NOWADAYS HEARING aids are like computers: every six months something new comes along! The majority of improvements are small but every now and then a great leap forward occurs. The last of these was the invention of the open fit/RIC (receiver in the canal) hearing devices. They consist of a small piece that goes behind the ear and a very thin almost invisible tube or wire that goes into the ear canal.
Dramatically different from previous designs, open ear fittings set a new standard for aesthetics. Designed for looks, comfort and performance, these appliances integrate some of the most sophisticated sound processing technology available today. An ultra-thin sound tube connects the hearing aid amplifier to a tiny soft dome placed inside the ear canal, which keeps the ear feeling ventilated and comfortable. They are very discreet, almost invisible, and for most people are the most comfortable of all systems to wear.
The small buds leave the ears open, allowing them to breath freely and taking away any blocked feeling, allowing the low-frequency sounds in naturally whilst amplifying the high frequencies where help is most needed. The domes at the end of the wire into the ear canal come in different sizes right down to the very smallest sleeves, meaning that even someone with the smallest of ears and narrowest of canals can wear them comfortably.
Many people who have a hearing problem have good low-frequency hearing (deep sounds, steady-state noises, background noises, men’s voices, engine or wind noise) but suffer from poor high-frequency hearing (women’s and children’s voices, high-pitched bells and buzzers, birdsong and, in the English language, they tend to be consonants at the beginnings and ends of words). The open-fit/RIC aid is ideal for this configuration.
With the receiver in the canal aid the loudspeaker is actually inside the ear at the end of the thin tube, meaning that the piece behind the ear (which would normally house the loudspeaker) can be made much smaller and more discreet.
These devices cost no more than the standard hearing aids and are suitable for most people but not those with severe or profound hearing losses. The amplifier unit is available in a myriad of stylish shapes along with a great choice of colours. Comments such as ‘I forget I’m wearing my hearing aid’, or ‘I’m back to being the social person I used to be’ are common from RIC hearing aid wearers.
In next week’s Hearing Column we will look at conventional hearing aids.
or contact Michael Burke at Digital Hearing, Quesada Business Centre, Calle Los Arcos 7, Quesada: Tel 698 418 642.