Close

The Complete Hearing Aids Buyer’s Guide for 2022

Aug 15, 2022

By Cara Henderson, MS, RDN
Medically Reviewed by Brad Ingrao, AuD
Fact Checked

Affiliate Disclosure
This content and its featured products and services were independently reviewed by a third-party, credentialed Reviews Team. If you make a purchase using the links included, our partners may earn a commission. NCOA, however, does not receive a commission for purchases.

Key Takeaways

  • Hearing aids cost anywhere from $90 to $7,000 per pair, depending on style and features.
  • Hearing aid companies offer a wide range of hearing devices to address many different types of hearing loss, needs, lifestyles, and budgets.
  • New technology such as automatic sound adjustments and background noise reduction have greatly improved how effective hearing aids are at treating hearing loss.
  • When buying hearing aids, consider criteria such as your degree and type of hearing loss, your budget, and what features you want.

If you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of hearing loss, but haven’t purchased hearing aids yet, know you’re not alone. The World Health Organization estimates that 432 million adults worldwide have hearing loss severe enough to need treatment.1 Yet people wait, on average, 10 years before getting help for hearing loss, usually due to perceived stigma and high cost, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.2 And while hearing loss affects people of all ages, it becomes more common later in life. Research shows almost 25% of people aged 65 to 74 and 50% of people over the age of 75 have disabling hearing loss.3 

But the good news is hearing aids can help, and we created this consumer’s guide to hearing aids to help you choose the right hearing aid for your needs.

Making the decision to seek help for hearing loss is a big step, and you may feel overwhelmed when faced with so many hearing aid options and confusing hearing aid buying guides. 

Although hearing aids are complex devices, our hearing aids buyer’s guide will walk you through the various hearing aid types, costs, and features, so you can learn how to choose the best hearing aid. We’ll also walk you through the process of buying hearing aids and give you tips for saving money along the way.

Why you can trust our expert review

5,300
Hours of Research
12
Experts Consulted
18
Brands Considered
95
Models Considered
12
Models Selected

Our Reviews Team recommends products and services we believe provide value in the lives of our readers. We’ve spent more than 5,000 hours conducting in-depth research on hearing aid devices to give you the most accurate hearing aid reviews. To make these selections, we:

  • Consulted with audiologists and geriatric care experts
  • Mystery shopped 18 brands
  • Selected 12 models as best hearing aids
  • Surveyed hundreds of hearing aid users
  • Tested various models of hearing aids
  • Interviewed experts in the field
  • Read thousands of verified customer reviews

Read more about our hearing aid review methodology here.

What are hearing aids?

Hearing aids are battery-powered devices worn behind or inside the ear to amplify sounds based on the individual hearing abilities of the user.4 While they cannot cure hearing loss, the right hearing aids can significantly improve your ability to hear and participate in conversations.

Hearing aids vs. hearing amplifiers

Hearing aids are not the same as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), which are also called hearing amplifiers or sound amplifiers. The FDA classifies hearing aids as medical devices and regulates them for safety, while PSAPs are not regulated at all.5

While hearing aids amplify only certain sounds to improve your hearing, PSAPs amplify all sounds equally. They are often worn for recreational purposes, such as birdwatching, to allow the user to hear everything more easily. 

How do hearing aids work?

Let’s take a look at the working parts of a hearing aid and the two major types of hearing devices: analog hearing aids and digital hearing aids.

Parts of a hearing aid

Hearing aids consist of three main parts:

  • Microphone: Captures sound waves as they enter your outer ear
  • Amplifier: Converts the sound waves into electrical or digital signals (depending on the type of hearing aid) and then amplifies them
  • Receiver (or speaker): Sends the amplified sounds down your ear canal

Every hearing aid also includes either a disposable or rechargeable battery for power. Disposable batteries need to be changed every three days to three weeks, while rechargeable batteries can last up to five years before replacement.

Analog vs. digital hearing aids

Analog hearing aids were developed in the early 1900s with the same technology Alexander Graham Bell used when he invented the telephone.6 By converting sound waves into electronic signals, amplifying them, and converting the amplified signals back into sound waves, analog hearing aids improved the user’s ability to hear.

The Nicolet corporation began selling the first fully digital hearing aid in 1987. It was much larger than modern hearing aids, with a pocket-sized processing unit that was connected by a cord to a behind-the-ear hearing aid. This model was not very popular with customers, but it did pave the way for the development of better digital hearing aids.7 

Nine years passed before a smaller, more practical digital hearing aid was developed by Widex in 1996. From then on, sales of digital hearing aids quickly surpassed analog devices. By 2005, digital hearing aids accounted for 80% of the hearing aid market share, and today nearly all hearing aids are digital.8 

Digital hearing aids have a tiny computer chip inside that analyzes and processes millions of sound waves into digital signals, then back into amplified sound waves that you can hear clearly.9

Along with more accurate sound processing compared to analog devices, digital hearing aids come with advanced features that are popular among hearing aid users. For example, a common feature of many digital devices is digital noise reduction, which was the most important feature people wanted in their hearing aid according to our Reviews Team’s 2022 survey. 

