BTE

Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids

BTE

Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids

Hearing loss is one of the most common health complaints in the United States. Roughly 15% of Americans over the age of 18, roughly 37.5 million people, report some degree of hearing difficulty. In many cases, hearing loss is treated with behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, powerful hearing devices which provide a range of life-improving features. If you’re living with hearing loss, BTE hearing aids may help restore your hearing to normal or near-normal levels.

What is a BTE hearing aid?

A BTE hearing aid hooks over the ear so it rests behind the ear. The main shell, the part that sits behind the ear, contains the hearing aid’s hardware. A tube connects the hearing aid shell to a custom earmold, which fits in the ear canal. BTE hearing aids are the style most people visualize when they think of hearing aids. 

15%

of Americans over the age of 18 report some degree of hearing difficulty

How does a BTE hearing aid work?

The shell case of a BTE hearing aid contains one or more microphones, an amplifier, and a speaker. The microphone picks up sound and converts soundwaves into electronic signals. These signals are sent to the amplifier, which increases the power of the signal and sends it to the speaker. The speaker delivers amplified sound to your ear through a tube connected to the custom earmold. 

What are the different types of BTE hearing aids?

Four types of BTE hearing aids are available: Standard BTE hearing aids, receiver-in-canal (RIC), power BTEs, and superpower BTEs. Each comes with its own set of features and strengths.

  • Standard BTE hearing aids are among the largest hearing aids on the market. The size of the hearing aid shell allows standard BTEs room to offer advanced features such as telecoils or Bluetooth connectivity. The shell includes program buttons and volume control, making it easy to adjust hearing aid settings on the go. Standard BTE hearing aids are used to treat mild to severe hearing loss. 
  • RIC hearing aids are also used to treat mild to severe hearing loss. This type of hearing aid is currently the most popular type. A smaller speaker located directly in your ear canal enables sound to travel a shorter distance from the speaker through your ear canal and eardrum. This results in clearer and more intact sound, while the larger distance between the receiver and microphone leads to less feedback.
  • Smaller and less noticeable than standard BTEs, RIC hearing aids often connect the shell to the earmold with thinner tubes for extra discretion. The smaller size of mini BTEs can make them difficult to manipulate if you have dexterity or vision problems. 
  • Power and Superpower BTE hearing aids are designed to treat severe hearing loss. They include more powerful amplifiers and speakers than standard BTEs and may include FM systems and other assistive hearing options.

FAQs about BTE hearing aids

BTE hearing aids and assistive listening systems

Positioning the shell of a BTE hearing aid behind the ear makes it possible to use larger shells than in-the-ear or receiver-in-canal hearing aids. In turn, this means the hearing aid has space for more hardware than smaller hearing aids, including assistive listening systems such as telecoils, FM systems, and Bluetooth connectivity.

A telecoil is a small coil of wire wrapped around a tiny metal rod in the BTE hearing aid’s shell. Telecoils act as antennas, picking up sound transmitted as magnetic signals sent by “hearing loops” or “audio induction loops.” A hearing loop is an assisted listening system often used by churches, concert halls, universities, airports, museums, and even taxis. Hearing loops can also transmit sound from some televisions and music systems.

Hearing aids with telecoil capabilities have t-switches so you can switch from the hearing aid’s microphone to listen to the hearing loop broadcast. Some BTE hearing aids include a microphone/telecoil setting so you can listen to the telecoil and microphone at once, for situations where you want to follow the telecoil signal and converse at the same time.

An FM signal may be used as an assistive listening system. FM signals work like radios, transmitting at a specific frequency. Hearing aids with FM capabilities can pick up this frequency, transmitting it to your hearing aid speaker. FM signals are common in classrooms, theaters, museums, and some meeting rooms. They may also be used in restaurants and nursing homes. 

Bluetooth connectivity is increasingly common in hearing aids. Bluetooth allows you to listen to televisions, computers, music players, and radios through your hearing aid.

It can sometimes be difficult detecting which direction a sound is coming from when you use a hearing aid. Hearing aids with directional microphones have two or more microphones which pick up sound from different locations, making it easier to tell if sound comes from in front of or behind you. Directional microphones are especially useful for reducing background noise during conversations in restaurants and other noisy environments. 

What are the advantages of BTE hearing aids?

BTE hearing aids can be used by people of all ages, including children. They are the most versatile of hearing aids, both in terms of extra features and their ability to treat everything from mild to severe hearing loss. Other advantages of BTE hearing aids include:

  • Greater amplification than other hearing aid styles
  • Easy access to controls for customization and changing settings
  • Easier to handle than smaller hearing aids
  • Wide range of styles and battery options, including rechargeable features
  • Little risk of moisture or earwax damage as the shell sits behind the ear
  • Well-suited for individuals with excessive earwax or draining from the ear
  • Easy to use

Disadvantages of BTE hearing aids

BTE hearing aids have few disadvantages. If you’re concerned with cosmetics, standard BTE hearing aids are noticeable, but the development of receiver-in-canal (RIC) technology and thin hearing aid tubing has made them much more discreet. 

Can you ahower with a BTE hearing aid?

BTE hearing aids are rated as water-resistant, but this rating applies to rain more than showering or swimming. It’s recommended that you take your hearing aid off while showering or engaging in water activities. 

Why are BTE hearing aids recommended for children?

BTE hearing aids are often recommended for children for three reasons. First, the larger size and controls of a BTE hearing aid are easy for children to use. Second, as children grow their ears and ear canals change shape. When this happens, the child must be fitted with new earmolds, a time-consuming and costly process when considering in-the-ear or receiver-in-canal hearing aids. Third, BTE hearing aids work well with FM technology which is often used in educational settings to ensure children with hearing loss can adequately understand their teachers. 

How long do BTE hearing aid batteries last?

Most BTE hearing aids use size 13 (orange) disposable zine-air batteries which last five to seven days. Power and superpower BTE hearing aids may use size 675 (blue) batteries, which last a similar amount of time. Actual battery life depends on multiple factors, including how long you use your hearing aid each day, volume settings, and whether you use additional features such as Bluetooth or telecoils.

Many BTE hearing aid models now come with built-in rechargeable batteries [NH1] and a charging dock. If your hearing aid is rechargeable, charge it every night to ensure you have sufficient battery power for the next day.

How do i know if BTE hearing aids are right for me?

To learn more about hearing loss and BTE hearing aids, arrange a consultation with a licensed hearing care professional. They can explain in greater detail how different types of hearing aids work, and help you determine which hearing solution is right for you. 

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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