I saw a gentleman today who noticed that it is very common to have behind the ear hearing instruments, but he wears in the ear aids. He wanted to know why people choose one style over the other.
In the ear (ITE) hearing aids
These have often been chosen, historically, as they easier to manage. There is only one part to these hearing aids so it is very easy to put them correctly into your ear. Because they are custom made for each ear they are very secure once seated in the ear canal, and provide excellent amplification to those with medium amounts of hearing loss.
There are a couple of down sides. One, is that all the electronic parts of the hearing instrument are in the outer ear and the canal, so they don’t look that pretty. Two, the batteries can be small and difficult to manage.
Those who choose the very tiny ITE hearing aids that you can hardly see will be sacrificing sound quality for size. This is because the smaller ITE hearing aids have room for only one microphone, so the hearing aids can’t do any fancy calculations to help you hear better in background noise.
Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids
The smaller style of these instruments (the ones with the tiny wires that run from the processor behind to the loudspeaker in the ear canal) have been around only about 15 years. They are a little trickier to put into the ear canal, but are very discreet.
All of the behind the ear style instruments have two microphones, which allows the hearing aids to beam form when you are in a noisy situation. This means that more noise is cancelled, while only the sounds falling within the beam are amplified. Some hearing instruments allow sharing of information across all 4 microphones (2 on each ear) to form a very narrow listening beam – creating an even better listening experience if you are in a difficult listening situation.
BTE hearing aids are suitable for almost every degree of hearing loss. Smaller losses will have a soft dome in the ear canal, but for greater hearing losses a custom shell can be added. The BTE hearing aids come in a rechargeable format that makes fiddling around with batteries a thing of the past. Most audiologists now consider BTE hearing instruments equally easy to manage as ITEs.
There’s no one solution for any one person. The best thing for you to do is to talk to your audiologist, who will get to understand your needs, and help guide you into making the decision that is best for you.