Making Decisions About Home Care

Is a Receiver-In-Canal Hearing Aid Right for You?

by Mae Ferguson

If a recent hearing test revealed that you need a hearing aid for minor hearing loss, you might be a bit overwhelmed with all of your options. One of the commonly recommended styles of hearing aids for individuals with mild hearing loss is called a receiver-in-canal or RIC hearing aid. Here's a closer look at this type of hearing aid and its benefits and drawbacks.

What is an RIC hearing aid?

This style of hearing aid has a portion that wraps behind the ear to hold the hearing aid in place, plus a little receiver, or speaker, which fits into the ear canal. This is a bit different than what you'd see in a more traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid. In a BTE hearing aid, all of the electrical components (including the receiver) are found in the exterior portion of the hearing aid. In an RIC hearing aid, they're all found in the interior portion that does inside the ear canal. The casing on a RIC hearing aid is just empty plastic that serves to hold the hearing aid onto the ear.

What are the advantages of this style of hearing aid?

RIC hearing aids are usually smaller than BTE hearing aids since the exterior component does not contain any electronics. Also, if your hearing loss ever becomes more pronounced and you need a stronger receiver, you can have just the receiver replaced, rather than having to buy a whole new hearing aid (as you would with most other hearing aid types). There's also no tubing leading from the speaker to the internal ear, since the speaker itself is positioned right in the ear canal. This removes one of the biggest struggles with hearing aids, which is keeping such tubing clean.

What are the disadvantages of RIC hearing aids?

This type of hearing aid can really only correct mild to moderate hearing loss. If your hearing continues to worsen, you may have to switch to a different type of hearing aid, which can take some getting used to. Talk to your doctor to get a good idea of how your hearing loss is expected to progress before deciding whether this is the right kind of device for you.

RIC hearing aids also don't work well for patients with overly small ear canals, since there's not enough room for the receiver. Your doctor or hearing specialist can measure your ears and let you know if you're a good candidate.