CIC vs. BTE Hearing Aids: A Simple Guide to Making the Right Choice

CIC vs. BTE Hearing Aids

Hearing loss affects every aspect of life, from daily conversations to enjoying simple sounds. Hearing aids are crucial for many to improve their hearing and regain some normalcy. In this article, we compare two popular types: Completely-In-Canal (CIC) and Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids. We’ll break down the pros and cons of each type to help you decide which one fits your lifestyle, needs, and preferences best.

Quick Comparison Sheet


Completely-In-Canal (CIC)

Behind-The-Ear (BTE)


Nearly invisible as they fit inside the ear canal

Visible; rests behind the outer ear


Very small

Larger than CIC


Custom-fit to sit deep within the ear canal

Hooks over the top of the ear; earmold in canal

Battery Life

Shorter due to smaller battery size

Longer due to larger battery capacity


More frequent cleaning; sensitive to wax/moisture

Easier maintenance; less prone to wax buildup


Limited space for additional features

Room for advanced features like directional microphones and wireless connectivity

Handling & Dexterity

Small components can be challenging to handle

Easier to handle due to larger size

Sound Quality

Natural sound entry but may have limited amplification

High-quality amplification with possible wind noise interference

Suitability for Hearing Loss Types

Typically for mild to moderate loss

Can accommodate from mild to profound loss


Often less expensive upfront

May be more expensive but potentially lower long-term costs due to fewer battery changes

Inside the Ear: Exploring Completely-In-Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids

Completely-In-Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids

What Are CIC Hearing Aids?

Completely-In-Canal hearing aids are exactly what they sound like - tiny devices that fit snugly inside your ear canal. They’re so small, in fact, that they’re nearly invisible to others, making them a top pick for anyone who’s looking for something low-profile.

Upsides of Going Small with CIC

  • Easy on the Eyes: Because CIC hearing aids tuck away inside your ear canal, most people won’t even know you’re wearing one. Their stealthy size makes them a great choice if you’re self-conscious about wearing a hearing aid.
  • Sounds Just Right: With their placement deep in the ear, CIC hearing aids make listening feel natural. You won’t have as much trouble with wind noise, which is a big plus if you love outdoor activities.
  • Phone Friendly: Ever had trouble chatting on the phone with a bulky device? CIC hearing aids sit so flush with your ear that you can hold a phone up to it without any awkwardness or feedback.

The Flip Side: Challenges with CIC

  • Dealing with Wax and Water: Since they’re right in the canal, these hearing aids can be prone to earwax clogs or damage from moisture. Regular cleaning is a must, but sometimes that’s not enough to avoid the occasional visit to a specialist for maintenance.
  • Powering Through the Day: Their tiny batteries mean less power, so you’ll find yourself changing batteries more often than with larger models. If fiddling with small objects isn’t your thing, this could be a hassle.
  • Feature Packed? Maybe Not: Looking for lots of bells and whistles? The small size of CICs means there’s just not enough room for features like volume controls or directional microphones you’d find on larger hearing aids.

Over the Ear: Getting to Know Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids

What’s the Deal with BTE Hearing Aids?

Behind-The-Ear hearing aids sit comfortably over the top of your ear, with a tube that directs sound into an earmold fitted in your ear canal. They’re more noticeable than their completely-in-canal counterparts, but there’s a good reason many people choose them.

Perks of Picking BTE

  • For All Kinds of Hearing Loss: One of the biggest wins for BTE models is their versatility. They work for almost any type of hearing loss, from mild to profound, which makes them a go-to choice for a wide range of users.
  • Battery Life that Lasts: Thanks to their size, BTE hearing aids can hold larger batteries. This means less time spent changing them out and more time enjoying the sounds of life.
  • Features Galore: With more space for tech, BTE aids can pack in a lot of extras. Think directional microphones, which help you hear better in noisy environments, and even Bluetooth connectivity for streaming audio directly to your device.

Considering the Cons of BTE

  • Harder to Hide: If keeping your hearing aid out of sight is important to you, BTE models might not be your first choice. They’re more visible, sitting behind your ear, which can be a deal-breaker for some.
  • Battling the Breeze: Outdoor enthusiasts take note: BTE hearing aids might pick up more wind noise compared to in-the-ear options. It’s not a deal-breaker, but something to be aware of if you’re often outside.
  • Getting Comfortable: Wearing something over your ear takes a bit of getting used to. While most find BTE hearing aids comfortable, there’s an adjustment period as you get used to the feel of it resting behind your ear.

How to Choose Between CIC and BTE Hearing Aids

Picking the right hearing aid is a big decision. Let’s break down some key factors that will help you choose between Completely-In-Canal (CIC) and Behind-The-Ear (BTE) models.

  1. Matching to Your Hearing Needs
    First things first: how severe is your hearing loss? BTE aids are often recommended for a wider range of hearing loss because they can be equipped with more powerful amplifiers. If you have mild to moderate loss, though, a CIC might do the trick and do it discreetly.

  2. Think About Touch and Tech
    Handling these devices is part of daily life, so consider your comfort with them. CIC aids are tiny, which can make changing batteries or cleaning a bit fiddly. If you have issues with dexterity, a BTE with its larger components might be easier to manage.

  3. Lifestyle Choices
    Are you active, always on the go, or do you enjoy a low-key lifestyle? CIC aids are great if you’re wearing hats, running, or even just lounging around—they stay out of the way. But if you want features like wireless streaming for music and calls, a BTE could be better suited to keep you connected.

  4. Feature Shopping
    Think about what extras are non-negotiable for you. Is directional sound important because you spend time in noisy environments? Do you need telecoils for phone calls? BTE aids usually offer a broader range of features, while CIC aids keep it simple.

  5. Budgeting for Your Ears
    Cost is always a consideration. CIC aids may be less expensive upfront, but remember to factor in maintenance and battery replacement costs. BTE aids might cost more initially but could be more cost-effective over time, especially if they come with rechargeable batteries.

Taking the time to weigh these factors against your personal needs and preferences will help guide you to the hearing aid that fits not just in or behind your ear, but into your life as well. Next up, we’ll wrap up our discussion and give you some final pointers on making this important choice.

Final Thoughts

Making the right choice in hearing aids, be it the nearly invisible Completely-In-Canal (CIC) or the feature-rich Behind-The-Ear (BTE), hinges on your unique hearing needs and lifestyle preferences. As you consider the specifics of your hearing loss, the daily practicalities of hearing aid maintenance, and budget constraints, remember that the ultimate goal is finding a device that you’re comfortable with and will wear consistently. Consult with a hearing care professional to explore your options, and take pride in taking this important step towards enhancing your auditory experience. Whichever path you choose, you’re on your way to enjoying the richness of life’s sounds with renewed confidence and ease.