Some digital hearing aids also have the ability to wirelessly connect to other devices (like TVs and smartphones) with Bluetooth, so you can listen to music or watch movies through your hearing aids. Like analog devices, digital hearing aids can be programmed for specific hearing loss profiles.

Types of hearing aids

There are four main types of hearing aids, each with a different size and feel. Learning about each one can help you make an informed decision while you’re shopping for hearing aids.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

Traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids were the first “modern” style developed by hearing aid manufacturers, beginning in the early 1950s.10 All of the BTE’s working parts fit inside a curved plastic piece that sits behind and over your ear. A small tube carrying the amplified sound runs from the outer piece behind your ear to a mold that is made to fit into your ear canal. In the past, these earmolds completely filled the ear opening. The point of this design was to block out other noises that weren’t amplified by the hearing aid, but for some users this tight seal creates a feeling of being plugged up. Newer BTE earmolds can be made with vents that allow for relief from the pressure.

A newer style of BTE is the open-fit hearing aid (also called “thin tube BTEs”), which is smaller than the traditional BTE style. Open-fit devices sit completely behind the ear, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal.11 This design allows the ear canal to remain open, a feeling some people prefer over the original BTE style. People whose ears produce a lot of wax tend to have better success with open-fit hearing aids, because traditional ear molds can be damaged by earwax over time.

Types of hearing loss addressed

BTE hearing aids can address every level of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They are also often used for children due to their durability.

Pros Durable Capable of addressing any degree of hearing loss Can be worn by people of all ages Less likely to be damaged by moisture or earwax inside the ear, which can result in a longer life and fewer repairs Larger size makes BTE devices easier to handle and change batteries
Cons Tend to be larger and more noticeable than other hearing aid styles At around 6 grams (just under the weight of a quarter), may feel too heavy for some people Traditional BTE devices can create a “plugged” feeling due to the earmold filling the ear canal. But a properly fitted BTE device with a vent in the earmold can minimize this feeling

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids

Receiver-in-canal hearing aid showing how it fits over the ear and how deep the receiver goes into the canal

Receiver-in-canal (RIC), also known as receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids, were first produced in 2003 by Oticon.

The part of an RIC hearing aid that contains the microphone and amplifier rests behind the ear and a tiny receiver/speaker that goes into the ear canal rather than a mold that fills up the ear opening. They are lighter than traditional BTE styles, weighing about 2 grams (about the weight of a dime).

Types of hearing loss addressed

RIC hearing aids can address mild to severe hearing loss.

Pros Usually produce less feedback than BTE models because the receiver is farther away from the microphone Lighter than BTE hearing aids Smaller and less visible than BTE hearing aids Allows ear canal to remain open, preventing a plugged feeling
Cons Receiver is susceptible to deterioration from moisture and earwax May be harder to manipulate than the larger BTE devices

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids

Traditional in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids came along in 1977 with the invention of smaller microphones and receivers, as well as a new type of battery called a zinc-air battery. Not only were zinc-air batteries safer than the old mercury batteries, they were also better for the environment and had a longer shelf-life. 

ITE devices sit completely in the ear, with all of the parts contained inside a plastic case that is custom-made to fit the shape of your ear. One company that makes ITE hearing aids with advanced technology is Phonak.    

Types of hearing loss addressed

ITE hearing aids are designed to treat mild to severe hearing loss.

Pros Less visible than BTE hearing aids, since the entire device is in the ear More space inside (compared to smaller CIC hearing aids) for high-tech parts such as directional microphones, Bluetooth, and telecoil
Cons Requires custom-fitting by a hearing aid professional ITE hearing aids may be more visible than RIC models, since the entire device sits in the ear (rather than part of it hidden behind the ear)

Completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid

Completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids are a variation on the slightly larger in-canal hearing devices developed in 1983. CIC hearing aids came on the market ten years later in 1993. One of the first manufacturers was Starkey, a company that still produces quality hearing aids.

CIC devices are barely noticeable in the ear. In fact, one version called the invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aid truly is virtually invisible when positioned in the ear. In-canal hearing aids have a short string that hangs out of the ear canal (but still out-of-sight) for removal of the device. They are very lightweight too; some weigh as little as 1 gram, the same weight as a paper clip.

Widex, Signia, and Eargo all make direct-to-consumer CIC hearing aids. Among the customers who responded to our Reviews Team’s survey, Widex won for the most comfortable CIC hearing aid fit: only 10% said their Widex devices were uncomfortable to wear (compared to 41% of Signia and Eargo customers).

Types of hearing loss addressed

CIC hearing aids can address mild to moderately severe hearing loss.

Pros Smallest and least visible of all hearing aid types Do not require custom fitting like ITE models Not as susceptible to feedback from wind noise because they rest completely inside the ear canal
Cons Some (especially IIC devices) cannot accommodate a directional microphone, telecoil, or Bluetooth technology due to their small size Requires more frequent cleaning than other models, due to close proximity to moisture and earwax in the ear canal Can cause a plugged-up feeling since they rest deeply in the ear canal Often has a shorter battery life due to smaller battery size May be harder to handle for people with fine motor difficulties, like trembling or muscle fatigue

Who are hearing aids best for?

