Best Hearing Aids for Seniors in 2019

Our experts have researched 19 hearing aid companies and recommend 10 of the best options for seniors.

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The 3 Best Brands
AccoladesBest OverallBest Customer ServiceBest Value
BluetoothYesYesYes
Phone CompatibilityYesYesYes
Low ProfileYesYesYes
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Top Hearing Aids for the Elderly

When it comes to cost, reliability, features and being able to differentiate sounds so you can audibly understand the world around you, these ten hearing aids earn top ranks with reviewers, hearing experts and seniors just like you.
  • Phonak- Phonak, a medical devices company that supplies hearing aids across the globe, designs products that are accessible and practical.
  • Starkey- Living up to their philosophy, “Hearing is our concern,” Starkey offers a wide range of American-made products that are packed with features.
  • Signia- Although the newest hearing aid brand, Signia’s strength lies in their broad range of products and the amazing amount of features they pack into their hearing aids.
  • ReSound- Committed to the process of making continuous advancements in the audiology industry, ReSound builds on 147 years of expertise to become an international leader in intelligent audio solutions.
  • Oticon- With more than 100 years of experience under their belt, Oticon is one of the strongest competitors in the hearing aid industry.
  • Widex- Known for its high definition sound in complex sound environments, Widex is a leading international provider of technologically advanced hearing aids.
  • Beltone- Beltone invests in research and development to create hearing solutions that are technologically advanced to make them effective and convenient, so they fit your lifestyle.
  • Miracle-Ear- One of the oldest and best-known hearing aid brands, Miracle-Ear consistently offers technologically advanced hearing devices for today’s consumer.
  • MDHearingAid- MDHearingAid’s accomplishes their main goal - provide the best hearing technology at the best price - by cutting out the middleman.
  • Rexton- Consistently at the forefront of the hearing aid industry, Rexton has been at the cutting edge technologically for more than sixty years.

How We Chose Our Top List

There are a lot of hearing aids on the market and they probably all sound like a great choice. With that being said, making a decision can be difficult. The great news is that we got you covered! We have gone through the 19 biggest hearing aid brands and have narrowed it down to our top 10. See which hearing aids we crowned as our favorites.

19
Products considered
3
Experts consulted
10
Products selected
14
Hours of research
1. Phonak
Ease of useExcellent
EquipmentExcellent
Service & ResponseExcellent
Features & TechExcellent
Pricing

Overview

Phonak’s mission is to help people with hearing loss to interact freely, communicate with confidence and live without limits. Having developed the Roger Pen and in-classroom radio FM technology, Phonak is a leader in the development of hearing solutions for children.

Phonak is an industry leader when it comes to being able to offer technologically advanced hearing aids for all ages. Offering more than 20 hearing aids, their products have a variety of features that are sure to satisfy specific customer needs. The operation system of all Phonak hearing aids automatically adapts to its surroundings. Phonak offers a variety of wireless accessories to further enhance performance.

Phonak is proud to be able to offer the popular extended-wear Lyric hearing aid. They also offer a wide range of rechargeable hearing aids. Phonak and another popular hearing aid brand in the United States, Unitron, are owned by the Sonova Holding AG company. Phonak enjoys an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Pros
  • More than 20 hearing aids
  • iOS and Android compatibility
  • 30-day trial offer (LyricTM model only)
Cons
  • No lower price range models
  • No pricing on their website

Pricing

Phonak only makes their more than twenty hearing devices with a variety of unique features available through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $1,500 and $3,000 per unit depending upon which model you choose, and which features are installed in that model.

The Bottom Line

Phonak is an industry leader and one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. They are recognized as a premium brand hearing aid manufacturer and renowned for their high-quality hearing aids. Additionally, they are regarded as an industry leader in pediatric hearing care. They offer a wide range of hearing aid products with more than 20 models to choose from; however, they may be most widely known for their LyricTM model – the first 100% invisible hearing aid that can be worn for months, 24/7. Unlike some of their competitors, Phonak does not offer lower price range models. They prefer to sell their products through hearing health professional and licensed audiologists only.

