When you think of a medical device, you might picture a syringe, defibrillator, or heart monitor. Something that serves an active purpose, or that you see used after the climax of an action film, to bring the hero back to life.
But the term “medical device” covers a much wider range of appliances, including more everyday gadgets. One such gadget is the everyday hearing aid, and – like most medical devices – they’re quite complicated.
Hearing aids are broken up into various categories, classified primarily by the way the hearing aid is worn. For example, there are in-the-ear (ITE,) receiver-in-ear (RITE,) and in-the-canal (ITC.) In this article, we’ll be looking at behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.
We’ll try to be as in-depth as possible, but we’re going to be playing for second place. The best place to learn about hearing aids will always be a qualified hearing specialist. If you follow this link to be taken to our online form, you can arrange a free consultation, where a hearing healthcare professional will be happy to talk your ear off.
What is a BTE hearing aid?
Behind-the-ear hearing aids are the most common, and generally the largest hearing aids on the market. As the name would imply, they rest behind the ear; a tube goes over the top of your earlobe, and is attached to a piece of plastic inside the ear canal.
These hearing aids are the most popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, of all kinds of hearing aids, BTE are almost unanimously considered the easiest to use. Nowadays, they’re often rechargeable, which cuts down on battery costs and circumvents the sometimes fiddly battery-changing process.
Secondly, they are a lot more versatile than the smaller ITE or ITC hearing aids. Their size means that they can come in a variety of colors and offer numerous features, which we’ll go into below.
BTE hearing aid features
Considering that BTE hearing aids are generally more expensive than the smaller models, what are you getting for your extra money?
As discussed here, in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are – obviously – smaller than their BTE counterparts. This means that, while they’re cheaper, they don’t have as many features as the larger models.
So what are the amazing extra features that come with a BTE hearing aid? Well, the answer could be any number of things.
For a full breakdown of the best BTE hearing aids on the market, as well as the features they offer, check out our page on the best hearing aid brands of 2019. There, you can see comprehensive analyses of individual hearing aid models, and hopefully make a more informed decision on the kind of hearing aid you want to buy.
However, in this article, we’ll take a broader look at the more common features a BTE hearing aid can have.
Nowadays, rechargeable hearing aids are becoming more and more commonplace. Since BTE hearing aids have more room to allow for the charging components, they are the only hearing aids that support rechargeability – for now. Most BTE hearing aids offer the option of battery-based power or rechargeability, but some new models hitting the market – like the Signia Styletto Connect – are exclusively rechargeable.
Thanks to the more spacious casings of BTE hearing aids, more gadgets can be loaded into the hearing aid. This includes things like Bluetooth connectivity, company-specific systems (like Widex’s SoundSense technology or Oticon’s BrainHearing technology,) or even an AI!
As technology gets smaller and more efficient, these features will slowly be integrated into smaller hearing aids – like Signia’s Insio NX, which has Bluetooth functionality – but for now, BTE hearing aids have the lion’s share of nifty features.
Are BTE hearing aids better than ITE?
This is kind of like asking if a Formula One car is better than a Prius – they’re both better for different lifestyles in their own ways. BTE hearing aids tend to be more powerful, and are therefore intended for people with more extreme hearing loss.
People with hearing loss ranging between moderately severe and profound will generally be given a BTE hearing aid, whereas those with less intense forms of hearing loss will be given a smaller, less powerful device.
BTE hearing aid costs
Due to their additional features – as well as being generally more powerful – BTE hearing aids can cost a few hundred dollars more. Where an average BTE hearing aid might cost around $2,500, an ITE version of the same model may simply sit at $2,000. For more specific pricing estimates, as well as the rough costs behind your hearing aid, you can look at our page on hearing aid costs.
No type of hearing aid is better or worse than any other. They’re all chosen and specialized to the individual user’s needs. BTE hearing aids are more powerful and include more fun features, but cost a fair bit more. ITE hearing aids are cheaper and easier to use, but might have fewer features.
But the choice doesn’t have to be entirely up to you. If you follow this link and fill out our online form, you’ll be able to arrange a free consultation with a hearing healthcare professional near you. There, you’ll be able to discuss hearing aid options in depth.