Top Hearing Aids for Seniors
Based on nearly 30 years of clinical experience fitting hearing aids from all manufacturers, and hands-on testing of the latest product lines, I rated each provider based on total user experience taking into account fit, affordability, effectiveness, and technology.
The features listed are an aggregate of features available in a given manufacturer’s current line of products, but may not be present at all price points. For a detailed description of each feature, click here.
|Hearing Aid Company||Hearing Loss||STD Warranty||Max Warranty||Return Option||Rechargeable||Zinc Air||LiON Charge Time||LiON Life Stream 50%||LiON Life Mic||Self Test||Internet Sale||Remote Support||Remote Control||TV Streamer||Remote Mic||T-Coil||iOS App||Android App||Tinnitus App||Financing|
|Audicus||Mild to Moderate||1 year||2 years||45 Days||Yes||Yes||3 hours||24 hours||24 hours||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Beltone||Mild to Moderate||1 year||3 years||30 Days||Yes||Yes||3 hours||24 hours||30 hours||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||External|
|Eargo||Mild to Moderate||1 year||1 year||45 Days||Yes||No||6 hours||N/A||16 hours||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||Bread, Ally, Care Credit|
|GN ReSound||Severe to Profound||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||3 hours||24 hours||30 hours||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||By office|
|MD Hearing Aid||Mild to Moderate||90 days||2 years||45 Days||Yes||Yes||3.5 hours||N/A||18 hours||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||Affirm|
|Miracle Ear||Mild to Moderate||3 years||By office||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||3 Hours||19 hours||16 hours||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No||By office|
|Oticon||Moderate to Severe||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||3 hours||Depends on use||24 hours||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||By office|
|Phonak||Severe to Profound||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||2 hours||11 hours||24 hours||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||By office|
|Signia||Moderate to Severe||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||3 hours||19 hours||16 hours||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||By office|
|Starkey||Moderate to Severe||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||3 hours||Depends on use||20 hours||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lively||Mild to Moderate||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||3 hours||24 hours||16 hours||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||By office|
|Widex||Moderate to Severe||1 year||3 years||Varies by state||Yes||Yes||4 hours||Reduced||16 hours||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||By office|
I get asked all the time, “what’s the best hearing aid?” As I used to say to my university students, it depends. When meeting with patients in the clinic, I try to get an idea about their areas of greatest need and then attempt to match features with those needs. Manufacturers print out “Lifestyle Guides” which are in reality sales tools to steer folks into the highest technology level they can afford. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s not at all scientific.
In addition to traditional hearing evaluation, I also perform two additional measures for those considering hearing aids. The Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit (APHAB 2) was developed by Cox and Alexander at the University of Memphis in 1995. This 24 item questionnaire helps me identify the amount of difficulty in four types of listening: Quiet settings (Ease or Listening or EC), Reverberation (RV), Background Noise (BN), and Aversiveness to loud sounds (AV). These scores can then be compared to a normative database of others with and without hearing loss. The APHAB is available as a PDF download and is also included in the Noah hearing aid software system that nearly all brick and mortar dispensing locations use.
When I look at these scores, I draw lines to specific hearing aid features as follows:
About three weeks after the initial fitting, I repeat the APHAB, and ideally, all the high scores are lower. If not, then I got some of the feature-matching incorrect.
After the APHAB, I also perform a Quick Speech in Noise (Quick SIN) test 3. This recorded test presents short sentences with increasing amounts of background noise, similar to what you’d hear at a pre-COVID cocktail party. This test is available as a stand-alone CD and is also built into several popular audiometers. The scoring recommends features that match up with the “Signal to Noise Ratio Loss (SNR Loss). Like the APHAB, I repeat the Quick SIN once the hearing aids have been fitted.
Another big part of my evaluation is to look at dexterity and how tech-savvy the client is. The first guides discussion about device size, shape, and power (zinc-air vs. rechargeable). The second opens the door to the discussion of smartphone apps.
Finally, I look at how much tinnitus the patient has and how troublesome it is. I use the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory to measure this before and after addressing it. The American Tinnitus Association has a great online version 4. This score maps to tinnitus sound generators and smartphone apps.
Looking at these factors, I tend to group potential hearing aid users into four categories:
If you’ve gotten this far, you know that level of hearing loss is an important consideration.
Within each category, there are financial considerations. While I don’t think very many people actively look for ways to spend the most they can for technology, yes, there are folks for whom typical prices are not a real issue. I know of no research that correlates financial resources with the above categories of patient need, so I’ll just leave the pricing and financing information in each summary for your review.
