BTE hearing aids

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

In BTE hearing aids, all the electronic components—including the speaker—are contained within the body of the hearing aid, which is worn behind the ear. Sound from the speaker is sent down to the ear canal via a hollow tube, which protects the speaker from moisture and earwax within the ear canal.

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Most modern BTE hearing aids may be fit with either a thin or slightly larger standard tube. They may also use a custom earmold or smaller and lighter standard “dome,” an earpiece that fits within the ear canal. When hearing loss is not too severe and limited to higher pitches, BTE hearing aids are typically fitted with thin tubing and a standard canal dome. This leaves the ear canal more open with free air flow, yielding greater comfort.

For more severe hearing losses, or when the lower pitches are affected, a custom earmold is typically used. Custom molds help to seal the ear canal to prevent feedback. Sealing the ear canal enables the hearing aid to deliver louder sound but unfortunately leads to reduced comfort.

If your hearing loss is changing rapidly, a BTE hearing aid is a good option, as you can be fit with a thin tube and canal dome today. You can always update to a custom mold later if necessary, without needing to purchase a new device.

Advantages of BTE hearing aids:

  • Less susceptible to damage from moisture and earwax
  • Can fit mild-to-profound hearing losses
  • Can be fit with non-custom domes or custom earmolds
  • Flexibility for worsening hearing loss

Disadvantages of BTE hearing aids:

  • Larger models may cause discomfort behind the ear, and may be difficult for those who wear glasses.
  • Custom earmolds that seal the ear canal may make the ear feel more plugged-up.
  • For people worried about stigma associated with hearing aids, larger models—especially when worn with custom ear molds—are easily visible.