When you think about the last marketing image you saw for hearing aids or the most recent style you noticed on a person at the grocery store or at church, it was most likely a behind-the-ear (BTE) style device. BTE styles account for about 80% of today’s hearing aid sales. Times sure have changed! In the 1990’s, custom hearing aids were the favorite styles. Custom aids range in size from full shell in-the-ear (ITE) devices, that fill up the ear, to completely-in-the-canal (CIC) aids, discreetly tucked into the ear canal.
Popular Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids
With the introduction of digital hearing aid technology and the miniaturization of hearing aid parts over the past few decades, BTE device sales have soared! New open fit BTE styles such as receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-aid (RITA) devices are the reason for the increase. These styles have a very tiny behind-the-ear portion that funnels sound into the ear canal through a slim tube. Open fit BTE styles have many advantages. They offer cosmetic appeal and advanced features and functionality, which makes them a highly recommended and desired choice.
Naturally with an increase in BTE hearing aid sales, custom hearing aids have declined. In 2017, less than 20% of hearing aid sales were custom products. While custom hearing aids aren’t the most popular or recommended styles any longer, they are still valuable options. They offer certain wearers important advantages that non-custom products lack.
Custom Hearing Aid Advantages
Our audiologists still fit custom hearing aids when beneficial. Let’s consider the reasons why a custom device may be recommended over the popular open fit BTE styles.
Secure fit. Custom hearing aids are made for your ear. Our audiologists take an earmold impression of your ear and through the manufacturer’s sophisticated shell making process, create an aid that fits securely in your ear. This is important for wearers who are at risk for losing their aids or having them knocked off.
Natural sound. Our natural ear shape funnels sound deeply into our ear canals to be heard. While no hearing aid can restore natural hearing, research shows that the deep insertion of CIC styles brings sound closer to the eardrum. By moving sound closer, the volume of the aids are lower and sound clearer. In addition, the ear level microphone placement of a custom hearing aid is more natural. With a more natural microphone placement, users can tell more easily where sound is coming from.
Less wind and hair noise. On custom hearing aids, especially CIC aids, the ear helps to shield the microphone from wind noise and hair rustling. This can help women with longer hair or those spending time outdoors reduce bothersome noise.
One-piece. Custom hearing aids are one-piece opposed to the two-pieces that make up BTE hearing aids. For wearers who have difficulty using their hands or difficulty understanding instructions, insertion and removal can often be easier with a one-piece custom product.
Cosmetically appealing. CIC custom hearing aids offer low to no visibility. For men or women with short hair that doesn’t coverup BTE devices, this style can be very cosmetically appealing.
Continued wearer success. If you’re a happy long-time wearer of ITE hearing aids, it may be beneficial to keep wearing a style you love.
Another choice. If a patient has had trouble wearing BTE hearing aids in the past, such as discomfort with the behind-the-ear part of the aid or interference with glasses or hats, then a change to a custom product may be worth a try.
Find a Hearing Aid Style That Is Best for You
Our audiologists will always recommend the best hearing aid style for your hearing loss and lifestyle. However, they know that your willingness to wear a style of hearing aid is of upmost importance. If a person only wants to wear a CIC hearing aid and is fit with a BTE device, then they may not wear the aid. A hearing aid not worn is of no help! But keep in mind that behind-the-ear devices are often more powerful than custom products. For wearers with severe hearing loss, BTE hearing aids are usually the best choice. Call us at (314) 227-0571 to discover the style that is right for you!