(Last updated Oct 6, 2018)

CICs vs RICs

You may know by now that one of the most common ways that hearing aids are categorized, or referred to, is by their “style”. There are several styles of hearing aids available and they all have acronyms to make referring to them easier. For example, ITE stands for “in-the-ear”, while BTE stands for “behind-the-ear”. Among all the styles of hearing aids available, the 2 most popular are probably the CIC and RIC. That is, the completely-in-canal, and the receiver-in-canal hearing aids. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The CIC is better at some things while the RIC is better at others, and vice versa. In this post I’ll attempt to weigh the pros and cons of each, and see if I can help you get a little bit closer to deciding which hearing aid is right for you- the CIC vs RIC.

First up is the CIC, which has been an incredibly popular hearing aid style since it was first introduced to the market almost 20 years ago. The CIC is a very popular style of hearing aid. It’s very small so it fits completely in the ear canal and is very discrete. A properly fitted CIC can hardly be seen at all, though cosmetics will vary greatly based on an individual’s ear anatomy. There are a few things that I really like about the CIC and a few things I find a bit concerning. First, it’s very discreet, yet still large enough to pretty easily change the volume and other settings. Most CICs can be built with a small button on the faceplate so you can easily change the volume or other settings. Because CICs sit deep in the ear canal, they are some of the best hearing aids at reducing wind noise, since the microphone of the aid is somewhat protected by your ear. There are a few things about CICs which I’m not fond of, and that sway many people from purchasing a CIC. First, the battery life is very short, usually no more than 3-5 days with a size 10 battery (the smallest battery available). Second, because CICs are so small, they can’t house some of the latest technologies like various wireless features, Bluetooth, or telecoils. Having said that, you may be perfectly fine without those features, but that’s a discussion to have with your hearing provider. Probably the worst thing about CICs is that they tend to break,a lot. Because they sit deep inside your ear in a warm, oily environment all day long, they are really susceptible to moisture buildup, and a slew of problems that come along with that. CICs are some of the most frequently repaired hearing aids for this reason. However, a good wax prevention system on the hearing aid, routine cleaning of your ears, and extended warranties should ease this burden a bit.

As far as the RIC hearing aids, there is a lot to love about them, and they leave very little to be desired. First of all, the comfort is unparalleled. You simply cannot find a more comfortable hearing aid. In fact, there have been many times that I wore a demo RIC to show a client how it looks, and still had the aid in my ear hours later because I couldn’t even feel it and forgot it was there. You’ll often times see RIC hearing aids referred to as open-fit hearing aids because, depending on how your RIC is configured, they may not occlude the ears at all, so you don’t hear a strong echo in your voice as you sometimes do with in-the-ear aids. Another great thing about RICs is that they are very flexible in terms of the amount of volume they can provide. If you have a mild loss, you can wear an open fit RIC for a number of years, and then if your loss gets worse, you can get a custom ear mold added to it for a small additional fee and suddenly have very powerful hearing aids that would be suitable for even a profound hearing loss. This means that as your hearing loss progresses, you won’t likely “max out” your hearing aids and have to buy new ones- the RICs should be able to adapt to your hearing loss. Lastly, RICs are great because most of the time they are big enough to house the latest technologies- there is plenty of room for components in a RIC. Many times the RIC models are the most advanced models a hearing aid manufacturer has to offer. Many manufacturers release their flagship technology as a RIC device first, and then over the span of several months will strip some of the features away that won’t fit in smaller aids, and begin to offer that technology in custom in-the-ear aids. Case in point is what ReSound is doing with the LiNX hearing aid.  That aid will first be released as a RIC, and I presume once they figure out how to make it all fit in a smaller aid, they will offer it in a custom device. So often times by getting a RIC, you are ensuring that you’ve got the latest and most capable technology in your hearing aid.

The right style of hearing aid is ultimately going to depend on a number of factors, from budget, lifestyle, cosmetics, to hearing loss, and all of these should be discussed with your hearing provider after a hearing evaluation.

Jeff Hall Jeff Hall Jeff is a California licensed hearing aid dispenser and the President of ZipHearing- one of the largest discount hearing aid suppliers in the United States. Jeff lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and young daughter. You can learn more about hearing aids and watch Jeff on ZipHearing's Youtube channel.

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