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RIC's: Choosing the right hearing aid

24 February 2022

If you've researched hearing aids recently, you may know that there is a vast range of modern options out there. Gone are the days of the giant, beige, brick-like object that squealed in your grandad's ear. With advances in digital technology and electronics, today's hearing aids are small, rechargeable, and have tremendous processing power. In short, aids are now very high-tech and cool!

But with all these choices, which is the most popular type of hearing aid? More importantly, which is the best hearing aid style for you? In this article, we dive into one of the most stylish forms of hearing aids—RIC's. For further information on other types, see our article on ITE receivers.

Receiver In Canal technology

Data from the US in 2019 indicated that almost 79% of the hearing aids dispensed were Receiver in Canal (RIC) style. The popularity of the RIC makes sense, considering that they are;

  • robust
  • comfortable
  • discreet to wear

RIC's also offer the most comprehensive collection of features. Since the six leading global hearing aid manufacturers release new technological developments in this style first, before they include them in other versions, newly released RIC's are the most up to date on the market. An additional attractive advantage is that RIC hearing aids tend to suit most people.

However, a disadvantage is that some hearing aid users may find the RIC hearing aid sound quality to be unnatural. The design is in part a compromise for the sake of style — the microphones, where sound and speech enter the hearing aid, are perched up behind the outer ear. So while comfortable, having microphones positioned this way isn't the best for sound quality, as they're far from where sound would naturally be picked up and channelled to the eardrum.

The brain and ear connection

To understand the design choice, we need to look at the structure of the human brain. An individual's brain expects to receive sound shaped by that person's body, head, and ear anatomy. Hearing sound through a hearing aid that collects the sound in the wrong anatomical position can interfere with natural hearing processes in the brain. It might even work against the positive effects of amplification.

This statement is especially true for those with milder hearing losses. As an audiologist, I've found that patients with a mild hearing loss usually report difficulties with conversations in noisy group settings instead of quieter situations. The common complaint they give is that they'd like to distinguish individual speech without much competing background noise.

So while RIC hearing aids can significantly improve individual speech sounds in noise, potential problems still exist with competing background noises. There are finetuning tools to reduce background noise, which we provide at Bellbird Hearing, but other options may get a better overall result. It's best to talk with an audiologist first before seeking any adjustments. 

To learn more about this hearing aid technology please get in touch with us, by contacting our Christchurch or Timaru branches.