Sales of Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC) hearing aids is growing at an impressive rate. Recent Hearing Industries Association (HIA) sales statistics suggest total hearing aid unit sales could exceed 4 million units for the first time in 2018. Through September 2018, RIC hearing aids made up 72.2% of the US hearing aid market. This works out to be to 2.874 million RIC hearing aids sold annually. This is a considerable increase. For example, in 2015 RIC’s accounted for 63.7%, up 5.7% from 2014 and 11.7% from 2013.
As hearing care practitioners, we know from experience that people use their fingertips to insert, or try to insert, the receiver properly (deeply enough) into their canals. They may use any finger or thumb. When, the patient has arthritis in their hands, they must choose a finger that is still straight enough to use. Their fingernail may face upward or downward, to the front or to the back, depending on which wrist-position is more comfortable.
And – we are well aware that the Return For Credit rate was 18.5% for RIC-style hearing aids in 2014.* This number is also considerable and it means that too many people are not getting the help they need and it can only be deleterious the reputation of the industry’s products.
Our experience also tells us that too many people give up on RIC-style hearing aids because of the difficulty they experience with insertion.
In 2013 an International Journal of Audiology article states, “… five studies reported that participants indicated needing help putting the device in.” (Cohen-Mansfield & Taylor, 2004; Vuorialho et al, 2006; Tomita et al, 2001; Hartley et al, 2010; Gopinath et al, 2011).” Read more about this here.
A 2018 study, cited in Ear and Hearing, the Official Journal of the American Auditory Society, and entitled: “Exploring Hearing Aid Problems: Perspectives of Hearing Aid Owners and Clinicians”, had as its objective, “To gather perspectives of hearing aid owners and hearing healthcare clinicians with regard to problems that arise after hearing aid fitting and use these perspectives to generate a conceptual framework to gain a better understanding of these problems.”
The study concluded “Problems relating to hearing aid management were most often deemed to have the greatest impact on hearing aid success and be the most preventable/solvable, and thus are a good starting point when addressing hearing aid–related problems.” Read more about this study here.
A 2020 St. Catherine University doctoral project entitled Hearing Loss in Older Adults: Exploring Occupational Therapy’s Role by Kristen Marie-Weber Chang states, “Some older adults have difficulty putting in the hearing aids…” This study can be found here.
Tina Lannin is the founder and director of 121 Captions, the live captioning and subtitling provider, and a professional lipreader. In her article, Why people don’t like wearing their discreet hearing aids, she states, “Many older people complain of hearing aids being difficult to handle. Imagine trying to get your hearing aids in place with painful, swollen fingers. They have problems handling the device due to their limitations in manual dexterity. Stiff hands and finger joints are common in older adults and will impact on their experience of using hearing aids.” Read her entire article, here.