(Last updated Oct 7, 2019)

ITE vs BTE: In-the-Ear Hearing Aids vs Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids

When you first decide to get hearing aids one of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want to wear in-the-ear hearing aids or behind-the-ear hearing aids. There are very few decisions you will make when you purchase hearing aids that will have a greater impact on your success or failure with them, so take your time when deciding which hearing aid style is right for you, and of course listen to your hearing provider’s suggestions. There are a lot of factors at play when deciding which style will better for you, and I’ll attempt to weigh the most important factors below.

But first- check out this video we made on this very topic!

Things to consider

There are basically 3 things that you want to consider when deciding whether an ITE or BTE is right for you:

1) The extent of your hearing loss
If you have a moderately-severe to profound hearing loss, i.e, the scores on your audiogram are around 60 dB or lower, you should only consider a BTE hearing aid. While ITE hearing aids can be made pretty powerful today, you want to make sure your hearing aid is strong enough for the future too in case your hearing loss gets worse. BTE hearing aids are just much more powerful and will give you plenty of range in case your loss gets worse.

2) The amount of feeling and control you have in your fingers
If you suffer from arthritis or have a hard time handling very small objects, you are probably going to do better with an ITE hearing aid. Because BTE hearing aids have 2 parts to them, (the hearing aid behind the ear and the earmold inside the ear), they can be trickier for people to handle. It’s been my experience that if you have poor feeling or control in your fingers, you’re going to be better with a larger in-the-ear style like a full shell ITE.

3) Your cosmetic preferences
If you want a very discreet hearing aid, there are good options within the ITE or BTE categories. Within the ITE category there is the Signia Silk 7nx CIC and the Starkey SoundLens IIC hearing aids, which are both almost completely invisible. Within the BTE family, there are open-fit hearing aids which can be both incredibly comfortable and almost completely invisible.

So which is better, ITE or BTE?

If you were to leave it to me, I’d say the BTE is the better choice. More specifically, I’d say the open-fit style of BTE is the better choice. I really like this hearing aid because you can start out wearing it open-fit (with no custom ear mold), and then if/when your loss gets worse, your hearing provider can add a custom ear mold to it and make it much more powerful- and you don’t have to buy a brand new hearing aid. In addition, open fit hearing aids are without a doubt the most comfortable hearing aid on the market, you won’t even know you have them in.

Above all, listen to the advice of your hearing provider, because he or she has likely fit thousands of hearing aids and has a very good idea of what works for people and what doesn’t. You may have strong opinions about what will be best for you, but always seriously weigh the opinion of your provider and try to meet in the middle somewhere.

If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.

Jeff Hall Jeff Hall Jeff is a California licensed hearing aid dispenser and the President of ZipHearing- one of the largest discount hearing aid suppliers in the United States. Jeff lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and young daughter. You can learn more about hearing aids and watch Jeff on ZipHearing's Youtube channel.

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