If you have symptoms of hearing loss, or your loved ones have suggested you might benefit from hearing aids, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Once your doctor has checked for any physical causes for your hearing loss, they can refer you to an audiologist (a health care professional who specializes in hearing loss) or a licensed hearing instrument specialist for an evaluation.12 

It’s possible to live with hearing loss and not even know it.13 Read on to see if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms that could point to hearing loss.  

Signs of hearing loss

According to the National Institute on Aging, the following are common signs of hearing loss:14

  • Asking others to repeat their sentences
  • Straining to hear conversations
  • Speaking loudly (or asking others to speak loudly)
  • Turning up the radio or TV above normal volume
  • Having difficulty understanding or hearing in noisy situations, such as restaurants

Most common types of hearing loss

Let’s take a look at the most common types of hearing loss and some of the hearing aids that can address each type. Keep in mind this article is not meant to serve as medical advice. If you are experiencing trouble hearing, especially if it’s accompanied by pain or other symptoms, contact your doctor or a hearing professional.

Hearing loss is divided into categories based on severity. The four levels of hearing loss are:15

    1. Mild: Difficulty hearing soft sounds
    2. Moderate: Problems with hearing any speech at a normal speaking volume
    3. Severe: Ability to hear only loud noises
    4. Profound: Inability to hear any speech; only very loud sounds are audible to the hearer

Along with classifying hearing loss by how severe it is, health care professionals can also diagnose hearing loss by type. While it’s not always possible to pinpoint what caused a person’s hearing loss, certain types often have common underlying causes. Read on to find out more about the various types of hearing loss and their treatments.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type in older adults. It usually affects both ears to a similar degree and is caused by damage to tiny cells (called hair cells) in the inner ear and/or the auditory nerve.16 

According to hearing experts, the top three underlying causes of sensorineural hearing loss are:

  • Aging
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noise
  • Head trauma

A subset of this type is sudden onset sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), in which a person loses hearing in one or both ears immediately, or within a few days of each other. Viruses, trauma, autoimmune disease, and several other diseases can cause sudden hearing loss. If you suddenly lose your ability to hear, see your doctor for treatment as soon as possible.17

SSNHL is usually permanent, but there are a wide range of hearing aids that can effectively treat it. Companies such as Starkey offer many styles, while Audien is known for affordable hearing devices that can fit most budgets. 

Conductive hearing loss

This type of hearing loss happens when sound waves cannot travel from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear. The following three causes are the most common:

  • Earwax buildup
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Punctured eardrum

Conductive hearing loss can often be successfully treated with hearing aids or surgery.18

Noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by exposure to loud noise. This is one of the leading types of hearing loss and it affects people of all ages.19 NIHL can be caused by either brief or prolonged exposure to noise, may be temporary or permanent, and can affect either one or both ears. 

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states exposure to noise above 85 decibels can cause NIHL over time. Here is its list of the decibel ratings of some common sounds:20

Table 1 Average decibel levels of common sounds

Sound

Decibel level

Normal conversation

60–70 dB

Movie theater

74–104 dB

Motorcycles, dirt bikes

80–110 dB

Sports events, concerts, music
in headphones at highest volume

94–110 dB

Sirens

110–129 dB

Fireworks display

140–160 dB

To protect your hearing, turn down the volume on electronics and move away from loud noise whenever you can. Hearing aids are effective at treating NIHL in most cases. 

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition characterized by ringing or buzzing sounds in one or both ears.21 People who experience tinnitus may have trouble hearing and/or concentrating due to the constant noise in their ears. 

Causes of tinnitus can include:

  • Repeated exposure to loud noises
  • The aging process
  • Certain medications that can damage the inner ear (such as antibiotics and some chemotherapy drugs)22

While no cure has been found for tinnitus, several companies have developed hearing aids specifically for this condition. They provide relief by masking tinnitus sounds, retraining your brain to not focus on them, and amplifying other sounds, so your tinnitus is less noticeable. A couple of options to look at if you have tinnitus are the Widex Moment and ReSound One.

Unilateral hearing loss

Unilateral (one-sided) hearing loss occurs when a person has normal hearing in one ear and some degree of hearing loss in the other ear.23 It may be a sign of injury, especially if the hearing loss occurs suddenly. In older adults, unilateral hearing loss can also be caused by infections or exposure to loud noise.

Both Phonak Paradise and Signia Silk X hearing aids offer solutions for unilateral hearing loss.

Bilateral hearing loss

Bilateral hearing loss, or the loss of hearing in both ears, is more common than unilateral loss. If you have bilateral hearing loss, you may still be able to hear better in one ear than the other, just as it’s common to have one eye that needs more correction than the other. 

Hearing professionals usually recommend two hearing aids for people with bilateral hearing loss, even if their hearing is significantly better in one ear than the other. This is because the amplified sounds from the device in each ear travel to the brain by unique pathways. As Dr. Rhee Rosenman-Nesson, doctor of audiology and founder of Hearing Doctors of New Jersey said, “your ears hear, but your brain is actually what processes and understands what is being heard.” 

