CIC’s vs IIC’s: Which are Better?

Disclaimer: The cosmetics of a hearing aid is not the most important thing to consider. There are a number of things that factor in to which hearing aid will be right for you. This post is for those people who already know that a CIC or IIC hearing aid is a good option for them. Having said that, invisible hearing aids are all the rage right now in the hearing aid industry. A few years ago, Starkey Hearing Technologies released the SoundLens hearing aid, which was the first IIC (invisible-in-canal) hearing aid on the market. The SoundLens IIC has been met with much praise and many copycats- which of course is the ultimate praise. At the time of this post, almost every major hearing aid manufacturer builds a completely invisible hearing aid. For years before the IIC though, the CIC (completely-in-canal) reigned supreme among “invisible” devices- though they weren’t truly invisible.

CICs aren’t completely invisible. They can be made very discreet, but they will never be completely invisible. They just don’t sit deep enough in the ear canal to be completely hidden to everyone. However, for the majority of people, a discreet CIC is hidden well enough. CICs are a great option if you’re looking for a discreet aid, because they are almost completely hidden, yet still large enough to house the circuitry necessary for some of today’s most advanced hearing aid features like Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, CICs are large enough to have a toggle button or a push button to allow you to change the program/memory/or volume manually. Many CICs are also compatible with remote controls which allow you to do the same thing. The biggest downside to a CIC is also the biggest downside to an IIC, which is- they are going to break more often. Because CICs sit deep in the ear canal all day, in a warm, moist, oily environment, they are more likely to breakdown. Both CICs and IICs also have poor battery life- usually only 3-7 days per battery.

Photo of the ear canal

Illustration of the 2nd bend of the ear canal

IICs are completely invisible- when your ear anatomy allows for it. In order for an IIC to be completely invisible, it needs to fit beyond the second bend of the ear canal (as shown to the left). So the beginning of an IIC hearing aid actually sits where a CIC hearing aid would end. To put that in perspective, you could hypothetically fit an IIC and CIC in the same ear at the same time- on the perfect ear. That should give you a little perspective as to how far deep IIC hearing aids fit. However, in order for the IIC to fit that deep, you ear canals need to cooperate. That means they need to be wide enough, tall enough, and angled just right. It’s difficult to get an IIC hearing aid fitting properly for this reason, and it’s not uncommon for an IIC to have to be remade several times before the fit is just right. IICs are completely invisible- but not without some drawbacks. First of all, there are very little user controls. Some IICs can be controlled by smartphone apps or little wands, but they are not practical and not user friendly. Controlling your hearing aids this way requires you to either put the phone up to your ear to adjust it, or put a wand down your ear canal. Compared to just pushing a button on a CIC, or using a remote from your pocket for example, adjusting the IICs is not convenient. In addition, IICs are not large enough to house circuitry that allows for wireless capabilities like bluetooth, which is popular for many people.

Both CICs and IICs can be fit on mild to severe losses, they will both always use a size 10 battery, and they are both a bit more unreliable than other styles of hearing aids. They both require better than average dexterity, though an IIC requires excellent dexterity because it is just so small. If you can’t make up your mind about which one is right for you, I would say start with a cosmetically appealing CIC, and if you’re not happy with that, then go to an IIC. A larger CIC just gives you more functionality, is easier to fit comfortably, and is often times even more affordable. And who knows, you may be perfectly happy with how discreet a good-fitting CIC can be.

If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.

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