2. Starkey
Ease of useExcellent
EquipmentExcellent
Service & ResponseExcellent
Features & TechExcellent
Pricing

Overview

Located in Minnesota, Starkey is an American-owned company. Starkey is credited with the creation of the first custom digital invisible hearing aid and the first in-canal hearing aid. Recently, they were also one of the first companies to release a hearing aid made for the iPhone, the Halo. Additionally, they were the first to introduce nanotechnology in hearing aids. This technology protects hearing aids from naturally-occurring oils in the ear and makes them water-proof. Some of the other features they offer include directional microphones, digital feedback reduction, Bluetooth & internet connectivity and tinnitus maskers.

Starkey offers a broad range of products with a wide range of features. Although not a true hearing aid, they also offer a personal sound amplifier which may help those on an extremely limited budget and/or those who are unsure about the advantages of audio technology.

Several other hearing aid brands – All American Hearing, Audibel, NuEar and Microtech – are subsidiaries of Starkey.

Starkey lives out their philosophy, “Hearing is our concern,” giving a donation to the Starkey Hearing Foundation for every hearing aid sold. The Starkey Hearing Foundation has given away more than one million hearing aids to people all around the world.

Pros
  • Broad selection of hearing aids
  • Wide variety of features
  • 30-day trial
  • Online hearing test
Cons
  • Basic – no exotic technology
  • No prices on their website
  • No warranty details on their website

Pricing

Starkey only offers their hearing products through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $1,500 and $3,100 per unit depending upon which model you choose, and which features are installed in that model.

The Bottom Line

Starkey offers a wealth of hearing aid choices and packs them with technology. Like most other top brands, Starkey hearing aids are sold only through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Starkey has a solid reputation and is proud to be the only American-owned and operated hearing aid company. If you want to buy American, Starkey is the hearing aid brand for you. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. After more than 50 years of service, they have not had any product recalls, have not been the subject of any regulatory actions and there has been no reported consumer litigation.

3. Signia
Ease of useExcellent
EquipmentExcellent
Service & ResponseAbove Average
Features & TechExcellent
Pricing

Overview

The Signia hearing aid brand was introduced in January 2016 by Sivantos Group after their purchase of Siemens in 2015. Although the Siemens company developed the first behind-the-ear hearing device in 1959, they are best known for the release of the first wireless hearing aid, the first digital hearing aid that has two directional microphones and the first waterproof digital hearing aid.

Siemens, the product from which Signia is founded, has a reputation for design and engineering. Signia offers a wide range of products, many containing high-end features. They offer a large number of hearing aids that are compatible with various external devices. Some of the features they offer include tinnitus maskers, Bluetooth & internet connectivity, directional microphones, digital noise & feedback reduction and many others. Sivantos group, a company that owns a number of hearing aid companies, describes Signia as their premium brand.

As of 2016, Sivantos group is now the Kirkland Signature 7.0 hearing aid supplier for Costco. Signia is part of Sivantos Group which also owns Siemens, Audio Service, Rexton (also featured below) and A&M Hearing. Sivantos Group is headquartered in Singapore and currently owns 25% of the worldwide hearing aid market.

Pros
  • Too new to evaluate fully
  • Broad range of products with abundant features
  • Online hearing test
Cons
  • Website is difficult to navigate
  • No published info on product support

Pricing

Signia only offers their wide range of hearing products through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $1,200 and $2,000 per unit depending upon which model you choose, and which features are installed in that model.

The Bottom Line

Being the new kid on the block, Signia has had little time to establish a reputation. But with their products based on the Siemens brand, consumers can be “cautiously confident” in the company’s ability to deliver a high-tech quality product. Signia’s strength lies in their broad range of products and the amazing amount of features they put in their hearing aids. Any information you need about financing and trial periods may be obtained from a hearing professional. Read our full review of Signia hearing aids here.

4. ReSound
Ease of useExcellent
EquipmentExcellent
Service & ResponseAbove Average
Features & TechExcellent
Pricing

Overview

Located in Denmark and founded in 1943, ReSound has been in the business of hearing for more than 70 years and is responsible for a number of hearing aid industry firsts. ReSound was the first major hearing aid manufacturer to introduce the open-fit hearing device. They are also responsible for creating a sound processing system with wide dynamic range compression. More recently, ReSound is credited with the release of a hearing aid platform -LiNX – made for iPhones and iPads.