Using the pathways from both ears (called binaural hearing) not only helps you hear and understand sounds better (and with less effort), it also retrains your brain for better comprehension over time.24 This is one of the ways hearing aids can help to improve brain function.

COVID hearing loss 

You may have heard of people who experienced hearing loss after having COVID-19. The Sars-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for causing the COVID-19 infection, can indeed damage the inner ear hair cells and lead to hearing loss. 

Research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2021 found COVID-related hearing loss among study participants had the following characteristics:25

  • Varied in severity from mild to profound
  • Was linked to tinnitus in nine out of ten patients
  • Was related to vertigo (dizziness) in six out of ten patients

If you notice a decline in your hearing after being sick with COVID-19, be sure to see a doctor and tell them about your hearing issues. If caught early enough, medications such as corticosteroids (a type of anti-inflammatory) can help prevent the progression of hearing loss caused by COVID-19.26

Hearing tests

Before choosing your hearing aids, it’s important to take a hearing test, also called an audiogram, to find out how severe your hearing loss is. Hearing tests can be conducted either in-person or online. 

In-person hearing tests

A man conducts an in-person hearing test wearing headphones while the audiologist administers the test at her keyboard

Hearing tests conducted by audiologists and other hearing specialists consist of three parts:

  1. Testing your ability to hear various sound frequencies and tones
  2. Checking the function of your middle ear, which moves sounds from the outer to the inner ear
  3. Assessing your ability to understand speech

The audiologist may also check for conditions such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears), trauma or diseases that could be causing your hearing loss, and your ability to hear in different situations.

Online hearing tests

A man takes an online hearing test wearing headphones and sitting in front of a computer

While not as thorough as in-person evaluations, online hearing tests can measure the severity of your hearing loss. These tests are popular and can help people with hearing loss get help sooner because they are free, take fewer than 10 minutes, and can be completed on your computer in the comfort of your home. 

Our Reviews Team took two online hearing tests in May 2022 on the Phonak and MDHearing websites. Both tests required them to wear headphones and sit in a quiet room with their computer volume turned up to 100%. A series of sounds were played in first the right, then the left ear, from low to high frequencies. When each sound was played, they were asked to turn the volume down until they couldn’t hear the sound at all. The Phonak test also included a short questionnaire asking about their ability to hear in different situations.

After both ears were tested, they were asked for their email addresses to receive their hearing reports and recommendations. The hearing reports indicated how well each ear could hear at different frequencies. They also included recommendations for next steps, such as seeing an audiologist, looking into hearing aids, or simply continuing to protect our hearing.

While online hearing tests can help determine your degree of hearing loss, only a test conducted in-person by a hearing professional can diagnose possible causes of hearing loss. If you are experiencing sudden problems hearing in one or both ears or you have any pain in your ears, contact your doctor or other health care provider for an appointment.

How to choose hearing aids

When researching how to choose the right hearing aid, think about the following factors:

Degree and type of hearing loss

Your degree and type of hearing loss will help determine which hearing aid you need. For example, people with severe or profound hearing loss may need a hearing aid that can be customized for the exact sounds they can’t hear. But if you have mild or moderate hearing loss, you will have a wider range of choices. See the section on hearing tests above for more information on having your hearing loss evaluated.

Lifestyle

Think about the activities you enjoy doing and what your typical day or week looks like. If you enjoy exercising and being outside, you may want to find a hearing aid that’s water-resistant. If social events are often on your calendar, a hearing aid that offers automatic sound adjustment for different environments, such as the Eargo 6, might be a good option.

Budget

Cost is an important factor for many customers when choosing a hearing aid. They can be quite expensive, and Medicare and private insurance don’t always cover the costs.

Our Reviews Team survey found that cost ranked as the number two most important most important consideration for the majority of customers when shopping for hearing aids, right behind how easy the devices were to set up and use. In the 2020 study mentioned at the beginning of this article, 50% of the study participants were diagnosed with hearing loss, but only 3.5% of them wore hearing aids.27 While there are many reasons why people who need hearing aids may not use them, cost is definitely one of the major factors.

In October 2021, the FDA proposed a rule to open the way for more affordable hearing aids that could be sold over-the-counter without a prescription or an audiologist’s exam.28 Many over-the-counter hearing aids are already less expensive than those sold through audiologists’ offices, and passage of the FDA’s rule could drop hearing aid prices even lower.29 

Two brands that offer hearing aids at lower prices than most other companies are Audien and MDHearing. The average price for hearing aids is between $4,000 and $5,000 per pair, but Audien and MDHearing offer devices for $100 to $1,900 per pair.30 

It’s also important to find out what additional costs will be included with a particular hearing aid before buying it. In addition to the purchase price, some companies charge extra for fittings and periodic maintenance. 

Hearing aid company websites

Once you have determined your price limit for a pair of hearing aids and have an idea of the style you want, it’s a good idea to look at the websites of the brands you’re interested in. 

Many hearing aid companies offer helpful details online related to features and pricing for their products. You can also contact their customer service departments to get any questions answered before making a purchase. 

Company reputation and reviews

Be sure to check the company’s standing on third-party websites such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) and TrustPilot. While reading customer reviews is important, BBB also gives you an overview of a company’s reputation, so you can see how it does business. 

