Getting used to in-the-ear or in-the-canal hearing aids
Find out what to expect from your hearing aids, how to adjust to them and how to take care of them.
In-the-ear and in-the-canal hearing aids get their name because all the parts of the hearing aid are contained in one device that sits inside your ear. There are different types of hearing aid that fit inside the ear, which vary in size:
- in-the-ear – this hearing aid can be seen in the ear, from the side
- in-the-canal – this fits right inside your ear canal so is less visible than an in-the-ear hearing aid
- completely-in-the-canal – this fits further into the ear canal than an in-the-canal hearing aid and is sometimes hidden from view unless someone looks closely at the ear
- invisible-in-the-canal – this small hearing aid is fitted very deeply in the ear canal and can only be removed by an audiologist.
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Modern hearing aids are digital, sophisticated and produce good quality sound. Your audiologist will fine-tune your hearing aids to your prescription, which is based on your hearing test results. Your hearing aid settings are unique to you.
Your hearing aids might not help you hear perfectly in all situations, but they should help you hear:
- speech more clearly
- the TV at a lower volume
- everyday alerting sounds such as the doorbell and telephone ringing
- quieter sounds that you would struggle to hear without hearing aids.
They will also adjust to different environments, so that sounds are not uncomfortably loud.
Your audiologist may set up additional programs on your hearing aids to help you hear better in different listening situations. A popular setting is the hearing loop (T) setting – this lets you pick up sound from hearing loops, which can help you hear more clearly over background noise. Hearing loops are often found in public places such as theatres, shops and banks.
However, completely-in-the-canal and invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids do not always have these extra programs, as some are too small to contain the technology.
If you’re not sure about the different programs your hearing aids have, or how they could help, speak to your audiologist.
Hearing aids cannot cut out background noise completely, so you might still struggle to hear one voice in a noisy place. In these situations, assistive listening devices, learning to lipread and following communication tips might really help.
At first, what you hear might sound different or odd. You might find that everything sounds louder than you expect and your own voice might sound strange. This is because you might not have heard these sounds at their correct levels for a long time, and it will take a little while for your brain to learn that this sound level is normal.
Our step-by-step guide to getting used to hearing aids:
- Slowly build up the time you spend using your hearing aids – start by using them once or twice a day for an hour or two in quiet surroundings.
- Listen to everyday noises around the house – like the kettle boiling. Your brain might need time to relearn the significance of these sounds and to ignore the unimportant ones.
- Use your hearing aids while watching TV – this will help you get used to hearing different sounds.
- Try conversations with 1 person – make sure you’re in a quiet room and the other person sits facing you in good light so it’s easier to lipread them.
- Try group conversations – don’t expect to hear everything that’s said when you’re with more than 1 person, but try to follow the conversation.
- Practise using your hearing aids outside – it’s normal for some sounds to seem very loud until you get used to them.
- Try using your hearing aids in noisy places – these are likely to be the most difficult listening situations.
It can take a month or longer to adjust to hearing aids and get the most out of them, even when using them regularly in different situations. The important thing is not to give up.
If you have any difficulties, tell your audiologist so they can help.
For help with making the most of your hearing aids, read the Which? guide to hearing aids features.
It’s important to make sure you put in your hearing aids correctly:
- Hold onto your hearing aid so that the part that goes into the ear canal is pointing the correct way.
- Gently push the hearing aid into the ear as far as it will comfortably go.
- If it feels uncomfortable or difficult, carefully remove the hearing aid and try again. Some in-the-ear hearing aids have a small plastic ‘stalk’ that you can hold to make removing the hearing aid easier.
If you have two hearing aids, your audiologist should have marked which one is for which ear. The marker is always red for the right ear and blue for the left. Think ‘R’ for red and ‘R’ for right.
As most in-the-ear hearing aids are custom made and come in different shapes and sizes, discuss any specific concerns around putting them in or taking them out with your audiologist.
You need to clean and service your hearing aids regularly to keep them working well. However, if you have invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids, which are fitted deep inside your ear canal, your audiologist will do this for you at your scheduled appointments.
Clean your hearing aids at the end of every day to keep them working well.
Our guide to cleaning in-the-ear hearing aids:
- Clean any wax or debris from openings of your hearing aid with a soft brush provided by your audiologist.
- Use a wax pick to remove blockages that didn’t come out with the brush.
- Use a clean, dry cloth or tissue to wipe the hearing aid all over.
Speak to your audiologist if you need help with cleaning or servicing your hearing aids.
Hearing aid cleaning tools
Some audiology providers supply or sell hearing aid cleaning tools for a small fee, so ask your audiologist what is available. You can use a:
- soft brush to remove wax from the ear tip or dome – sometimes these also have a magnetic battery removal tool
- wax pick, to remove wax from small nooks
- dry cloth to wipe the hearing aid
- multitool, which contains several tools in one.
You can also buy these products online from Connevans in partnership with RNID. Visit the online shop
If you use your hearing aids for most of the day, every day, you’ll need to change your hearing aid batteries about once a week.
If you have hearing aids that only your audiologist can remove, your audiologist will change the batteries at your scheduled appointments.
Many hearing aids will give warning beeps when the battery needs changing.
Our guide to changing your hearing aid battery:
- Open the battery drawer wide but try not to force it.
- Look at the way the battery sits in the drawer before you remove it.
- Take a replacement battery from its packet. It will have a sticky label indicating the positive (+) side of the battery.
- The flat positive side of the battery (+) sits face up in the drawer. Make sure it’s the right way up otherwise it won’t work.
Your audiologist can show you how to change the battery if you haven’t already been shown or need a reminder.
Remember to switch your hearing aids off when you take them out, to save the batteries and to prevent whistling noises. And don’t forget to carry spare batteries when you go out.
Most in-the-ear and in-the-canal hearing aids are bought privately as they are not commonly available on the NHS.
Batteries may be included in your payment plan. If not, you’ll need to buy them from a pharmacy your hearing aid provider. You can also get hearing aid batteries from supermarkets and online.
If you have NHS hearing aids, ask your audiologist about local arrangements.
If you are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus and need free confidential and impartial information and support, contact RNID.
We’re open 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Get more information by email
At RNID, we offer free information and support to the 12 million people living with hearing loss in the UK.
Sign up for a series of emails from our Information Team to find out more about getting hearing aids, including:
- the types of hearing aids available
- communication tips while you wait for them
- and how you can look after them.