Receiver-in-the-Canal hearing aids (often called RIC) are hearing aids worn behind the ear with a speaker (the "receiver") that sits inside the ear canal.
RIC hearing aids are one of the most popular styles due to their wide fitting range and other popular features like Bluetooth streaming and rechargeable batteries.
In this post, we will discuss who can benefit from RIC hearing aids, the different parts of a RIC hearing aid, how to care for them, and the pros and cons of this hearing aid.
Who Can Wear a RIC Hearing Aid?
There is a lot of flexibility with this style of hearing aid, with options for mild to severe hearing loss. For those with high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss, using a RIC with a vent or more open earpiece can help maintain normal low-frequency hearing while providing enough volume for other frequencies with more hearing loss. A RIC with an earmold will be the best option for moderate to severe hearing loss. Read more about earmolds here.
A RIC hearing aid is also an option for those with unilateral or asymmetric hearing loss. A CROS hearing aid system typically works with a RIC hearing aid on one ear and a microphone (CROS) worn on the other ear.
For most people, though, RIC hearing aids strike the right balance between comfort, aesthetics, and features.
How Receiver-In-Canal Hearing Aids Work
There are several main parts to a RIC hearing aid:
- The body that houses the computer processor and the microphones
- The receiver (or speaker)
- The dome or earmold,
- The battery
Each part has its role in delivering the right volume to your ear. Let's take a closer look!
The RIC hearing aid body.
The body of the hearing aid houses the "brain" of the hearing aid - the computer chip and processing. Think of it like the control room.
The microphones on the hearing aid are located at the top of the body of the hearing aid. While wearing the hearing aid, these microphones are situated at the top ear. Why are the microphones important?
This part of the hearing aid picks up sounds, such as speech, in the environment. Captured sounds get converted to an electrical signal, and through an amplifier, the proper level of sound is delivered finally delivered to the ear. The whole process takes a few milliseconds.
The hearing aid receiver (or speaker).
The "receiver" (another word for speaker) is the part of the hearing aid that sends the amplified sound to the ear. A receiver wire links the body of the hearing aid to the speaker attached to the dome, which sits at the opening of the ear canal.
A dome or earmold is attached to the speaker at the end of the hearing aid wire to keep it comfortably well-placed in the ear.
When it comes to domes and earmolds, there are a range of styles that can work depending on the ear canal geometry and severity of the hearing loss.
RIC hearing aid batteries.
The battery in a RIC hearing aid will be either a disposable or a rechargeable.
Disposable batteries for RIC hearing aids are size 13 or 312, with 312 being the most common.
A 312 battery will usually last between 5 to 7 days, but it can depend on the degree of hearing loss, hours of wear time, and amount of Bluetooth streaming per day. Rechargeable batteries have become very popular in RIC hearing aids in recent years.
Rather than changing batteries, you'll place them in the charger each night.
Add a retention wire or canal lock to prevent movement.
Your earmold or dome tip should fit properly in the ear so that it is not moving around or sliding out.
However, chewing or moving your jaw can cause your receiver wire to move out of the ear canal.
Fortunately, there are some great solutions for this!
- Consider a retention wire with a dome tip. This little piece, sometimes called a sport lock, works like a kickstand on a bicycle. It provides extra tension to hold the dome tip in the ear.
- If you have a custom earmold you can request that your audiologist remake the piece with a canal lock. A canal lock works like a retention wire to provide additional support and prevent movement.
Caring for Your RIC Hearing Aid
It is important to clean your RIC hearing aid regularly to prevent a build-up of wax and debris.
Here are some simple tips to properly clean your hearing aid:
- Replace the wax guard regularly. On average, once per month is recommended. Timing can also depend on your ear and how much wax you produce. If the sound seems muffled, go ahead and replace the wax guard.
- When removing the hearing aid at night, wipe the earpiece off with a tissue or non-alcohol-based wipe. (Alcohol can be abrasive for the pieces and parts of the hearing aid.)
- Use a brush to remove any debris from the microphone ports.
- Consider using a dehumidifier, especially for humid climates or those who tend to sweat. Moving from indoors to outdoors throughout the day can also cause moisture build-up. Unfortunately, moisture and electronics don't mix well and can lead to corrosion in the battery compartment of the hearing aid or intermittent sound from the hearing aid. A hearing aid dryer, such as a Zephyr, will help keep moisture build-up in check.
Another option: take those desiccant bead packets (from buying a new purse or shoes, for example) and place them in your hearing aid charger.
Pros and Cons of RIC Hearing Aids
RIC hearing aids have many advantages. They are comfortable and discreet and offer options for a wide range of hearing loss. They also provide good sound quality and are easy to use.
However, there are some factors that are important to consider with RIC hearing aids as well.
RIC Hearing Aid Pros:
Latest technology is almost always first introduced as a RIC
The majority of hearing aid users wear a RIC. For this reason, the newest technology tends to come out as a RIC first. If you're interested in hearing aids, consider a RIC, especially if you're interested in the latest technology.
Both rechargeable and disposable battery options
These hearing aids offer something for everyone. While rechargeable options are the most popular, there are also disposable battery options available.
Excellent sound quality
This style of hearing aid has the receiver directly in the ear, funneling sound right to the ear. Modern feedback control has also advanced in recent years with this technology. What does that mean? Far fewer concerns with whistling or squealing sounds in the ear.
RIC Hearing Aid Cons:
Not the most dexterity-friendly option.
Dexterity concerns can pose a problem grasping both the piece that sits behind the ear and guiding the earpiece into the ear canal. Other options, such as an ITE, may be easier to pick up and manipulate.
Not suitable for those with more severe hearing losses.
Individuals with severe or profound hearing loss will do best with a BTE to provide more amplification.
Receiver directly in the ear.
Proper care and maintenance are necessary to keep the receiver from being plugged up and not functioning correctly. Do you produce a lot of earwax or have drainage from the ear? There may be better options than a RIC due to the possibility of blockage or damage to the speaker in the ear.
6 of our favorite receiver-in-canal hearing aids available right now. 👇
Receiver In Canal (RIC) Hearing Aids Explained
RIC hearing aids are popular for many people with mild to severe hearing loss. They come in a range of styles from a wide selection of brands.
If you are looking for the latest technology and all available features, you'll want to consider RIC hearing aids first.
If you are set on invisible hearing aids or need more power through a BTE, you might enjoy our guides on those options.