Customer reviews aren’t always trustworthy because some companies pay or otherwise compensate people (such as free products) for writing good reviews, creating an incentive for the customer to include only positive feedback in a review. 

There’s often no way to know whether the review you are reading is completely honest. But with BBB, the business ratings are not based on customer reviews. Instead BBB takes into account other factors, including the following: 

  • Number of years in business
  • History of BBB complaints
  • Record of resolving complaints
  • Degree of transparency (showing how the company does business)
  • Any licensing or government actions against the business 

By looking into a company’s business rating in addition to its reviews, you can get a better idea of how trustworthy it is. 

Customer service options

A man waves to an audiologist on his computer screen as he enquires about getting help with his hearing aids

When considering which brand of hearing aids to buy, especially if you’re buying them online from a direct-to-consumer company, see what the options are for customer support. Some companies offer a variety of ways to contact them, such as phone, email, online chat, and video consultations. 

Customer-friendly policies

Warranties

Having a good hearing aid warranty is an important factor when choosing a hearing aid. Of respondents to our Reviews Team’s survey, 62% needed to have their hearing aids repaired during the warranty period. Check the length and type of warranty before purchasing hearing aids, and ask if the warranty can be extended. If it can be, find out how much the extended warranty costs and include it in your budget if you’re able to.

Most companies provide a warranty, from one to three years from the date of purchase, but not all warranties are created equal. 

For example, Lively’s warranty offers unlimited repairs plus loss and damage coverage for three years, while Eargo’s warranty covers unlimited repairs but only one replacement during the warranty period (which is one to two years, depending on the model).

Risk-free trial periods

Check to see if the hearing aid company offers a risk-free trial period for you to try out the devices before making a final decision. Most states require hearing aid companies to offer a trial period of at least 30 days. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) provides a list of the requirements for hearing aid trial periods in each state.31 During this time, you can return the hearing aids and receive a full or partial refund. 

Hearing aids can take a few weeks to adjust to, so give it some time and take advantage of any hearing specialist support included with your purchase before making a final decision. If you’re still having trouble hearing or your new hearing aids aren’t comfortable, you may want to return them and try a different style or brand.

Price-lock guarantees

In addition to the purchase price of your hearing aids, extra fees may include services such as cleaning, adjustments, and repairs. Ask your hearing aid company if there is a price lock guarantee, in which the company agrees not to raise prices for these services for a certain length of time or for the life of your hearing aids. 

Features to look for in a hearing aid

Hearing aid technology has come a long way in the past 20 years. “Newer hearing device features include smaller, sleeker designs, rechargeability, improved background noise management, and ability to use Bluetooth technology for both app control of hearing devices and audio streaming,” said Dr. Hope Lanter, lead audiologist at hear.com. “It is important to consider how hearing aids can improve your life through improved design and feature innovations.” 

Let’s take a closer look at these improvements in hearing aid technology.

Battery type

Hearing aid batteries come in two forms: rechargeable or disposable. While there are pros and cons to each type, the vast majority of hearing aid users today prefer rechargeable batteries. Our Reviews Team’s survey found rechargeable hearing aid batteries were the second-most important feature to the majority of users (right behind digital noise reduction).

Most hearing aids come with rechargeable batteries, although some companies, such as MDHearing, do carry models that use disposable batteries. If a company doesn’t say its hearing aids have rechargeable batteries, they are probably disposable.

The biggest advantage of rechargeable batteries is you never have to change them—you just place your hearing aids in the charging case at night before going to bed, and they’ll be ready to go in the morning.

Water resistance

Most modern hearing aids are water-resistant. Among the brands in our Reviews Team’s list of the top hearing aids on the market, every brand except Audien is water-resistant. Keep in mind though all hearing aids are electronic and can be damaged by moisture over time. Since they are also expensive to replace, it’s a great idea to keep them away from water whenever possible. 

To prevent your hearing aids from coming in contact with moisture for too long, the Starkey company advises removing hearing aids before any of the following activities:

  • Blow drying your hair
  • Going to bed
  • Showering or taking a bath
  • Spraying your hair with hairspray or other products
  • Swimming
  • Using a sauna
  • Working or exercising outside in hot weather

Bluetooth capability

Bluetooth has been available in hearing aids since 2006, when it was first introduced by Starkey in a clip-on accessory. Then direct Bluetooth (made to connect to iPhones) came in 2012 from ReSound. This technology can allow you to make wireless adjustments to your hearing aid and even turn them into a pair of high-quality headphones. 

Bluetooth works by sending a wireless signal from your hearing aids to the device you are connecting it with. Both devices must have Bluetooth technology in order to connect with each other. For example, if both your TV and hearing aids are equipped with Bluetooth, you can choose the Bluetooth option on both devices and they will connect to each other. This allows you to listen to, or “stream,” the sound from your TV directly through your hearing aids. This way you can adjust the volume on your hearing aids to your liking, while others can keep the TV volume at a lower level. 

Bluetooth is built into most smartphones and tablets, so you can use your hearing aids for phone calls or video chats too. 

