As recently as 2000, it seemed as though behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids were disappearing. They accounted for less than 20% of hearing aid sales, they were large and visible, and hearing aid users often felt they occluded the ear canal.
Today, BTE’s have made a remarkable recovery and account for almost 50% of hearing aids sold. This reversal has been driven entirely by a new type of hearing aid: the mini-BTE. Mini-BTE’s alone account for more than 25% of hearing aids sold in the US.
But where did this trend come from? The answer is simple: mini-BTE hearing aids are better, and they’re better in almost every way.
Mini-BTE Hearing Aids Increase User Satisfaction
These are some of the conclusions in a Hearing Journal study of MarkeTrak VIII hearing aid data, exploring the advantages of Mini-BTE hearing aids vs. traditional BTE’s.
Overall, satisfaction with min-BTE hearing aids satisfaction is higher. When asked why mini-BTE’s are appealing, users typically mention lower occlusion of the ear canal, improved fit / comfort, better sound quality, less visibility, and better directionality. In fact, perceived sound quality with mini-BTE hearing aids is higher for every type of sound addressed in the survey.
When asked to explain the rise of mini-BTE hearing aids, hearing aid experts cite similar reasons. Mini-BTE's are almost invisible due to their use of super-thin tubes. They reduce occlusion of the canal – so there’s less of the strange sounds that can accompany chewing, swallowing, and the user’s own voice. Overall, they are more natural sounding, while reducing feedback, especially for RIC models -- such as the Embrace X-Mini.
The great news is that improving technology is improving people’s quality of life. People are much more satisfied with mini-BTE hearing aids than their bulkier, older traditional BTE cousins. Even better, the improved design is encouraging more people to wear hearing aids. The Hearing Journal found that, especially among more active senior demographics, many people purchasing mini-BTE’s would not otherwise have bought hearing aids at all.
The one commonly mentioned downside to mini-BTE’s is cost – these hearing aids are typically much more expensive than older models. However, by buying hearing aids online, some customers are opting to spend less for the mini-BTE hearing aids with the latest RIC technology, then they might pay at an audiologist’s office for an older, bulkier, less effective model.