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Ultimate Hearing Aid Guide.
(Reciever-In-Canal) Hearing Aids
Also known as RIE (Receiver-in-the-Ear) hearing aids, RIC devices differ from BTE designs due to one key innovation. In RIC hearing aids, the speaker which communicates sound from the outside world to the wearer's cochlea is contained within the "tip" of the tube. This tip usually takes the form of a silicon dome, and these domes come in a range of sizes, allowing users to find a model that suits their ear shape.
In the case of RIC hearing aids, the connection between the speaker and the casing isn't actually an acoustic plastic tube at all, but an electrical wire which links the battery and the speaker. The casing still sits behind the ear, but now contains just the battery and the hearing aid's processing unit. In theory, the space saved can be used more efficiently than on traditional BTE devices. This means that well-designed Mini-RIC hearing aids are among the lightest, least visible available.
Another advantage of RIC hearing aids is the use of electrical wires instead of acoustic tubes to send sound waves into the ear canal. When acoustic tubes are employed, there may be a low level of distortion and loss of quality, even when modern materials are used. Sending signals to the microphone via electrical wires is a way to get around this issue, making RIC hearing aids popular with music fans who value clearer audio, and are perceptive enough to tell the difference.
The separation of the RIC speaker and the hearing aid unit introduces another beneficial consequence. Because the speaker and the hearing aid microphone are a few inches apart, RIC hearing aids tend to result in less of the feedback squalls caused by microphones and speakers coming into contact.
On the other hand, because RIC hearing aids require a speaker to be placed at their tip, this tip is often much heavier and larger than the equivalent tip of a BTE device. So, the physical presence of an RIC unit inside the ear of the wearer is correspondingly greater. In some cases, this can be uncomfortable.
The presence of electronic components in the ear canal also raises the risk of moisture damage. This doesn't have to be a major obstacle for RIC hearing aid wearers. For one thing, many RIC tips feature wax guards which can be separated from the speaker and easily cleaned. The speaker itself can be easily removed and inspected. It all means that if users stick to a regular maintenance schedule, their hearing aid unit should remain in good working order for long periods of time.
Inevitably, in some cases, wax and moisture will seriously damage the functionality of RIC hearing aids. When this happens, RIC devices generally don't need to be sent to specialist repair centers at the manufacturer's plants. Instead, their speakers can be replaced relatively easily at clinics or local auditory product suppliers. However, over long periods, the cost of sourcing replacement tube and speakers for RIC hearing aids can make them more expensive to use compared with BTE alternatives.
As with BTE hearing aids, RIC products come in a variety of sizes. Buyers will typically be able to pick between Mini and Standard RIC hearing aids, and both categories include options for those with anything from mild to severe hearing loss issues.
Either way, cosmetically speaking, RIC hearing aids have the same profile as BTE alternatives. They fit behind the ear, and are often very discreet to wear, while users can choose different colors to customize the way their casing looks. In some cases, they may have the advantage of being slightly smaller than BTE units of the same power rating, due to the fact that their speakers are separate to the processor unit - although these differences don't tend to be huge.
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