ReSound strives to create better solutions to help people hear, enabling them to live rich, active and fulfilling lives. To this end, in addition to their regular line of products, they also offer a budget-friendly line of hearing aids – Enya, available in a variety of styles and a couple of different technology levels. They also offer pediatric hearing aids with features that are important to children and teens and extra powerful hearing aids for those with severe or profound hearing loss.

ReSound is a part of the GN ReSound Group, joining Beltone and Interton as subsidiaries of the GN ReSound Group. Between 2013 to 2016, GN ReSound was the supplier of Costco’s Kirkland Signature hearing aids.

Pros
  • 147 years of innovation
  • Innovative hearing solutions
  • Online hearing test
Cons
  • No prices on their website

Pricing

ReSound offers hearing products through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $1,200 and $3,000 per unit depending upon which model you choose, which technology level you choose, and which features are installed.

The Bottom Line

The GN ReSound Group builds on 147 years of expertise to become a global leader in intelligent audio solutions. ReSound is committed to the process of making continuous advancements in the audiology industry. Along with their sister group, Jabra, ReSound is a worldwide distributor of hearing products. They offer a full range of hearing aid styles and technology levels to fit every need including pediatric and profound hearing loss.

5. Oticon
Ease of useAbove Average
EquipmentExcellent
Service & ResponseAbove Average
Features & TechExcellent
Pricing

Overview

Based in Denmark, Oticon is a recognized leader in innovation and continues to trailblaze their way towards many hearing aid firsts. Founded in 1904 by Hans Demant to help his wife Camilla with her hearing impairment, Oticon continues with the philosophy of “People First.” Oticon is credited with the creation of the world’s first digital hearing instrument, the Digifocus and more recently the Opn hearing aid – the industry’s first dual-wireless and internet-connected device.

Their focus today is the personalization of fitting for each wearer in order to give the customer a more effortless and natural listening experience. They customize their products based on multiple factors such as age, personal preference, listening environment and processing ability. Oticon has a huge range of products and options. Their current line of hearing aids is technologically advanced providing such features as tinnitus maskers, directional microphones, digital noise and feedback reduction, Bluetooth & internet connectivity, wind noise reduction and many other features. Additionally, they offer quite a few wireless accessories and a mobile app to further enhance the user’s hearing experience.

Sister brands, Bernafon and Sonic Innovations, are subsidiaries of William Demant Holdings.

Pros
  • Solid reputation
  • Buyer information on their website
  • Hearing quiz on their website
  • 45-day money back guarantee
Cons
  • No hearing test on their website
  • Trial offered through third-party

Pricing

ReSound offers a wide range of hearing products through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $1,100 and $3,600 per unit depending upon which model you choose, and which features are installed in that model. Because Oticon has products that may run even lower than this, customers should visit a hearing professional for assistance to choose the hearing aid that will fit their budget and one that is worth their investment.

The Bottom Line

Oticon is an international hearing aid company – one of the strongest competitors in the industry. For more than 100 years, they have steadily worked to understand the science and technology of hearing, and in doing so, have a wide offering of hearing aid types and features. The technology they use is some of the most advanced, providing customers with a wide range of customization as well as comfort. Oticon has a solid reputation and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Their website also provides more detailed information concerning warranty and trial policies than many of their competitors.

6. Widex
Ease of useAbove Average
EquipmentExcellent
Service & ResponseAbove Average
Features & TechAbove Average
Pricing

Overview

Widex, a family-owned company founded in Denmark in 1956, has a reputation for delivering the brightest, highest quality sound, emphasizing what the wearer wants to hear rather than simply amplifying all available sounds. Their hearing aids easily distinguish between conversations and background noise, effectively block wind noise and other background noise sources. Widex is one of the world’s largest hearing aid manufacturers, supplying hearing aids to more than 100 countries.

Widex has consistently been an industry leader in innovation, for both technology and design. They developed the first in-the-ear hearing aid in 1985, the world’s first fully digital in-the-ear hearing aid in 1995, introduced the world’s smallest receiver-in-canal hearing aid in 2008, introduced the first hearing aid specifically designed for babies in 2010 and, in 2018, they pioneered the world’s first hearing aid with real-time, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence technology.

