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Ultimate Hearing Aid Guide.
BTE (Behind-The-Ear) Hearing Aids
As the name indicates, BTE hearing aids are worn "behind the ear". In this case, the hearing aid unit is connected to a tube, through which sound is transmitted directly into the ear canal. The other end of the tube could be connected to a microphone or a custom-moulded casing to provide extra support and stability.
The key element of BTE hearing aids is the external casing. This is the casing which fits over the top of the ear, and needs to be shaped accordingly so that it rests comfortably and reliably in place. The casing of a BTE device is often much larger than those supplied with ITE (In-The-Ear) hearing aids, allowing manufacturers to add many additional features that smaller devices lack. These could involve additional pre-programmed settings, telecoils, or processors to assist with streaming from digital devices - all of which add to the functionality of the hearing aid, and may be essential for some wearers.
Another important aspect of BTE hearing aids is the fact that they are worn externally. This means that they may avoid the problems associated with ITE models, such as moisture damage and occlusion. It should also ensure that BTE hearing aids require less regular maintenance work, and make them more durable, saving the wearer money and time.
However, this doesn't apply to BTE models that use earmolds to hold their speakers. And it also doesn't necessarily apply to those that use tube microphones either. The tube microphone comes into contact with the ear canal as well, and will require cleaning and maintenance.
Another strength of BTE hearing aids is that they are generally more flexible than competing varieties. There is usually no need to create a custom-mold when the physical requirements of the wearer change. For instance, when children develop, they can simply exchange different sizes of casing, instead of having periodic remoldings of ITE devices. Again, these advantages are lessened if the BTE hearing aid combines with an earmold to hold the speaker.
Because they rest outside the ear, BTE devices are also much easier to manipulate and program, further adding to their adaptability. Various forms of BTE hearing aid are available to choose from, with mini, standard-sized, and high-powered larger versions. Their look can also be customized, using varying color schemes and materials, which will appeal to the individual needs of the hearing aid user.
Cosmetics are another potential strong point. Despite being worn outside the ear canal, BTE hearing aids are not always highly visible when in use. The acoustic tube is usually transparent and slender, drawing little attention, while the device itself is concealed behind the ear, and can be seen only from behind. This is even more pronounced when the wearer chooses a mini-BTE hearing aid, which is one of the most inconspicuous options on the market. However, smaller BTE devices can have problems of their own. For example, their programmable settings may be harder to use if button sizes are reduced - so there's often a trade-off between size and functionality.
Typically, the way that BTE hearing aids are designed makes them ideal for almost all hearing aid users, which may be why they are the most common variety, worldwide. However, it's worth noting that they can pose problems for eyeglass wearers, who can periodically experience a slight "thump" when the frame of their glasses comes into contact with the tube of their hearing aid. More advanced devices have the ability to handle this effect, but some eyeglass wearers prefer ITE alternatives to avoid any incompatibility.
By and large, BTE hearing aids are among the most user-friendly around, and they are also among the most technologically advanced. For example, it is becoming increasingly common to find BTE devices with Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries, and specialist tinnitus support functions. Modern units commonly also hook up with digital devices like smartphones, which serve as remote controls, as well as smart technology to allow users to hear TV or audio content with the full benefit of their BTE hearing aid. It's the size of BTE casings that makes these features possible, and which differentiates them from ITE alternatives.
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