All hearing aids provide at least a “parts and labor” type of standard warranty. In traditional hearing aids, this has almost universally been one year from the date of fitting. With new companies getting into the game via internet sales, we’re starting to see shorter standard warranties.
In addition to “if it’s broke, please fix it” coverage, most companies also offer a one-time replacement for loss or damage beyond repair (e.g., dog eats it, Hearing aid vs. lawnmower, etc.) historically called “Loss and Damage: or “L&D.” This typically mirrors the length of the repair warranty. It is not uncommon for there to be a deductible for filing an L&D claim of a few hundred dollars per instrument. If a claim for loss is fulfilled and then the original device is found, it should be surrendered to the manufacturer. If you send that device in for service, it will often be confiscated.
Most traditional companies allow you to purchase additional years of both repair and L&D coverage.
Sometimes referred to as a trial period, this ability to cancel the sale and obtain a refund is included in all US state hearing aid sales statutes. Internet-based sales also offer this return option. In a traditional sales model, it is typical for the dispenser to retain a portion of the sale price to cover the time spent between the sale and the return under the assumption that they tried to “get it right” before you cancel the transaction. The maximum ammonium retained is dictated by stature and detailed on the original sale agreement.
Also called “made for iPhone,” this feature allows the hearing aid to stream telephone and audio directly from an Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Mac to the hearing aid using the Bluetooth LE protocol without the need for an intermediary device.
Also called “made for iPhone” this feature allows the hearing aid to stream telephone and audio directly from Android-based smartphones and tablets to the hearing aid using the Bluetooth LE protocol without the need for an external device. At this point, only Phonak can stream to their devices using the “Bluetooth Classic” protocol. Looking at the full range of small, inexpensive Bluetooth LE earbuds on the consumer electronics market, I expect more companies to crack this nut soon.
The products listed above as rechargeable use Lithium-Ion batteries and plug-in chargers to power the hearing aids.
Zinc Air is the traditional power cell used in hearing aids. They are available from dispensers at retail stores and on the Internet, usually at a cost of less than one dollar per cell. Depending on the size, expect them to last between 3 and 14 days.
This is the manufacturer’s reported time to deliver a full charge to the hearing aids.
This number is the manufacturer’s reported use time when using the hearing aids to listen through their onboard microphones as well as stream audio wirelessly. This was generally reported based on 50% of the time streaming, but was often a very vague “it depends.”
This number is the reported use time without streaming. Note that some consumer literature will indicate this as “all-day,” but dispensers have access to a more precise number if needed.
This indicates if the manufacturer offers a Completely In Canal device that uses a stock sleeve, allowing you to buy it and walk away the same day. Those without this designation will require an ear impression and at least a few days to make and ship a custom CIC.
If the manufacturer offers a self-test, either online or within a smartphone app, they will have this box ticked.
Traditional hearing aids are sold through brick-and-mortar offices. Those with this indicator also, or in some cases, exclusively sell their products online.
All hearing aid companies have websites and toll-free numbers, but this indicates the ability for a dispenser to adjust your hearing aids remotely either via the internet or by sending changes to your hearing aids through a secure connection to your smartphone app.
This indicates that the manufacturer offers a physical remote control for at least some of their hearing aids.
This indicates that a device is available to connect to your TV that streams the audio signal wirelessly to your hearing aids.
This indicates the availability of a remote microphone to capture voices and stream them to your hearing aids.
This indicates that at least one device in the manufacturer’s current line up offers a telecoil, which is a universal receiver for hearing loops and other electromagnetic inductance audio systems. These need to be activated and adjusted by the dispenser at the fitting to work correctly.
The availability of one or more applications for iPhone, iPad, or iPods. These apps provide a variety of functions, including remote control, education, rehabilitation, and tinnitus management.
The availability of one or more applications for Android-based smartphones and tablets. These apps provide a variety of functions, including remote control, education, rehabilitation, and tinnitus management.
Information about the availability of payment plans and other financial assistance for the purchase of hearing aids.
Hearing loss often takes place because of an obstruction in the canal of the ear. This can come about as a result of ear infections in which the canal experiences swelling. It’s also not uncommon for benign tumors to cause hearing loss. The good news is, an obstruction in the ear canal can often be removed by a professional hearing specialist. Once removed, your hearing may return to normal without any need for a hearing aid.
If you experience hearing loss because of inner ear damage that impacts your sensory hair cells, you will most likely need a hearing aid to improve your hearing. Such hearing loss is often caused by medications, being exposed to loud noises for extended periods of time, illnesses, injuries, or age.
Important to note is that it is completely normal for you to experience hearing loss as you age. This is known as presbycusis hearing loss. You can improve this type of hearing loss with the use of one or more hearing aids.
