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RIC or RIE (Receiver in the ear) hearing aids are sometimes considered a sub-type of the behind-the-ear category of products. However, more and more RIC products appear every year from manufacturers, such that RIC is now considered a category on its own.
The reason why RIC hearing aids can be considered a sub-design within BTEs is because they look very similar; they have a casing containing components and user controls which sits behind the ear and then a 'tubing' coming down over the top of the ear, ending in the ear canal. The major difference however, is that this tubing actually encloses a wire, which connects to the receiver (loudspeaker) component of the hearing aid, which effectively now sits within the ear canal and not in the casing behind the ear.
The end of the receiver tubing usually fits into a soft silicon dome of some sort, which makes the fitting more comfortable within the delicate skin of the ear canal.
"feedback is kept to a minimum when the RIC is being used"
As with thin-tubings, the domes come in a variety of sizes and are often used as a way to further ensure feedback is kept to a minimum when the RIC is being used. The domes also serve as an additional protection against wax and moisture ingress.
Having an electronic component in the ear canal does increase the risk of it being affected by wax build ups or skin debris or moisture present in some ear canals. In most RIC designs, the receivers also have a wax guard built into them, which can be changed as part of the general care and maintenance required for the hearing aid. Some RIC wearers only change their wax guards every few months; others may need to change them much more frequently.
Because one of the major electronic components is not in the casing behind the ear, space is saved, allowing RICs to be made in surprisingly small designs, particularly if the battery size is also a size 10 (the smallest possible hearing aid battery).
+ Choice of amplification
+ Low feedback
- Risk of wax build up
- Cost of replacement receiver
The fact that the receiver component lies in the ear canal means that the distance between it and the hearing aid microphone is increased, certainly compared to the distance between these components in a traditional BTE. The risk of feedback is decreased by this physical design element, one of the commonly reported advantages of RICs.
While the receiver is included in the hearing aid warranty, after this period is over, if the receiver requires repairs, it is costly to replace and will be considerably more than replacing the thin tubing of a BTE.
For a specific example of a RIC see the HD430 RIC
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