Pros
  • Widely available
  • Free, no-obligation trial
  • Water resistant
  • Technologically advanced
Cons
  • Available only through a retailer

Pricing

Widex offers more than seven hearing aid models through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $750 and $3,000 depending upon which model you choose, and which features are installed in that model.

The Bottom Line

Understanding that hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all, Widex offers a strong repertoire of features with a broad price range, including both budget and premium options. Lots of helpful information is available on their website. Due to the company’s technological advances, Widex provides some of the best hearing aids you can buy and has one of the more transparent warranty programs in the business.

7. Beltone
Ease of useAbove Average
EquipmentAbove Average
Service & ResponseAbove Average
Features & TechAbove Average
Pricing

Overview

Headquartered in Illinois, Beltone is an international provider of hearing aid products. In North America alone, Beltone boasts of more than 1500 independently-owned “hearing care centers.” Beltone advertises that they have a hearing aid for every budget and lifestyle. Their hearing aids come in dozens of styles and are programmed to address each person’s specific hearing deficiency.

Since 1940, Beltone has endeavored to develop technologically optimal hearing solutions without losing focus on each customer’s needs and to make high-quality hearing care available to the masses. Every hearing aid they sell comes with BelcareTM – offering ongoing protection and personalized care covering you for the life of your hearing aids.

Beltone is a part of the GN ReSound Group, joining ReSound and Interton as subsidiaries. The Beltone Hearing Care Foundation is a charitable organization that donates hearing devices to people who need hearing assistance but are unable to access it.

Pros
  • Dozens of styles
  • Online hearing test
  • Provides devices to the needy
Cons
  • No online pricing
  • According to some reviewers, customer service sometimes falls short

Pricing

Pricing of a Beltone product can only be learned by meeting with a hearing professional or audiologist. A person cannot buy products directly from Beltone. Therefore, we can only surmise that their products fall in line with the typical range of true hearing aids – $1,000 to $4,000 per device.

The Bottom Line

Beltone advertises that they have a hearing aid for every budget and lifestyle. Although they do have dozens of products, finding the prices for them on the internet is next to impossible, making it difficult to determine if this statement is entirely true. They do provide extensive training to their hearing care professionals, making it possible for them to provide unparalleled support, service and aftercare. Each Beltone provider is a local business, able to provide professional yet personal service.

8. Miracle-Ear
Ease of useAbove Average
EquipmentAbove Average
Service & ResponseAbove Average
Features & TechAbove Average
Pricing

Overview

Miracle-Ear is one of the best-known and oldest hearing aid brands on the market. The company began in 1948 with a single hearing aid. Early in the 1950s, they incorporated transistor technology, cutting edge technology at that time, into their products. By the early 2000s, all Miracle-Ear products were digitally based. They have continued to revolutionize the industry by improving hearing aid function and by the development of advanced digital noise reduction capabilities, proprietary Speech Isolation and integration of smartphone app functionality. For example, their GENIUSTM technology recognizes speech sounds and gives preference to them, filtering out all other sounds to provide a better listening experience.

Now a global company, Miracle-Ear is based in Minnesota and currently owned by the Amplifon family of companies. One of a few direct-to-consumer hearing aid companies, their certified representatives offer sales and service to its customers through an extensive network of local stores.

The company-run Miracle-Ear Foundation supports the hearing-impaired community by supplying free hearing aids to those who lack the financial means, insurance or government support to obtain them.

Pros
  • Seventy years of service
  • A wide range of products
  • Lifetime customer service
  • Foundation to help those in need
  • Online hearing test
Cons
  • Cost
  • No prices on their website
  • Store locations may be far from consumers

Pricing

Miracle-Ear offers hearing products through hearing professionals and licensed audiologists. Because of this, prices may vary. Average prices range between $1,500 and $3,100 per unit depending upon which model you choose, and which features are installed in that model. Miracle-Ear offers lifetime services, including regular cleaning and adjustments, making them even more affordable when many of their competitors charge extra for service plans and additional warranties.