Before shopping for a hearing aid, you should ask yourself if your hearing loss is impacting your daily life. Are you able to keep up with your regular lifestyle? Can you communicate well with others? Do your family members notice that you aren’t hearing as well as you used to? Your answers to these questions will directly impact whether you need a hearing aid. You can also have an audiologist check your hearing to see whether your hearing loss needs treatment through the use of hearing aids.
The severity of your hearing loss combined with the type of hearing aid you choose to wear will impact how long it takes you to adjust to wearing a hearing aid. And while it is the ear that collects the noises going on around you, it is your brain that translates those sounds into something that you recognize. If you don’t treat hearing loss, it may become worse and can lead to atrophy in the auditory part of your brain. It is always important to wear your hearing aids as described by your doctor as this will improve the odds of the device being able to improve your hearing loss.
Hearing aids available on the market today come with either disposable (button) or rechargeable batteries. Devices with disposable batteries tend to be the most popular, however, many manufacturers are starting to produce more hearing aids with rechargeable battery options.
Hearing aid devices that are rechargeable have the batteries built directly into them. The batteries recharge by docking the hearing aid on a charging dock, much the same as charging a smartphone. If you opt for a hearing aid with disposable batteries, you will have to replace the batteries when they go dead. You may think you can simply switch out disposable batteries for rechargeable ones, but there’s a chance your hearing aid device isn’t compatible with a charging station. If you want a hearing aid device that comes with rechargeable batteries, make sure to purchase one that is specifically designed to work with charging stations.
In most cases, it’s better to wear two hearing aids. This is especially of benefit if you find yourself in noisy environments a lot. With two hearing aids, the signal reaching your ears will arrive at slightly different times, which helps the brain more easily process the speech signal. Plus, if you wear only one hearing aid and sound is coming to you from the other side, then much of the speech signal is lost once it reaches the ear without the hearing aid. This means you may hear two different things. And lastly, with only one hearing aid, you may have a difficult time determining sources of sound, which can alter your sense of direction.
Hearing aids differ in prices, with much of the cost being determined by the technology used in each device. A hearing aid that boasts some of today’s most advanced technology and features will, of course, cost more than a device that only makes use of basic hearing aid technology. On average, though, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 per hearing aid device. If you need a pair of hearing aids, you should plan to spend $3,000 to $7,000.
Living with Tinnitus can greatly hinder your quality of life, particularly when it comes to enjoying your surroundings and being fully aware of all the sounds around you. Many people with Tinnitus wear hearing aids because they suffer from hearing loss, and lots of them notice improvements in their symptoms. The devices allow them to hear sounds they miss due to the Tinnitus ringing. And because of the ability to better hear all sounds going on around them, this minimizes Tinnitus symptoms.
You have several options to check into when paying for hearing aids. If you have Medicare, the only way it will cover hearing aid-related expenses is if you have Medicare Part B and your doctor makes you go through a diagnostic hearing exam that indicates you need a hearing aid. And still, Medicare Part B is only going to cover about 80% of your exam and test costs. It will not cover the cost of the hearing aid device.
You can, however, possibly tap into financial assistance for a hearing aid if you have Medicare Advantage. It is very important to understand your policy to determine whether it will help with the cost of hearing aids, including the tests, exams, and devices. When you buy a Medicare Advantage plan, make sure to speak with an insurance specialist to ensure you pick a plan that will help cover the cost of your hearing aids. And once you plan to use the insurance for hearing aids, make sure to use an in-network doctor as this will help keep your out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum.
If you’re a veteran, you may be able to get the entire cost of your hearing aids covered through the Veteran’s Administration. You can go by one of your local VA Medical Facility to register with the VA as well as to speak with a representative about whether your VA coverage applies to hearing aids.
Most hearing aids last anywhere from four to 10 years. However, just because you purchase a hearing aid with a 10-year expected lifespan doesn’t necessarily mean you will want to use it for that long. About every five years, hearing aid technology becomes much more advanced. This is why a lot of people get new hearing aids every five years.
A hearing aid may or may not come with a trial period. You should shop for ones that do because during the trial period, you can make a decision for yourself as to whether or not you want to return the hearing aid. You should ask yourself whether the hearing aid helps or hurts your hearing loss. If it hurts it, then return the hearing aid device before the trial is over.
As a practicing audiologist since the 1990’s, Brad Ingrao, AuD has fitted thousands of hearing aids to seniors and people of all ages. Brad is the Official Audiologist for the International Committee on Sports for the Deaf and a well-known speaker. Dr…. Learn More About Brad Ingrao
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt