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In-the-ear (ITE) Versus Over-the-Ear (OTE) Hearing Aids - ITE vs BTE

By: Paul Harrison Updated: 12th January 2022 in: Hearing Aid Advice, Latest News, Articles
The Pros and Cons of In-the-ear (ITE) and Over-the-Ear (OTE) Hearing Aids

In-the-ear (ITE) vs Over-the-Ear (OTE) Hearing Aids

The Pros & Cons of Both


Compliment your hearing needs - Which hearing aid style is best for me?

If you are wondering which style of hearing aid to go for, you are embarking on an important and complex journey. A journey to find the best hearing aid which will compliment your unique hearing loss. Whichever you choose, it is important to remember that the main result should be to gain optimum clarity and regain as much of your natural hearing as possible.

The fundamental design of any hearing aid is to amplify your surroundings with features, technology and settings to erase background noise and feedback. This way you can access a better sound in conversation, music and in challenging hearing situations.


Selection of types, shapes and features

With a plethora of styles to choose from it’s hard to know where to start in the process and with variances in amplification, price, style and size – it’s no wonder. But the main hurdle is to decide whether you want over the ear or in the ear hearing aids. This is ultimately determined by your hearing loss, ear shape, the severity of the loss, the connectivity you require and lifestyle.

Here we give a quick breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of both – which we hope will give transparency that helps to steer you in the right direction.


In-the-ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

ITE hearing aids, broadly speaking, are commonly custom-made for your unique ear – so that it sits comfortably and easily inside your ear, rather than outside it. However, you can opt for a generic shell that is designed to fit all ears. This option is, therefore, a cheaper alternative – as with anything bespoke you pay a little bit more so that it is a tailored fit. This style of hearing aid is compatible with those who have a hearing loss of mild to severe.

We have used the term ‘ITE’ to simplify and differentiate hearing aids that sit within your ear and those that sit outside. There are a few options in this style, these being:


  • In-the-canal (ITC): These are designed to fit just into the entrance of the ear canal and are also known as a Half Shell hearing aid.
  • Completely-in-the-canal (CIC): This type of hearing aid fits neatly into your ear canal meaning that it is very inconspicuous and discreet.
  • In-the-ear (ITE): Also known as a Full Shell and designed as a single unit that fills the outer ear.
  • Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC): These hearing aids are just as their name suggests and are almost completely invisible when worn, as they sit deeper in the ear canal.
  • ITE hearing aids prices and ranges here
  • Discover more information about In the Ear hearing aids here


ITE vs BTE Hearing Aids

ITE vs BTE Hearing Aids Comparison

ITE Hearing Aid Reviews


Generic advantages of in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids:

  • Generally, this type of hearing aid is very small, discreet and comfortable to wear.
  • They tend to be easy to insert for most people – but it is important to note that those with limiting dexterity may struggle.
  • ITE models are less likely to pick up wind noise, as they sit inside the ear and are not as exposed as hearing aids outside the ear.


 Generic disadvantages of in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids:

  • They are more expensive because they are generally tailor-made to your ear shape and size.
  • Because they are small, they are not as technologically powerful, and features and settings are limited. However, there are some impressive models in the industry and 2021 is set to be an exciting year for new ITE hearing aid technology.
  • Because this type of hearing aid sits inside the ear it needs to be cleaned more regularly, due to earwax build-up.
  • A small hearing aid means small batteries and sometimes these can be quite difficult to change. So, if dexterity is a problem, then these hearing aids might not be right for you.


Over-the-Ear (OTE) Hearing Aids

This style of hearing aid includes the behind-the-ear (BTE), also known as an open fit aid, and receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids. They are both worn behind the ear, but the BTE model has an ear mould that sits inside the ear canal.

The RIC hearing aid has a receiver that is worn within the ear canal, which is attached to a wire that is worn over the ear. A more slim and tidier version of BTE, so to speak.  Find out more about RIC hearing aid / BTE hearing aid prices & ranges here


BTE vs ITE Hearing Aids

BTE vs ITE Hearing Aids Comparison

OTE Hearing Aid Reviews


Generic advantages of behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids:

  • These hearing aids seem to be a good choice for all age groups and a large amount of hearing loss levels.
  • These models provide a greater listening experience, regarding amplification.
  • They use larger batteries, so they last significantly longer, or they don’t need to be charged as regularly.
  • They are generally cheaper than ITE hearing aids and offer a great choice of styles, technology and colours.


Generic disadvantages of behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids:

  • They aren’t as discreet as ITE models, but there are now mini BTE (or rite hearing aids) for a smaller alternative that doesn’t compromise on price or technology specifications.
  • Because of the BTE hearing aids microphone placement, you are more than likely going to experience wind noise. However, most models do have wind noise cancellation settings within their technology features to assist with this.
  • The RIC hearing aids are known to get blocked with excessive earwax and need to be cleaned regularly, which may lead to repairs if not managed properly. 
  • Explore more in-depth information about OTE hearing aids here


ITE vs BTE Hearing Aids Comparison - In conclusion

To summarise, although we have given a basic rundown on the general advantages and disadvantages of both styles – it is truly down to a balance of your lifestyle and hearing loss needs.

When you have your hearing test, your audiologist will go through your audiogram results and define your hearing solutions needs. Only then will they be able to recommend hearing aids that will give you a premium hearing solution that is right for you.  

If you would like to speak to an audiologist about the ITE hearing aids or BTE hearing aids available to you locally - call us free on 0800 567 7621



Read Next:  Hearing Aid Types

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Paul Harrison
Hearing Aid Advisor
Unlike most national retailers we are not owned by any manufacturer, this means we can offer the full choice of all makes and models of hearing aids
This article was written by audiology expert Paul Harrison

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder of Hearing Aid UK

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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