The Bottom Line

Being one of the oldest and best-known manufacturers in the industry, Miracle-Ear has patented some of the most technologically advanced hearing aids available today. Miracle-Ear designs and creates hearing aid technology that has evolving features, setting their products apart from many of their competitors. With their long history of service, hearing aid technology and extensive store network, Miracle-Ear offers both quality and support.

9. MDHearingAid
Ease of useAverage
EquipmentAverage
Service & ResponseAverage
Features & TechAverage
Pricing

Overview

Founded by an ear, nose and throat doctor who grew frustrated seeing patients go without hearing because they couldn’t afford hearing aids, MDHearingAid makes hearing affordable. Their goal is to provide the best hearing technology at the best price by cutting out the middleman. Ten years and 500,000 hearing aids later, MDHearingAid has totally changed the way hearing aids are sold.

MDHearingAid offers three hearing aid models and additional accessories. Depending upon which model you choose, features vary but may include dual directional microphones, adaptive technology and be smartphone compatible. All models come with digital sound processing, noise reduction, feedback cancellation and between three or four sound environment settings.

MDHearingAid successfully sold their PRO model on Amazon.com for several years; however, after Amazon.com implemented changes and could no longer support MDHearingAid’s customer service and 45-day risk-free 100% money back guarantee, MDHearingAid stopped using their platform to sell their products. During their time on Amazon.com, MDHearingAid received high ratings and was the top-selling hearing aid on Amazon.com.

Of all the top-rated hearing aids on our list, MDHearingAids are the only brand that can be purchased from their website. This does mean, however, they are not fitted by a hearing aid professional or a licensed audiologist. Instead, after the customer receives their hearing aids, they receive ongoing customer support at no extra charge, online and over the phone. They have an in-house audiologist who offers email support and recommendations based on your hearing test. You can email audiologist with future questions as well. MDHearingAid also offers free one-on-one phone support with their customer care team.

Pros
  • Cost
  • 45-day risk-free 100% money back guarantee
Cons
  • You make adjustments yourself
  • Few models and features
  • Short, 90-day warranty

Pricing

MDHearingAid hearing aids start under $200 and go as high as $800 per device. Of all the top rated brands we have evaluated, MDHearingAid offers substantially lower prices for all their hearing aid models.

The Bottom Line

MDHearingAid delivers FDA-registered hearing aids right to your door. By selling directly to the consumer, they’ve made the hearing aid buying process quicker and easier without sacrificing hearing device quality and customer service. Their warranty is short compared to other brands and you make adjustments to hearing aids yourself which may be difficult for someone with limited dexterity.

10. Rexton
Ease of useAverage
EquipmentAverage
Service & ResponseAverage
Features & TechAverage
Pricing

Overview

Since 1956, Rexton has offered consumers an exceptionally wide range of hearing aid products. Their current offerings include digital hearing aids, custom and faceplate sales. Their product line is divided into two separate divisions, Essential E1 and TruCore. Both contain practically every type of hearing aid style. For users who want the convenience of not having to replace batteries, they also offer a device with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Stellar-Li.

Rexton is known for the technological innovations of their products, including dedicated music enhancers, reverb cancellation and real-time audio transmissions between both ears. Many of their models also offer Bluetooth & internet connectivitiy, tinnitus maskers, directional microphones and the capability of programming your hearing aid through a mobile device.

Rexton has been manufacturing hearing aids for more than sixty years. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Rexton believes hearing aids are a sophisticated medical device; and as such, should be fitted and serviced by a hearing health professional or a licensed audiologist.

Pros
  • Technologically innovative
  • Proven 60 years of service
  • A wide range of products
Cons
  • Their website is sparse on information

Pricing

Pricing of a Rexton product can only be learned by meeting with a hearing professional or audiologist. A person cannot buy products directly from Rexton. Therefore, we can only surmise that their products fall in line with the typical range of true hearing aids – $1,000 to $4,000 per device.

The Bottom Line

Rexton has remained consistently at the forefront of the hearing aid industry and has provided quality hearing aid products for more than sixty years. They have been at the cutting edge technologically and have an exceptionally wide range of hearing aid products. Rexton has a great reputation; however, their website offers little information about their prices, after-sale support and additional services and features. They prefer their products to be backed (warranty and after services) and sold by hearing health professionals and licensed audiologists.  Customers who prefer this route find that Rexton will serve their needs.

