Getting used to receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids
Find out what to expect from your hearing aids, how to adjust to them and how to take care of them.
Receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids get their name because the receiver (loudspeaker) part of the hearing aid sits inside your ear, in either a:
- custom-made ear tip
- small, soft earpiece, often called a dome.
The small electronic receiver is connected to the hearing aid processor behind the ear by a thin wire inside a narrow tube.
It’s important not to get receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids confused with a behind-the-ear hearing aid with an open fitting as they can look very similar. The difference is that behind-the-ear hearing aids have the receiver in the processor behind the ear, not in the ear tip or dome.
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Modern hearing aids are digital, sophisticated and produce good quality sound. Your audiologist will fine tune your hearing aids to your prescription, which is based on your hearing test results. Your hearing aid settings are unique to you.
Your hearing aids might not help you hear perfectly in all situations, but they should help you hear:
- speech more clearly
- the TV at a lower volume
- everyday alerting sounds such as the doorbell and telephone ringing
- quieter sounds that you’d struggle to hear without hearing aids.
They will also adjust to different environments, so that sounds are not uncomfortably loud.
Most hearing aids have the option for you to control the volume, which may be helpful in different situations. The controls vary for different hearing aid models, so speak to your audiologist if you’re not sure how to change the volume level.
Your audiologist may have set up additional programs on your hearing aids to suit your hearing needs. For example, some hearing aids have a program that helps you pick up sounds in front of you, rather than at the side or behind. This can help you focus on what you want to listen to in noisy places. If you’re not sure about the different programs your hearing aids have, or how they could help, speak to your audiologist.
Hearing aids cannot cut out background noise completely, so you might still struggle to hear one voice in a noisy place. In these situations, assistive listening devices, lipreading and communication tactics can be a big help.
At first, what you hear might sound different or odd. You might find that everything sounds louder than you expect and your own voice might sound strange. This is because you might not have heard these sounds at their correct levels for a long time, and it will take a little while for your brain to learn that this sound level is normal.
Our step-by-step guide to getting used to hearing aids:
- Slowly build up the time you spend using your hearing aids – start by using them once or twice a day for an hour or two in quiet surroundings.
- Listen to everyday noises around the house – like the kettle boiling. Your brain might need time to relearn the significance of these sounds and to ignore the unimportant ones.
- Use your hearing aids while watching TV – this will help you get used to hearing different sounds.
- Try conversations with 1 person – make sure you’re in a quiet room and the other person sits facing you in good light so it’s easier to lipread them.
- Try group conversations – don’t expect to hear everything that’s said when you’re with more than 1 person, but try to follow the conversation.
- Practise using your hearing aids outside – it’s normal for some sounds to seem very loud until you get used to them.
- Try using your hearing aids in noisy places – these are likely to be the most difficult listening situations.
It can take a month or longer to adjust to hearing aids and get the most out of them, even when using them regularly in different situations. The important thing is not to give up.
If you have any difficulties, tell your audiologist so they can help.
For help with making the most of your hearing aids, read the Which? guide to hearing aids features.
It’s important to make sure you put in your hearing aids correctly:
- Hold the hearing aid behind your ear and place the thin tube and the ear tip or dome over the top of your ear, facing your ear canal.
- Place the ear tip or dome in your ear canal and push it in as far as it will comfortably go.
If you have two hearing aids, your audiologist should have marked which one is for which ear. The marker is always red for the right ear and blue for the left. Think ‘R’ for red and ‘R’ for right.
If your hearing aids are not inserted correctly, they will not work as well as they should – you might hear a whistling sound and they might even make your ears sore.
You need to clean and service your hearing aids regularly to keep them working well. They can easily become blocked with ear wax, moisture and other debris, which can reduce the quality of the sound you hear or even stop them working entirely.
Our guide to cleaning receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids:
- Clean the main part of the hearing aid by wiping it carefully with a soft, dry cloth or tissue. Or you could use a wetwipe that does not contain chemicals or alcohol. Do not get the hearing aid wet.
- Clean the soft ear tip or dome with a dry cloth.
- Check if there’s any wax blocking the wax filter inside the ear tip or dome. To do this, hold onto the loudspeaker and gently pull off the ear tip or dome. If there is wax in the filter, replace it with a new one. You can get a special tool to help you do this. When you put the ear tip or dome piece onto the speaker, push it firmly to make sure it’s fastened securely.
- Check the wire in the tubing to see if it has any twists in it. If there are twists and you cannot straighten the wire, speak to your audiologist. Twists in the wire can affect how well the hearing aid works.
Speak to your audiologist if you need help with cleaning or servicing your hearing aids.
Hearing aid cleaning tools
Some audiology providers supply or sell hearing aid cleaning tools for a small fee, so ask your audiologist what is available. You can use a:
- soft brush to remove wax from the ear tip or dome – sometimes these also have a magnetic battery removal tool
- wax pick or wire loop, to remove wax from small nooks
- dry cloth to wipe the hearing aid
- multitool, which has a wire loop, magnet and brush.
You can also buy these products online from Connevans in partnership with RNID. Visit the online shop
Most hearing aids have a hearing loop setting (formerly called the ‘T’ setting).
When you switch your hearing aids to the loop setting, you’ll be able to:
- pick up sound from hearing loop systems (loops)
- use assistive listening devices with your hearing aids to help you hear better over background noise.
A hearing loop helps you hear more clearly over background noise because it sends sound from a source – for example, a microphone –
directly to your hearing aids.
Loops are often found in public places such as theatres, cinemas, shops and banks.
You can also get loop systems for your home. Telephones
described as ‘hearing aid compatible’ have a type of built-in loop that
can give you a clearer phone conversation with less background noise.
If you don’t have this setting and would like it, speak to your audiologist.
If you use your hearing aids for most of the day, every day, you’ll need to change your hearing aid batteries about once a week. Many hearing aids will give warning beeps when the battery needs changing.
Our guide to changing your hearing aid battery:
- Open the battery drawer wide but try not to force it.
- Look at the way the battery sits in the drawer before you remove it.
- Take a replacement battery from its packet. It will have a sticky label indicating the positive (+) side of the battery.
- The flat positive side of the battery (+) sits face up in the drawer. Make sure it’s the right way up otherwise it won’t work.
Your audiologist can show you how to change the battery if you haven’t already been shown or need a reminder.
Remember to switch your hearing aids off when you take them out, to save the batteries and to prevent whistling noises. And don’t forget to carry spare batteries when you go out.
Most receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids are bought privately as they are not commonly available on the NHS.
Batteries, tubing and filters may be included in your payment plan. If not, you’ll need to buy them from a pharmacy or your hearing aid provider. You can also get hearing aid batteries from supermarkets and online.
If you have NHS receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids, ask your audiologist about local arrangements.
If you are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus and need free confidential and impartial information and support, contact RNID.
We’re open 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Get more information by email
At RNID, we offer free information and support to the 12 million people living with hearing loss in the UK.
Sign up for a series of emails from our Information Team to find out more about getting hearing aids, including:
- the types of hearing aids available
- communication tips while you wait for them
- and how you can look after them.