One thing to know about Bluetooth is there is a difference between Bluetooth connectivity and Bluetooth streaming. A few hearing aids we’ve found, such as Eargo, provide Bluetooth connectivity but not streaming. This means you can connect wirelessly to other devices—the charger and the smartphone app in the case of Eargo—but you won’t be able to take phone calls or listen to music or TV shows. It’s important to find out exactly what kind of Bluetooth connection a hearing aid offers before making a purchase.

Smartphone apps

Newer hearing aid technology has made it possible to use your smartphone to adjust the listening profiles and volume on your hearing aids without even touching them. Some hearing aid companies also offer remote adjustments by audiologists using their company’s smartphone app to connect to your hearing aids. 

If you’re comfortable with technology and enjoy using apps on your phone, this may be a feature you’ll enjoy having in a hearing aid.

Technology for improved listening experience 

Along with Bluetooth, some hearing aids offer the following advanced features.

  • Automatic sound adjustments: While many hearing models include the option to switch between different listening profiles (or settings) based on your environment, some hearing aids can make the switch for you. The Eargo 6, for example, offers Sound Adjust, which automatically changes the hearing settings depending on your situation. This makes for a pleasant and seamless listening experience. 
  • Background noise reduction: By limiting noise in the environment around you, hearing aids with this feature (also called digital noise reduction) can help you focus on conversations and other nearby sounds more easily. Most hearing aids come with background noise reduction, and indeed it was the number one feature hearing aid customers said they wanted in our Reviews Team’s survey. 
  • Directional microphone: Dating back to 1969, the invention of directional microphones for hearing aids greatly improved the listening experience for hearing aid users. These tiny microphones pick up and amplify sounds coming from in front of you to help you hear and communicate in conversations better. 
    • Even though it’s been around for nearly 55 years, directional microphone technology is still evolving. ReSound has developed directional microphones that automatically change direction based on your environment, picking up the sounds you need to focus on the most. ReSound also offers UltraFocus for its ReSound One, which you can turn on to boost amplification of speech coming from the front, without losing surrounding sounds. This can be helpful when you’re in a noisy environment (such as a restaurant or crowded room) and need to focus on a conversation. 
  • Feedback cancellation: A common problem with old hearing aid models was feedback, which caused whistling sounds in the user’s ear. New models have cut down on this with feedback cancellation. This feature is especially handy when talking on the phone.
  • Telecoil: A telecoil (also known as T-coil) allows you to use your hearing aid with other devices or facilities (such as houses of worship and theaters) that are equipped with a specialized hearing assistive technology called a hearing loop. Most hearing aids have a telecoil option, although completely-in-canal devices are so small they often do not include this feature.

Customization options

Some hearing aids are fully customizable to your hearing loss, so they can be programmed to match your hearing needs. This is one advantage of taking an in-person hearing test and purchasing devices through an audiologist’s office. Not only will the hearing specialist conduct a more thorough exam than an online test can offer, they may be able to diagnose the cause of your hearing loss, and this could influence your treatment options.

Some direct-to-consumer hearing aids are customizable, while others come with preset hearing settings you can switch between, depending on your listening environment.  

Maintenance

Not all hearing aids need the same type or frequency of cleaning and other maintenance. But audiologists recommend that all hearing aids should be cleaned daily. While it’s a good idea to keep your hearing aids away from heat and moisture, in-canal hearing aids need more thorough daily cleaning than receiver-in-canal devices. This is because in-canal devices come into contact with more moisture in your ear. 

Also check with the company to see how often they recommend replacing the tips, earwax guards, and batteries. You’ll need to factor in the costs of maintenance when deciding on your hearing aid budget. 

Hearing aid accessories

The accessories you’ll need will vary depending on the hearing aid you choose. While most are included with the purchase price, you will have to pay for new accessories if, and when, you need them. Many direct-to-consumer hearing aid companies sell everything you need on their websites. 

Here are some of the most common hearing aid accessories:

  • Charging case: for hearing aids with rechargeable batteries
  • Replacement domes: for use with hearing aids with soft removable tips
  • Wax guards: often sold with ITE and CIC hearing aids to help prevent damage from earwax

How to buy hearing aids

In years past, a consumer’s guide to hearing aids would tell you the only option for buying hearing aids was through an audiologist’s office. But in 2017 the FDA passed regulations to begin paving the way for over-the-counter hearing aids.32 This was a big step in making hearing aids available to more people who need them. 

Today you have the choice of taking a hearing test in person or online with an audiologist before buying hearing aids. You can even buy hearing aids without taking a hearing test first, but hearing experts do not recommend this since you won’t know how severe your hearing loss is without undergoing a professional assessment. 

Online vs. in person

One advantage of buying hearing aids from a clinic is a hearing professional can make sure your new device fits well. If you have any problems, they can be addressed right away. 

Buying hearing aids online, of course, allows you to make your purchase from the comfort of your home. Some direct-to-consumer hearing aid companies offer support with fitting and adjusting your hearing aids over the internet as well.  

Questions to ask when shopping for hearing aids

Does the company sell online or in person?

Some direct-to-consumer hearing aids are offered only online, others (such as Audicus) give you the option of buying online or in person, and still other brands (such as Starkey) are available only through audiologists’ clinics.