What Seniors Should Know About Hearing Aids

It’s estimated that 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss. Thirty-three percent of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 report hearing difficulties. By the age of 75, approximately half of all seniors report hearing loss according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Hearing loss is serious and can have serious repercussions. There is mounting evidence that hearing loss, left untreated, is linked to depression and a decline in memory and concentration, and perhaps even dementia.

How to Pick the Best Hearing Aid

With so many brands of hearing aids, and each brand offering sometimes more than 20 models, it can be difficult to determine which hearing aid is best for you.

Here are a few factors you may want to consider when it’s comes time to purchase a hearing aid.

  • Brand accessibility – Your options may be limited if certain brands aren’t accessible in your area.
  • Hearing loss severity – The hearing aid you choose should be able to provide adequate amplification. If your hearing loss is severe, you need one that can produce higher sound levels.
  • Lifestyle – If your lifestyle frequently takes you to more complex listening environments, you may need to purchase a hearing aid that has higher technology levels. Advanced hearing aids are designed to meet the needs of those who have a more active lifestyle.
  • Ability to hear speech in noise – Hearing aids are likely to help you in noisy environments if you perform well with speech in noise testing with amplification. This testing should be performed at every hearing evaluation.
  • Important features – After discussing your listening needs and concerns, your hearing health professional should be able to help you find the hearing aid that has the features that will provide you with the greatest benefit and most satisfaction.
  • Best practices – Unless your hearing care professional provides real ear measurement testing, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive the most from your hearing aid, any hearing aid, even if it’s top-of-the-line.

Keep in mind that your hearing professional has been trained to help you better understand the options that are available to you.

How Hearing Aids Work

Although it can’t reverse hearing loss, a hearing aid can drastically improve your hearing by amplifying sounds and reducing background noise. A hearing aid is composed of three parts – a microphone, an amplifier and a speaker.

Hearing aids work by collecting sound, analyzing and adjusting it to accommodate factors like levels of hearing loss, surrounding sound levels and listening requirements. Then it delivers the adapted sound back to the ears. Hearing aids have a learning curve when it comes to learning how to use them and acclimating to the way noises sound, but the payoffs can be significant.

The most common types of hearing aids and common abbreviations include:

  • Open fit
  • BTE – behind-the-ear
  • RITA – receiver-in-the-aid
  • RITE – receiver-in-the-ear
  • RIC – receiver-in-canal
  • ITC – in-the-canal
  • ITE – in-the-ear
  • CIC – completely-in-the-canal
  • CRT canal receiver technology

Each type has clear-cut advantages and disadvantages. For example, smaller hearing aids may be less noticeable and enable the consumer to feel less self-conscious, but they often lack advanced functionality, such as volume control or directional mics. Additionally, seniors who have problems with fine motor skills experience difficulties changing the small batteries they require.

There are two types of hearing aids – analog and digital – and each of them works differently.

Analog Hearing Aids

With analog hearing aids, sound waves are converted into electrical signals that are then amplified. Analog/adjustable are personalized to satisfy the specific requirements of each customer. It’s programmed by the manufacturer to the audiologist’s recommended specifications. Analog/programmable hearing aids have more than one program or setting. Using a computer, the audiologist programs the device. Analog/programmable hearing aids enable you to change the program for different listening environments, quickly and easily. Analog hearing aids are typically less expensive than digital hearing aids.

Digital Hearing Aids

Digital hearing aids transform sound waves into numerical codes (kind of like a computer’s binary code) before amplifying them. Using the information contained in the code, the hearing aid is programmed to intensify some frequencies such as loudness and pitch. A hearing professional can adjust the hearing aid’s digital circuitry to accommodate certain listening environments and to further adapt the device to the consumer’s needs.

