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Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

One of the most common hearing aid styles, the BTE style is a compact case that sits behind the ear. This case processes and amplifies sounds, making it one of the most powerful options available.


The BTE hearing aid is one of the oldest and most common styles of hearing aids. All functions are performed in the small, durable case tucked discreetly behind the top of your ear, similar to where reading glasses would sit.

A wide range of BTE models exist, with some boasting powerful features like wireless connectivity and others, known as mini BTE styles, are so small that they're practically invisible.

BTE hearing aids are also more capable of amplifying sounds than their smaller counterparts, such as RICs, simply because they are created in an elongated shape that enables them to store more power. This allows BTE hearing aids to pick up a wider range of frequencies, enabling them to treat mild to profound hearing loss. Most BTE hearing aids also come with telecoil and wireless streaming and connectivity options.

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  • Easy dexterity
  • Large batteries allow longer life
  • For mild to profound hearing loss
  • Offers many features
  • Less discrete
  • Sensitive to wind noises

Types of Behind-the-Ear hearing aids

Closed Fit: The closed fit BTE hearing aid has a custom earmold that fits the outer ear. This style fills the auditory canal reducing wind noise and other whistling sounds. However, the closed style also increases the occlusion effect, which can make it feel stuffy or “plugged up.”
Open Fit: Rather than having a mold that fills the outer ear, this hearing aid style features a thin tube that extends down into the ear canal. The small size of the tube is aesthetically appealing, and the open fit allows air to pass through, reducing the occlusion effect.

Structure of a BTE hearing aids

While BTE hearing aids differ in features from model to model, most do contain the following functions:

  • Microphone – Collects and converts sound into electrical signals
  • Amplifier – Increases the volume of certain frequencies
  • "Loudspeaker" – Converts electrical signals into acoustic signals
  • Speech processor – Recognizes and amplifies important sounds
  • Volume regulator – controls general volume levels
  • Ear hook – Connects the hearing aid and the sound tube
  • Audio input – Records signals from other external devices
  • Disposable or rechargeable battery

So what's the difference between a RIC hearing aid and a BTE hearing aid?

A BTE hearing aid transmits sound through a sound tube which is connected to an earmold. However, a RIC (receiver-in-canal) hearing aid, a variation of the BTE hearing aid, features a loudspeaker that sits inside the ear canal and transmits sound directly to the eardrum.

Other Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids

External receiver model (receiver-in-canal, or RIC)

The RIC model is one of the smallest BTE variations and is therefore aesthetically appealing. It contains external receivers and also has limited wireless functions.

Micro-behind-the-ear models

These models are ideal for people that want all the functionality of a traditional BTE hearing aid in a more aesthetically pleasing form. The micro version comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and can be used for moderate to severe hearing loss.

Hearing loss versus lifestyle

The BTE hearing aid is suitable for all hearing loss levels and can be used by patients who don't wear glasses. The larger case makes the BTE hearing aid one of the most powerful forms available. Due to the behind-the-ear placement, this style is recommended for only moderately active lifestyles.