What are my payment options?

Many direct-to-consumer hearing aid companies only offer payment by credit card on their websites. Some companies do provide financing though, allowing you to pay by the month and spread out the cost of your hearing aids over one or two years. If you buy hearing aids from an audiologist’s clinic, you may be able to pay by cash or check as well.

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can also use those funds to pay for hearing aids and batteries.33

Does the company provide a free trial period?

While most state laws require trial periods for hearing aids, not all states do. Be sure to ask the hearing aid company what its free-trial policy is before purchasing hearing aids, since a free trial period (or a money-back guarantee) will allow you some time to adjust to your new hearing aids before committing to them.  

If I need help adjusting my hearing device, how can I reach customer support?

It’s important to know if the company provides customer support in-person, over the phone, and/or online (such as through a telehealth service, online chat, and/or email). 

What type of warranty does the company offer?

Find out how long the hearing aid warranty lasts, whether you can extend it (and how much the extended warranty will cost), and what services the warranty covers (such as repairs, loss, and/or replacement).

Our Reviews Team’s picks for the best hearing aids of 2022

Table 2 Comparison of the best hearing aids, as of June 2022

Brand

Cost per pair

Style

Type of hearing loss

Rechargeable battery

Bluetooth streaming

Water resistance

Telecoil

Processing channels

Lively

$1,195–$1,995

RIC

Mild to moderate

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

12

Audicus

$998–$3,398

BTE, RIC

Mild to severe

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

12–14

MDHearing

$800–$1,900

BTE

Mild to moderately severe

Yes (Volt, Volt Max)

No

Yes

Yes

8

Phonak Paradise

$2,000–$7,000

BTE, RIC, ITE

Mild to profound

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

12–20

Eargo

$1,450–$2,950

CIC

Mild to moderate

Yes

No

Yes

No

N/A

Audien Atom Pro

$249

ITC

Mild to moderate

Yes

No

No

No

20

Signia Silk X

$2,898–$4,598

CIC

Mild to moderate

No

No

Yes

No

48

Widex Moment

$2,798–$4,598

BTE, RIC,  ITE

Mild to moderately severe

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

15

ReSound One

$3,198–$4,798

BTE, RIC

Mild to severe

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

12–17

Starkey Evolv AI

$2,800–$7,500

All styles

Mild to profound

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

12–16

Phonak Naida Paradise UP

$2,400–$7,000

BTE

Severe to profound

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

20

Oticon More

$3,000–$7,500

BTE, RIC

Mild to severe

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

48–64

For more in-depth reviews for each one of the hearing aids listed, see our review of the best hearing aids on the market.

How to save money on hearing aids

Hearing aids are expensive—there’s no way around it.. They cost, on average, between $4,000–$5,000.34 But you may be able to save hundreds of dollars with these tips.

Search for sales

You can save quite a bit of money if you buy the hearing aids you want during a sale, and hearing aid companies run sales quite often, particularly around the holidays.  For instance, at the time this article was written, MDHearing was offering a deep discount on all three of its models. Instead of the $1,900 regular price for a pair of Volt Max devices, they were on sale for $700. 

Sales like this are fairly common—you just have to keep checking back on the website for the hearing aids you’re interested in. If you’re buying hearing aids through an audiologist, ask if they can offer you a discount. 

Look for discounts 

The following organizations offer discounts on hearing aids:

And don’t forget to ask for discounts from your audiologist (if buying in person) or the hearing aid company (if buying online). It’s worth asking to see if you can get a lower price.

Check out NCOA’s Benefits CheckUp tool to see what other benefits you are eligible for.

Ask about payment options

Many hearing aid companies, including Audicus, offer financing plans. Audicus also offers a hearing aid rental plan, where you pay $49 per ear, per month, for as long as you use the hearing aids. If you decide you no longer want the hearing aids you can return them; there is no contract.

Things to know before buying hearing aids

Know your degree of hearing loss

The degree and type of your hearing loss are the best place to start when shopping for hearing aids. Not every style is suitable for all types of hearing loss, so you’ll want to determine this with a hearing test (audiogram) before making any decisions.

Know your budget

Decide on your hearing aid budget before committing to a certain hearing aid. When it comes time to shop for hearing aids, ask about any fees added on to the cost of the device itself. For instance, is the warranty included in the purchase price or do you need to pay extra for it?

Know what features you want

Think about what features you will use before choosing your hearing aid. For instance, more and more new models come with smartphone apps that allow you to adjust your hearing aid through your phone instead of directly on the hearing aid. This can be a great feature for people who are comfortable using a smartphone, but if you don’t have a smartphone and don’t plan on getting one, a hearing aid with smartphone apps won’t be of much use to you. It’s wise to consider the features that are really important so you can avoid paying for features you won’t use. 

Bottom line

Hearing aid technology and styles have come a long way in the past 20 years. You have many models to choose from, allowing you to find the best hearing aid for your individual needs, budget, and lifestyle.

Hearing aids are expensive (costing up to $7,000 per pair), so it’s important you research the brands and models appropriate for your level and type of hearing loss. When choosing the right hearing aid for you, consider your lifestyle, budget, and the hearing aid features you want such as rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth capability, and background noise reduction. 

