Hearing Aids: Pros, Cons, & Reviews
- Behind the ear hearing aids, also called BTE, can be used for mild to profound hearing loss.
- Although they are the most visible type of hearing aid, they do come in mini versions.
- BTE hearing aids can be purchased with features like Bluetooth technology and app connectivity, for the convenience of remote volume control.
What is a Behind the Ear Hearing Aid?
A Behind the Ear hearing aid, or BTE, is the traditional type of hearing aid. It’s probably what comes to mind when you picture a hearing aid. The electronic components (speaker, amplifier, and microphone) are housed in a casing that rests behind the ear. A tube links the casing to a custom-made ear mould that sits in your ear canal.
BTE hearing aids usually have volume control and a programming button, while some also incorporate Bluetooth technologies for wireless functions like phone calls or streaming music. They tend to be reliable and resistant to damage caused by moisture or earwax, since the electronics are not fitted into the ear itself.
The BTE is one of the most versatile types of hearing aid, making it suitable for people of all ages and a wide range of hearing loss. The BTE’s larger size gives it the ability to have more power when compared with smaller devices. However, its size is also a barrier for some hearing aid wearers, who prefer a device that is less conspicuous when worn.
It is worth noting that the BTE hearing aid of today is smaller than the BTE hearing aid of the past. It can also be purchased in mini version, as well as a range of colours to match your skin tone.
Other Types of Hearing Aids
To decide which type of hearing aid is right for you, it helps to know what your options are. There are six popular types of hearing aids in Australia, including BTE devices. Here is a brief overview of the five other types of hearing aids.
Mini Behind the Ear (Mini BTE)
Good for mild to moderate hearing loss
First, there’s the mini BTE. While this is considered a version of the standard BTE, we’re putting it in its own category because it is somewhere between the BTE and RIC hearing aid. This is the smallest behind the ear hearing aid, with the hearing aid connected to the ear canal through a thin tube.
Advantages: more comfort, less sound occlusion, and less feedback
Disadvantages: smaller controls, which can be more difficult to use.
Receiver in Canal (RIC)
Good for mild to severe hearing loss
Unlike the BTE, a RIC’s mechanical components are split into two parts, rather than being housed in one case. The amplifier and microphone are cased behind the ear, while the speaker sits inside the ear, either in a custom ear mould or ear tip.
Advantages: comfortable and easy to maintain
Disadvantages: less powerful than BTEs and susceptible to moisture damage
In the Ear (ITE) / In the Canal (ITC)
Good for mild to moderately severe hearing loss
Both of these hearing aid types are worn in the bowl of the ear, with ITE being slightly larger than ITCs. All of the electronic components fit into one piece, which is worn in the ear. With ITCs, the device may extend slightly into the canal, but not as much as with CICs.
Advantages: smaller size but powerful
Disadvantages: not ideal for people with chronic ear infections, can be damaged by moisture
Completely In the Canal (CIC)
Good for mild to moderate hearing loss
These hearing aids are virtually invisible, as they sit entirely in the ear canal. A small line extends out of the canal, used to insert and remove the device.
Advantages: inconspicuous, comfortable, easily compatible with mobile phone use
Disadvantages: can be challenging to remove and insert
Good for one-sided hearing loss
Although CROS hearing aids are designed to help with the loss of hearing in one ear, users are still required to wear a device on each ear. This helps balance the way sound enters the brain, to provide a better ‘surround sound’ effect.
Advantages: improves the brain’s ability to process sound
Disadvantages: can be harder to get used to, requires two devices
Pros of a BTE Hearing Aid
Behind the ear hearing aids are still common, despite being the largest type of hearing aid on the market. Here are some of the pros of choosing a BTE hearing aid.
- Versatility. Can be fitted with different types of earmoulds, especially good for growing children.
- Easy to clean. Larger size means that the parts are less fiddly to clean and maintain.
- Ease of use. The BTE’s larger size is also an advantage for people who struggle with the dexterity needed to manage volume control and change batteries on smaller hearing aids.
- Longer-lasting. In general, the BTE lasts longer than smaller hearing aids.
- More powerful. The BTE can be good for people with more advanced hearing loss, because it tends to be more powerful than some smaller options.
- Comfortable. BTE hearing aids are still comfortable, and users don’t have to insert anything into their ear or ear canal.
Cons of a BTE Hearing Aid
Of course, there are cons to wearing a behind the ear hearing aid. If you’re comparing in the ear hearing aids vs behind the ear, these are some things to keep in mind.
- Most visible. This is perhaps the most common downside of the BTE for many people; it is the largest style of hearing aid, which makes it easier to see when worn.
- Sound quality not as good. Although they are powerful, the quality of BTE sound may not be as good as it is with ITE or ITC hearing aids.
- Parts may need to be replaced. BTE devices are long lasting, but may require replacement of parts like the ear mould or tubing over time.
- Wind feedback. BTE wearers sometimes report increased noise when using the device in a windy area.
Behind the Ear Hearing Aid Reviews and Accessories
Because BTE hearing aids are so common, most hearing aid manufacturers offer a version of this device type. Although hearing aid design seems focused on making the smallest possible device, the BTE still holds a firm spot in the hearing aid market.
Although sound quality may be an issue for some, BTE hearing aids can have directional microphone capability, which improves their effectiveness.
Some BTE hearing aids can be purchased with Bluetooth abilities, which means you can stream music and even have wireless phone calls using your hearing aids.
Parents also tend to like BTE hearing aids as an option for children, whose smaller fingers and active lifestyles may not suit a smaller device. They can also easily replace custom earmoulds as the child ages.
The best way to choose a hearing aid is to compare your options with the help of a hearing specialist. Visit Hearing Aid Finder to book your free hearing screen and meet with an audiologist near you who can make a professional recommendation.
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