As an expert audiologist, I often get asked which hearing aid is the most comfortable. While every individual’s hearing needs are different, I usually recommend Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) hearing aids as the most comfortable option for both physical comfort as well as acoustically the most natural sounding.
In-the-Ear, Aids Can Be Uncomfortable Acoustically
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are a type of hearing aid that is custom-made to fit inside the ear canal. While these hearing aids can be discreet and easy to handle especially if you have tremors or arthritic hands, many users report feeling “plugged up” or experiencing an echo when they speak due to occlusion of the ear canal. This can be especially uncomfortable for new users who may not be accustomed to wearing hearing aids.
Some In-the-ear hearing aids are popular because they are so small and can easily be hidden from view, which makes them an appealing choice for those who are self-conscious about their hearing loss. However, they do come with some drawbacks. For example, since they are worn inside the ear canal, they can be more prone to getting clogged with wax or other debris. This can make it difficult to hear or cause the hearing aid to stop working altogether. Additionally, the small size of in-the-ear hearing aids can make them difficult to manipulate, especially for those with dexterity issues or arthritis in their hands.
It is worth noting that some people do find in-the-ear hearing aids to be comfortable, especially if they are properly fitted and adjusted by an experienced audiologist. However, for those who experience discomfort or find them difficult to manage, there are other options available.
RIC Hearing Aids: Two Options
Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) hearing aids are a type of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid that features a receiver (speaker) placed inside the ear canal. RIC hearing aids offer two options for fitting: a dome or an earmold.
Domes are small, soft tips that come in different sizes and shapes to fit comfortably in the ear canal. They are the most common option for RIC hearing aids, and they provide a more natural feeling than traditional ITE hearing aids. However, some users report tickling sensations in the ear from the dome tip. In addition, because the receiver is located outside of the ear canal, it is less likely to become clogged with wax or other debris, which can reduce the need for frequent cleanings.
Earmolds, on the other hand, are custom-made to fit the individual’s ear canal (similar to a custom hearing aid) by using an earmold impression. They can be made of different materials and can provide a more secure and comfortable fit than domes. Custom earmold impressions are taken to ensure a proper fit, which can improve sound quality and reduce feedback. Earmolds are often recommended for those with severe or profound hearing loss, as they provide more amplification than domes. However, they are also more visible and may not be as discreet as domes.
There is less occlusion with earmolds vs ITE hearing aids as fewer components need to fit inside the earmold allowing for a bigger vent.
Ultimately, the choice between a dome and an earmold will depend on the individual’s hearing needs, preferences, and comfort level. An experienced audiologist can help guide you through the decision-making process and ensure that you are fitted with the hearing aid that best meets your needs. All hearing aids come with a trial period. If something isn’t comfortable, change it!
My Top Hearing aid Pick Based On Comfort
Professionally fit = Starkey Genesis AI RIC
OTC hearing aids = Lexie B2 Powered by Bose
Both of these devices are small RIC models that work well with domes. Starkey recently redesign their receivers and domes for additional comfort, or you can order with earmold. Lexie OTC aids can be fit with domes and are quite comfortable in my ears.