Digital Hearing Aid Styles

In a 2018 survey, 71% of Consumer Reports members said they wore the mini-behind-the-ear style. Digital hearing aids come in five common styles.

mBTE (Mini-Behind-the-Ear) Hearing Aid

The mBTE includes various types of hearing aids including RIC, RITE, RITA and CRT. With these devices, the receiver (the speaker that transfers sound to the inner ear) is located in the ear canal. These devices are attached to the ear with a thin wire and an earmold (soft material that fits snugly in the ear and channels sound) that is custom-made or with a non-custom-made dome-style ear-canal piece.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Discrete
  • Larger styles are easier to insert
  • Prevents plugged-up feeling

Cons

  • Doesn’t permit significant amplification, particularly in low frequencies
  • Moisture buildup (such as sweat) and wax can limit the life of the receiver

BTE (Behind-the-Ear) Hearing Aid

With traditional BTE hearing aids, all electronic components reside in a plastic case situated behind the ear. Sound is transmitted through tubing that connects a custom earmold located in the ear canal and its receiver to the plastic case.

Pros

  • Effective for severe hearing loss
  • Accommodates larger batteries for more power
  • Flexible features
  • Significant low- and high-frequency amplification
  • Controls are easier to manipulate on larger models
  • Custom-made earmold is easily cleaned
  • Due to a snug fit, feedback is rare

Cons

  • Vulnerable to moisture (such as sweat) and wax buildup
  • Some molds are visible
  • Can cause a plugged-up feeling

ITE (In-the-Ear) Hearing Aid

All electronic components reside inside the case that rests in the bowl of the outer ear.

Pros

  • Fairly easy to insert
  • More room for features
  • Less plugged-up feeling when the device is vented

Cons

  • Devices may be more visible
  • Telecoil may not be as powerful (compared to BTE hearing aids)

CIC (Completely-in-the-Canal) Hearing Aid

The entire device is located deep inside the ear canal and is removed with a removal string.

Pros

  • Low visibility
  • Fits deep and tight in the ear canal
  • When used with a phone, provides minimal feedback
  • Less sensitive to wind noise

Cons

  • Vulnerable to moisture and wax buildup
  • Too small for a directional microphone
  • May cause a plugged-up feeling, unless vented
  • Small battery with short battery life
  • Small size can make it hard to handle and adjust

ITC (In-the-Canal) Hearing Aid

Although not as discrete at the CIC hearing aid, the ITC hearing aid remains barely visible.

Pros

  • Barely visible
  • Less plugged-up feeling than CIC hearing aid
  • Larger devices may include directional microphones

Cons

  • Some people experience discomfort
  • Vulnerable to moisture (such as sweat) and wax buildup
  • May cause a plugged-up feeling, unless vented
  • Small battery with short battery life
  • Small size can make it difficult to handle and adjust

Adjusting to the Hearing Aid

When you first begin to wear a hearing aid, noises can sound strange to you. Remember to give yourself time to adjust to your hearing aid. In the long run, it will be worth it. Do everyday activities as you adjust to your new hearing aid. Some sounds might seem loud at first because your brain is processing sounds it hasn’t heard in a while. If you’re not sure your hearing aid is working as well as it should, consider taking it in for an adjustment. This is especially important if your ear feels clogged or your voice sounds strange.

Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance

Ongoing maintenance is required to keep your hearing aids working at the levels they are intended. Make sure to select a hearing aid company that backs their products, provides customer support, offers ongoing service and provides a warranty or guarantee. Ongoing service ensures your hearing aids will better deliver the sounds you need to hear.

Proper care and maintenance will extend the life of your hearing aid; therefore, you should make a habit to:

  • Clean hearing aids as instructed on a daily basis
  • Turn hearing aids off when not in use
  • Keep hearing aids away from moisture and heat
  • Don’t use hairspray or other hair care products while wearing hearing aids
  • Immediately replace dead batteries
  • Keep hearing aids and their batteries away from pets and children

Approximately every seven to ten years, your hearing may change. This means that your hearing aids may need to be reprogrammed to continue providing the best hearing experience.

Top Features of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids no longer have to be clunky devices that whistle, pop and distort the sound of your voice. If you haven’t looked at hearing aids recently, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that modern hearing aids have many incredible features, and with some models, someone may not be aware that you’re even wearing one. Today’s hearing aid is smaller and more user-friendly than ever before.

