person helping someone put hearing aids on

Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids versus In-the-Ear Hearing Aids – Which is Right for You?

Contributed by Amanda Richardson, BC-HIS, MBA, BA-CD

11/14/2023 12:00:00 AM • 7 min read

Hi, I’m Amanda and I’ve been a hearing care provider for more than 25 years! In that time, I’ve seen hearing aid technology come a long way and I’m always happy to share with someone just how different today’s devices are, not only in technology, but also in styles. In the beginning, I was adjusting hearing aids with a screwdriver. Now, everything is computerized, and I can make so many fine adjustments. Invisibility of hearing aids has always been a concern for my patients but now there are different designs that can be invisible or nearly invisible. Everyone is talking about technology, but how do you navigate size with all the options?

Oftentimes, people come into my office wanting to be sure the hearing aids they buy are as tiny as they can possibly be. Struggles with mask wearing made some hearing aids fall off, or they are confused about if it’s ok to wear certain hearing aids with glasses. They know that nowadays, hearing aids can go completely inside the ear canal so that no one knows they’re there. While this technology IS amazing, it’s not right for everyone.

Today, I want to share why I, and many of my colleagues in hearing care, often recommend a behind-the-ear style hearing aid instead of an invisible in-the-canal style. Now I’m not talking about the big bulky hearing aids behind the ears but the small, lightweight, virtually invisible ones! They are even less visible than the ones that go completely in the ear! Behind-the-ear hearing aids usually have more features with the most current technology, they sound better, usually are no more or less expensive, most of the time are available with rechargeable batteries, break less often, are more versatile and, ultimately, more comfortable for most people. On the other hand, an in-the-canal style can be right for you depending on your lifestyle, the size of your ear canal and if you have a certain type of hearing loss.

Reasons I recommend behind-the-ear style hearing aids

Versatility – Behind-the-ear hearing aids can treat nearly any level of hearing loss – from very mild to severe. I am able to make a lot of changes to these devices right in the office, which makes it so much easier for me to help people get better hearing happily and quickly.

Comfort – Behind-the-ear hearing aids can be fit to your ear with adjustable wires and a wide range of dome (the piece that sits inside your ear canal) shapes and sizes. They are very lightweight – lighter than a pair of glasses – and most people do not feel them at all. They also sound better due to the size, because in-the-ear hearing aids can sound stuffy or have the feeling of being underwater if you have a milder hearing loss.

Technology – The very best hearing aid technology available today is usually found in behind-the-ear style hearing aids, regardless of the brand. This is because they have more room for features like Bluetooth®, and telecoils, as well as the modern-day computer chips that allow for custom programming and more.

Durability – Behind-the-ear styles are easier to fix in the office, and if they do have to go in for repair, the turnaround time for getting them back from the manufacturer is weeks faster. Durability is not something people usually think about, but a durable hearing aid means more time in your ears and less time in for repair. It honestly makes my clients happier – a lot of time without them even knowing it!

Severity of hearing loss – The severity of your hearing loss can change how an in-the-canal hearing aid will sound versus a behind-the-ear hearing aid. In-the-ear hearing aids can block natural sound from reaching the eardrum. They require most sound to go through the hearing aid before your brain can hear it – which means that if you still have “normal” hearing at any level or only have a mild loss, they may not be the right option for you.

Reasons I may recommend in-the-ear hearing aids

Size/discreetness – When someone comes to my office and is very worried about the way hearing aids look, we always discuss an in-the-canal hearing aid option. There may also be physical reasons someone cannot wear a behind-the-ear hearing aid, which makes these a good option.

Other assisted devices – Some people use oxygen tanks with tubing that goes behind the ear and maybe glasses, too. If there is not a lot of room left behind the ears, this may be a reason to consider in-the-canal hearing aids. Alternatively, your dexterity may come into play too; some people who have difficulty with their hands or shoulders find certain hearing aids easier to get in than others. This is so unique – and it’s a unique discussion for each person and something to consider.

Lifestyle – In-the-canal hearing aids can have challenges based on the shape of the ear. You only have so much room in your ear, and if it’s smaller you may have to give up things like Bluetooth® or telecoils, so I always have an in-depth conversation about this before recommending them. Bluetooth® allows hearing aid wearers to seamlessly interface with their smartphones; that’s not always important, though, because not everyone uses a smartphone, and that’s ok! Each person’s needs are different.


There are a lot of things to consider when you’re buying hearing aids – whether it’s your first time or not! It’s important to have a full hearing assessment with a licensed professional before you make any purchases so you can be sure to ask any questions you may have. Remember, we want you to be successful!

When you visit HearingLife, you can be assured that all our hearing aids are custom-programmed to your unique hearing loss – and we are here to help as you get used to them! I always have several follow-ups with people to help fine-tune their hearing aids to the sounds of their life and what’s most important to them.

If you’re ready to see how your hearing is doing, schedule a complimentary hearing assessment at your local HearingLife location.

amanda richardson hearing instrument specialist
Amanda Richardson, BC-HIS, MBA, BA-CD

Amanda Richardson grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. She has been practicing for over 24 years and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Wisconsin, continuing on to receive her master’s degree from the same institution. Amanda is licensed in both the states of Washington and Oregon.Her devotion to helping the hearing impaired came from her love of family. A good portion of her family is hearing impaired, and she has firsthand experience of how hearing loss can affect daily life. Suffering from tinnitus herself, Amanda possesses an attitude of compassion, never giving up and truly striving to help in any way she can. She has received countless awards for her dedication to the hard of hearing, and fights tirelessly for the benefit of those she serves.

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