Hearing quality of RIC vs BTE?

Does anyone know what differences in audio characteristics to expect from the same hearing aid but configured as:

  1. RIC using a mold with the power receiver in the mold.
  2. BTE using a mold with the tube.

I’m considering hearing quality, not aesthetics. It seems the tube (2) would introduce more distortion. However, with (1) there are seperate components which might also introduce distortion. Maybe its negligible? Maybe it depends on hearing loss?

I’d like to understand what the ‘best’ HA’s are for my loss and life style. My hearing has already forced two job changes (same company). I’m always looking for ways to optimize my hearing at work. Better HA’s are always an option - I tend to upgrade every 2 to 3 years. My current Bernafon Verite 9s are barely 2 years old, they are ok. I have configuration 1 and moisture builds up on the power receiver in the ear and every few months (1-4) one goes out. I use a dryer each night. Generally I have some intermittant operation for a brief period, which gives my HA specialist time to get a new receiver in. Not a concern, except for the degradation of sound quality before I eventually get new receivers.

Back in 2010, before the Bernafons, I trialed Starkey S Series 7. I couldn’t discriminate a difference in speech understanding at work between the Starkeys, Bernafons, or really my previous Resound Metrix (although the features on the new aids are much nicer). Acuquest (Starkey) recently wanted me to come in because of a visit back in 2010. After hearing about Spectral IQ, I decided to go. They spent a good hour with me, evaluating the performance of my current hearing aids. In short, they were doing a (surprising to them) good job. The Spectral IQ sounds very interesting - but the demo on the Starkey website was … not as convincing as the marketing.

My current specialist is recommending (and I’m considering) getting the Chronos 9 BTE using configuration 2 (like my previous Resound Metrix). She says, based on our experience, she would never again recommend I get an RIC configuration. With the BTE she believes I won’t have the HA problems I’m having (so do I) and that I’ll hear better with the Chronos (not convinced). The specialist at Acquest said they would absolutely use the RIC and that there’s no reason for me to use a BTE. She said the screen would stop moisture. The other specialist says it won’t.

Bernafon Verite 9
Freq. LL – RR
WR 44% - 60% (2010)

250 55 - 70
500 60 - 70
1000 60 - 75
2000 60 - 85
4000 90 – 95
8000 100 – 110

Personally I’ve never used a RIC HA but I’ve been told they are not a robust as BTE aids. They won’t fall apart but BTE aids withstand a lot more wear and tear.

I’ve been wearing the Phonak Savia BTE, which was part of the bicross system, along with the Smartlink since 2005. Now that I have a BAHA implant on the right and it was time for a HA upgrade, my audi recommended 3 different aids to try. First tried the Starkey RIC; sound was MUCH better with the receiver nearer the ear drum (have Stapendectomy implant in ear), but I hated the Surflink bluetooth device. Took it back and switched to the Phonak Audeo S Smart V, along with the Compilot/TVlink…not sure why I didn’t go with the Phonak to begin with, cause I couldn’t be any happier. My optimal choice would be to have a BAHA implant on the left side, too, but my Otologist repaired my eardrum, rebuilt some of the bone in the middle ear and updated the prosthetic hook, so no go with the insurance, lol! But, either device, I’m just amazed at how much better the sound is with the RIC, as compared to the BTE with the receiver at the top of the aid…

Yes, the wear and tear issue for me is the moisture destroying the receiver. I was told the inside of the ear doesn’t sweat so … well, I weare them exercising. I let the part behind the ear flop outside the ear so sweat doesn’t get in it (recommended by someone at the center for deaf and hard of hearing).

Beezeyob, did you try the BTE version of the Phonak Audeo S Smart V? I’m thinking the technology has progressed quite a bit since your 2005 Phonak Savia BTEs which might account for the difference in sound quality.

BTW - what whas the issue with the Surflink?


Regarding the BAHA implant. I’m curious, it sounds like you are happy with it. So you think the sound quality is better than what you get in the other ear with your new aid? Maybe not a good comparison. From what I gather they are about $4,000, which doesn’t seem too bad, especially if it were covered by BCBS. I’ve looked into a cochlear implant for my right ear, but at the time, the audi felt the hearing improvement would be marginal at best. She told me to come back in a few months. It has been several years now.

If you have moisture problems, I’d tend to go with a BTE vs. RIC. It’s much easier to use an earmold air blower to manage moisture (in addition to the dehumidifier) rather than having to deal with replacing or repairing receiver components periodically.

1 Like

In my experience, the BTE tends to have a more robust sound over the RIC - for those wearers who notice any difference at all.

And the ear canal does sweat. Wax is made from secretions from sebaceous and sweat glands mixed with skin and is only produced in the outer third of the ear canal. FYI

1 Like