Fifty-three percent of people who wear hearing aids indicate that rechargeable batteries are most important to them when looking for a new hearing aid. Forty-two percent indicate that automatic noise level adjustment is important. Forty-three percent felt that tinnitus masking or smartphone capabilities are very important. Multiple program settings were important to 41%. Thirty-seven said wireless connectivity to other devices was important to them.

Let’s look at some of the top features that make wearing a hearing aid so much more different than it was just a few years ago, then you decide which is most important to you.

Digital Noise / Feedback Reduction

Provides a crisp, natural listening experience. Filters out background noise from speech and the environment, preventing communication issues while also providing the rich sounds of nature.

Directional Microphones

Directional microphones make the person talking right (the audio signal) in front of you louder than noises coming from your rear or sides. They work best when you’re near the sound source. With directional mics you can tune out the noise around you, isolating the sound of the person you are talking to. Advanced models can focus behind and to your sides as well. Directional mics come with a negative – they’re prone to pick up wind noise.

Multiple Channels

Hearing aids featuring multiple channels allow you to customize the equalizer in the hearing aid for peak listening quality in a particular environment. After saving the setting for later use, you simply return to the saved channel when you find yourself in the same or a similar environment. This reduces the time you find yourself adjusting your hearing aids in public.

Bluetooth Streaming

These features allow you to connect to countless audio sources with the push of a button, causing high-quality audio to be streamed directly into your ear. This is accomplished by pairing your hearing aids with a smartphone, television, laptop or other device using built-in Bluetooth technology.

Telecoil / T-Switch

The Telecoil / T-Switch feature enables you to connect to an audio induction loop, or hearing loop, in places of worship, museums, sporting arenas, concert halls, conference rooms, taxis, subway trains and more. Consider asking for a manual T-switch which will enable a seamless connection to loop systems.

The Assisted Listening Device Locator provides a list of locations in the United States that offers hearing loops.

Automatic Programming

Automatic programming allows your hearing aid to analyze the acoustics of an environment and make automatic adjustments. With the help of AI (Artificial Intelligence), your hearing aid learns your lifestyle and listening habits, then makes automatic adjustments for you, providing crystal-clear sound. Automatic Programming is currently only available on higher-end devices.

Binaural Processing

When you’re fitted with two hearing aids, binaural processing causes both devices to communicate and synchronize their settings with each other. For example, if the wind is blowing in your left ear, both hearing aids will mirror the clearer audio signal of the right ear into both devices.

Feedback Suppression

Feedback suppression, also referred to as digital feedback reduction, helps to suppress high-pitched whistling sounds. Most modern devices have this feature, but it’s more effective for some devices than others. It helps to minimize feedback when your device is slightly dislodged when you move your jaw or when close to a telephone. Some users experience greater comfort, better sound and more venting. A properly fitted hearing aid is less likely to have feedback.

Digital Noise Reduction

Digital Noise Reduction blocks out some background noise in noisy environments. It doesn’t work in all situations.

Costs and Paying for Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are a serious investment, some costing as much as $10,000 and more per pair depending upon which brand, device and features you choose. The overall average price paid for a single hearing aid is around $2,300. That’s $4,600 for a pair. Most people require a pair.

Be sure to also look for hidden costs. When comparing hearing aids and their brands, check out the following to make sure you understand the real cost:

  • Warranties – what is covered and length of coverage
  • Trial periods
  • Cost of ongoing office visits and services
  • Features

Be sure to ask about bundled services. It might save you some money.

Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of any hearing aid devices. They do, however, cover the cost of diagnostic evaluations for specific diagnostic purposes if they’re ordered by a doctor to assist in the development of a treatment plan. Some Medicare supplement plans and Medicare Advantage plans do offer limited hearing aid benefits. Additionally, some states provide medical assistance for hearing aids and veterans may be eligible to receive hearing aids free of charge.

Some organizations, such as the Miracle-Ear Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, provide hearing aids to those who cannot financially afford the cost of the devices. Other nonprofit organizations offer financial assistance in the purchase of hearing aids. And others may provide refurbished or used devices.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Information Clearinghouse provides information and resources, including financial assistance for hearing aids.