Behind-the-ear hearing aids are often abbreviated to BTE or occasionally OTE (on-the-ear). As the name suggests, behind-the-ear aids are designed with most of the electronic components enclosed in a casing which sits behind the ear, with a tubing of some kind allowing the processed sound to pass from the housing, over the ear and down into the ear canal itself.

On the casing there may be some controls that can be accessed by the wearer – usually a volume and/or programme button. Remote devices can also control some BTEs. Wireless connectivity is currently very popular, with hearing aids able to link via a transmitter or even directly to TVs, mobiles, and external microphones, offering even greater assistance to the wearer for those specific listening situations.

Advances in electronics and component design have allowed many manufacturers to produce extremely small and light BTE products, meaning that the part which needs to be placed behind someone’s ear is not more than an inch in length.

Thin tubing BTEs can be fitted instantly, allowing for a trial of amplification to be done immediately following a hearing test. A disadvantage of open fitting BTEs is that very severe hearing losses usually cannot be accommodated, as the risk of feedback or whistling from the hearing aids increases substantially as the degree of hearing loss increases. However, BTEs with ear mould fittings are considered to offer the most powerful amplification options for people with severe or profound hearing loss; and even these powerful products are now produced in considerably smaller designs than a decade ago.

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