RIC or Receiver in Canal hearing aids are very similar to behind-the-ear hearing aids in design and appearance. RIC hearing aids, like BTEs, are also worn behind the ear and have a tube connecting the case to the ear.
One major difference between the two is the placement of the receiver. In BTE hearing aids, all the components (speaker/receiver, amplifier, microphone, and batteries) are located inside the plastic case that rests behind the ear and is connected to an ear mold via a clear plastic tube.
In RIC (Receiver-in-Canal) hearing aids, on the other hand, the amplifier, microphone, and batteries are placed in a plastic case that sits behind the ear with the exception of the receiver/speaker, which is placed inside the ear canal. Instead of a clear acoustic tube seen in most BTEs, RIC hearing aids come with thin electrical wires that transmit sound from the external case to the receiver in the canal.
Advantages of RIC Hearing Aids
- Minimal Feedback Problems
While very similar to BTEs in form and design, RIC hearing aids offer several listening advantages for the user that BTEs cannot offer. Since the speaker/receiver is placed in the ear canal and is separated from the microphone, there are less feedback problems for the user typically caused by the close proximity of the microphone to the receiver.
- Minimal Problems Associated with Occlusion
Problems with occlusion are typically caused by the blockage of the outer portion of the ear canal and are commonly experienced with hearing aid types that cover the ear canal (e.g. in-the-canal hearing aids). Since only a small portion goes inside the ear canal in RIC hearing aids, users report minimal problems associated with occlusion.
- Offers a More Natural Listening Experience
Due to the design of RIC hearing aids, users report a more natural listening experience. RIC hearing aids are particularly good for amplifying high-pitched sounds, making it suitable for people with hearing loss in the high frequencies.
- Suitable for Mild to Severe Hearing Loss
- Easy to Conceal
Despite having an external component, RIC hearing aids are very easy to conceal. The external part is usually very small and the wire that connects the external components to the receiver is very thin, making the hearing aids very easy to conceal. While they are noticeable if you look closely at one’s ear, they are easier to conceal than BTE hearing aids.
Disadvantages of RIC Hearing Aids
Like all other hearing aid types, RIC hearing aids carry some disadvantages.
- Susceptibility to Moisture Damage
The location of the speaker/receiver inside the ear canal makes it susceptible to damage caused by moisture inside the ear. As such, RIC hearing aids may require periodic repairs and are less durable than BTE hearing aids.
- Not Recommended for Young Children
Unlike BTE hearing aids, which are recommended for young children, RIC hearing aids are only recommended for older children and adults because they require extra maintenance and cleaning.
- Difficult to Use with a Telephone
- Reduced Size in Expense of Added Features
Most RIC hearing aids don’t come equipped with a T-Coil. Since RIC hearing aids are made smaller to make them less noticeable, there is very little room for a T-Coil to be added. Although, some RIC models may come with a T-Coil, most models don’t so make sure to check with the manufacturer beforehand.
Compared to BTE hearing aids, RIC hearing aids are generally more expensive averaging at $1400 to $2900, depending on brand and features. However, considering the many listening advantages that RIC hearing aids offer, the benefits for a lot of users outweigh the added costs.