What You Need to Know: RIC vs. ITE Hearing Aids

With the number of different styles and types of hearing aids on the market, it can be overwhelming when you’re starting your search. To narrow it down, there are ultimately two types of hearing aids – “in the ear” (ITE) and “behind the ear” (BTE). In the latter category, the most popular style is the “receiver in canal” (RIC). Finding the best hearing aids for you involves many factors, but a good place to start is by comparing two of the most common choices – the ITE and the RIC.

Receiver in Canal (RIC)

The most prevalent of the behind the ear hearing aids, the RIC is also known as the “receiver in ear” (RIE) or “receiver in the ear” (RITE). These hearing aids have a small microphone and sound processor that sits behind the ear, and, as the name suggests, a corresponding receiver (the speaker) in the ear canal, connected to the external portion by a short wire.

Their popularity is due to benefits such as:

  • High comfort levels
  • Low profile
  • Minimal occlusion (the “echo” effect you experience with plugged ears)
  • Simple maintenance due to standardization
  • Minimal feedback
  • Great power for effective amplification
  • Adjustability for comfort and different levels of hearing loss

As RICs are more standardized, they may not be right for every type of hearing loss. When a custom solution is needed or additional discretion is desired, many people turn to an ITE hearing aid.

In the Ear (ITE)

ITE hearing aids consist of a single piece worn directly in the ear. To keep them from falling out, an audiologist will create a mold of your ear and have fitting appointments to ensure an exact match. Highly personalized, ITEs provide advantages like:

  • Highly discreet design, with “invisible” options
  • Fully custom fit for comfort
  • Less interference from wind noise

However, customization does come at a cost – both upfront and for ongoing maintenance of each unique hearing aid. And while the ITE can be nearly invisible, power and features are often compromised to gain that smaller size.