hearing aids are protected by your outer ear, so their audio quality doesn’t suffer as much when you’re outdoors on a windy day.
  • Many invisible hearing aids allow air to move through your ear canal. This avoids the hollow booming effect known as “occlusion”, which can happen with custom-made and full-shell hearing aids that completely fill your ear canal.

Are invisible hearing aids custom-made?

Invisible hearing aids can be custom-made to fit your ear canal, but they’re also available in “instant-fit” models that you can buy online or off the shelf and wear straight away. Each type has its own pros and cons.

Invisible Hearing Aids. Close up of a hand holding an invisible hearing aid

Custom-made invisible hearing aids are molded to fit your ear canal perfectly. Thanks to their exact fit and light weight, these hearing aids are supremely comfortable. However, they can create the occlusion effect experienced by wearers of canal-filling hearing aids, especially when first wearing them.

Instant-fit invisible hearing aids have a soft silicone sleeve that sits comfortably in the canal, like a small earbud. Air can move a little more freely, which prevents that blocked feeling. Also, you can wear instant-fit hearing aids straight after your appointment because they don’t need to be molded specially for your ear.

READ NEXT: Types of Hearing Aids

What are the disadvantages of invisible hearing aids?

Invisible hearing aids are fantastic little innovations, but there are some tradeoffs against the benefits. Their tiny size means they’re unable to fit in as many audio features or as much sound-enhancing power as larger hearing aids. This means invisible hearing aids are normally only suitable for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Here are a few more drawbacks to ITE hearing aids…

  • The tiny size of invisible hearing aids, and their position inside the wearer’s ear canal, can make them difficult to insert and remove – especially if your hands aren’t as nimble as they used to be.
  • Smaller hearing aids may compromise functionality as well as audiological performance. For example, there isn’t enough room in tiny in-canal hearing aids for two microphones, which can be a real benefit in circumstances where there is lots of background noise.
  • Invisible hearing aids use very small batteries, which have a shorter lifespan and can be difficult to insert. Many invisible hearing aid manufacturers and retailers offer a rechargeable option for £100 more than the standard model, and this is well worth the investment because it means you don’t have to handle batteries at all.
  • If your ear canal is small or narrow, invisible hearing aids may be too large to fit inside them. These types of hearing aid may also be unsuitable for those who frequently suffer from ear infections.
  • Cleaning can be an issue with invisible hearing aids, because they sit so snugly in your ear and can become clogged with earwax.

How much do invisible hearing aids cost?

Invisible hearing aids cost from under $500 to more than $4,000 per pair. While invisible hearing aids aren’t suitable for people with severe hearing loss, the more expensive models offer greater audio power and more advanced features.

Invisible Hearing Aids. Screenshot from the Starkey Signature website showing a close up of the hearing aid, color options and a photo of a man wearing it

At the more affordable end of the spectrum are hearing aids such as the Audien Atom Pro 2 ($289/pair), which include background noise cancellation and a UV light to make cleaning a little easier. Sound processing options and audio enhancement are pretty basic, but these are a great value option helping people with mild hearing loss hear conversations more easily.

Further up the price spectrum are the beautifully designed Eargo 7 ($2,950/pair), which measure less than ¾ inches from end to tip; and feature a discreet pull tab to help you remove them from your ear canal. These tiny hearing aids work with your smartphone and automatically adjust to ambient noise.

At the top end you’ll find premium devices such as the Starkey Signature Series Custom IIC (invisible-in-canal) hearing aids ($4,500/pair). You can see a 360-degree mockup of the these hearing aids on Starkey’s website.

READ NEXT: How Much do Hearing Aids Cost?

How do I choose the best invisible hearing aid for me?

Choosing the best hearing aids for yourself requires the help of a trained audiologist. They can accurately measure your hearing loss and type, and take into account the factors that most affect you.

If you’re looking for custom-made invisible hearing aids, your audiologist will also take an accurate mold of your ear, which will enable them to build a hearing aid to fit into your ear perfectly.

Use our quote-finder tool to discover the type of hearing aids that would best suit you, and to discuss the best options for helping you hear more easily and clearly.

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