Best Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids

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If you’ve noticed that hearing is more difficult than it used to be, it may be time for hearing aids. One of the most popular styles, behind-the-ear (BTE), is suitable for a wide range of hearing losses. You can find BTE hearing aids at nearly any price point, making them an accessible choice for seniors of most income levels. Below, we’ll take a look at the best behind-the-ear hearing aids along with more information about choosing the right style for your hearing needs.

How We Chose the Best BTE Hearing Aids

Choosing the right pair of hearing aids is an important decision, as they’re something you’ll wear every single day. We narrowed down the search by comparing popular BTE hearing aids side by side and evaluating them based on several criteria. We considered factors like comfort, affordability, size, performance, and cost.

 

What Are BTE Hearing Aids?

As you might’ve guessed, BTE hearing aids sit behind your ears. More specifically, the electrical components housed inside a case sit on your outer ear. This includes the speaker, microphone, amplifier, battery, and other features like a telecoil. A small tube (also called an ear hook) connects the hearing aid to a dome or earmold that sits in your ear canal. The tube delivers sound into your ear.

BTE hearing aids provide the best amplification, so they work great for people of all ages who have mild, moderate, severe, or profound hearing loss. They’re also larger than other styles of hearing aids, so there’s more room for electrical components. That’s why many BTE hearing aids offer advanced features like Bluetooth streaming. Most BTE hearing aids feature control buttons directly on the case for easy volume or programming adjustments. We’d recommend BTE hearing aids for:

  • Seniors with severe to profound hearing loss
  • Those with dexterity problems who would benefit from a larger device
  • Older adults with caregivers, as they’re easier for caregivers to assist with
  • Individuals who produce a lot of earwax

What We Like About BTE Hearing Aids

  • Available with personalized ear molds
  • Provide the most amplification
  • Easy to put on, take off, and clean
  • On-device controls for simple volume adjustment
  • Not as susceptible to earwax buildup as other styles
  • More comfortable, as they don’t sit deep in the ear canal
  • Tend to have longer battery life than other styles

Things to Keep in Mind About BTE Hearing Aids

  • May be awkward to use while on the phone; selecting a model with Bluetooth streaming can alleviate this concern
  • More sensitive to wind than other styles
  • Share earspace with glasses, sunglasses, and masks, which may be bothersome to some seniors
  • Not as discreet as other styles

 

BTE vs. ITE Hearing Aids

There are two main types of hearing aids: BTE and in the ear (ITE). Understanding the difference between the two can help you decide what may work best for your situation.

What Are ITE Hearing Aids?

ITE aids sit fully in your ear without taking up any space on or behind your ear. For that reason, an ITE hearing aid is more comfortable if you wear glasses or frequently wear a face mask. You can use a phone more naturally and wear over-ear headphones too.

Compared to BTE models, ITE hearing aids are more discreet. Most are custom fit to your ear canal for a snug, comfortable fit. They’re even available in a variety of skin tones to blend in with your ear.

Since they must sit in your ear, ITE hearing aids have limited space. They don’t have room for all of the features you may find with BTE hearing aids, such as Bluetooth connectivity or large, long-lasting batteries. Some older adults might have trouble handling them due to their small size.

Comparing Hearing Aid Styles

BTE ITE
Type of hearing loss For mild to profound hearing loss For mild to severe hearing loss
Size Bigger; can be clunky Small; often custom fit
Visibility Slightly visible Nearly invisible
Durability Tend to last longer More susceptible to earwax damage
Battery life Can accommodate larger, longer-lasting batteries Less reliable; batteries need to be charged or replaced more frequently
Amplification Better amplification Less powerful
Features Space for more electrical components and features, such as Bluetooth Limited features

Frequently Asked Questions About BTE Hearing Aids

  • Are BTE hearing aids better than ITE?

    BTE and ITE hearing aids both have advantages and disadvantages. In general, BTE hearing aids are suitable for a wider range of hearing loss than ITE hearing aids.

  • How do you keep BTE hearing aids in place?

    When fitted properly, BTE hearing aids stay in place all on their own. Just take care as you put on and remove face masks, glasses, or sunglasses so as not to pull or bump the hearing aids off of your ears.

  • How do you wear BTE hearing aids with a mask?

    When wearing BTE hearing aids with a mask, it’s important to be careful as you put on and remove the mask to avoid pulling off your hearing aids. Some hearing aid users choose to wear masks that tie behind the head, or they secure their masks to headbands or ear-savers.

  • What is a mini BTE hearing aid?

    Mini BTE hearing aids are the smallest style of BTE hearing aids. They are smaller, more discreet, and often lighter than standard BTE hearing aids.

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

Citations
  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2021). Quick Statistics About Hearing