Also, take into account whether you’d prefer to buy hearing aids online and potentially save a little money, or purchase hearing aids in person for a potentially higher price tag but more in-person support. 

Lastly, use our Reviews Team’s picks for the best hearing aids on the market to start your research. By using the tips in this hearing aid buyer’s guide, you can find the right hearing aid for your unique needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about this review? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.

Glossary

  • Audiologist: a health professional trained to treat hearing loss. Audiologists are not medical doctors, but they do have either a Master’s or doctorate degree in audiology. 
  • Bluetooth: technology that allows your hearing aid to connect wirelessly with any other Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a phone, TV, or electronic tablet.
  • Digital noise reduction: enables the user to hear speech more clearly by blocking out some or all background noise
  • Directional microphone: microphone inside a hearing aid that helps pick up voices in front of you, so you can hear conversations more clearly than background noise
  • Feedback cancellation: Also called feedback suppression, this feature helps reduce the whistling noise common in older model hearing aids 
  • Telecoil (T-coil): Small copper wire in a hearing aid that allows it to be used with devices (such as telephones) and facilities (such as theaters and places of worship) equipped with hearing loops technology; especially helpful for people with moderate to profound hearing loss because it amplifies the speaker’s voice and helps cut down on background noise
  • Tinnitus: condition that is often linked to hearing loss and causes constant or periodic ringing or buzzing in the ear

Sources

  1. World Health Organization, “Deafness and Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine, “The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss
  3. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Quick Statistics About Hearing.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
  4. National Council on Aging’s “Hearing Aids.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-aids
  5. Food and Drug Administration’s “Hearing Aids and Personal Sound Amplification Products: What to Know.” Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/hearing-aids-and-personal-sound-amplification-products-what-know
  6. National Institutes of Health’s “Alexander Graham Bell’s Contributions to the Science of Hearing.” Found on the internet at https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/have-you-heard/alexander-graham-bell-contributions-science-of-hearing
  7. Hearing Health Foundation’s “Hearing Aid History: Ear Trumpets, European Royalty, and Earbuds.” Found on the internet at https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/blogs/hearing-aid-history-ear-trumpets-european-royalty-earbuds
  8. IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society’s “Hearing Aid History: From Ear Trumpets to Digital Technology.” Found on the internet at https://www.embs.org/pulse/articles/hearing-aid-history-from-ear-trumpets-to-digital-technology/
  9. U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Types of Hearing Aids.” Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/hearing-aids/types-hearing-aids
  10. Washington University School of Medicine’s “Timeline of Hearing Devices and Early Deaf Education.” Found on the internet at http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/did/timeline/
  11. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Hearing Aids.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-aids 
  12. Johns Hopkins Medicine’s “What Is an Audiologist?” Found on the internet at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hearing-loss/what-is-an-audiologist
  13. NPR “What It’s Like to Be a Radio Host with Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.npr.org/2020/10/27/928346853/what-its-like-to-be-a-radio-host-with-hearing-loss
  14. National Institute on Aging’s “Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults.” Found on the internet at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults#signs
  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Understanding Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/parentsguide/understanding/understandinghearingloss.html
  16. ENThealth’s “Sensorineural Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/sensorineural-hearing-loss/
  17. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Sudden Deafness.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/sudden-deafness
  18. National Institute on Aging’s “Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults.” Found on the internet at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults#signs
  19. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
  20. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
  21. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Tinnitus.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/tinnitus
  22. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s “Ototoxic Medications (Medication Effects).” Found on the internet at https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/ototoxic-medications/
  23. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s “Unilateral Hearing Loss.” 
  24. Harvard Health Publishing’s “One Hearing Aid or Two?” Found on the internet at https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/one-hearing-aid-or-two
  25. National Institutes of Health’s “Sars-Co-V Infection of the Inner Ear.” Found on the internet at https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sars-cov-2-infection-inner-ear
  26. Koumpa FS, et al. “Sudden Irreversible Hearing Loss Post COVID-19.” Found on the internet at https://casereports.bmj.com/content/13/11/e238419
  27. Bigelow RT, et al. “Association of Hearing Loss With Psychological Distress and Utilization of Mental Health Services Among Adults in the United States.” Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7372323/
  28. U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “FDA Issues Landmark Proposal to Improve Access to Hearing Aid Technology for Millions of Americans.” Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-landmark-proposal-improve-access-hearing-aid-technology-millions-americans
  29. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids.” Found on the internet at https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/over-counter-hearing-aids
  30. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s “The Hearing Aid Revolution: Cheaper and Easier to Get.” Found on the internet at https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/the-hearing-aid-revolution-cheaper-and-easier-to-get
  31. Hearing Loss Association of America’s “Consumer Protection Laws.” Found on the internet at https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/ConsumerProtectionLaws.pdf
  32. FDA, “FDA Issues Landmark Proposal to Improve Access to Hearing Aid Technology for Millions of Americans.” Found on the internet at https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-landmark-proposal-improve-access-hearing-aid-technology-millions-americans
  33. Healthcare.gov Health Insurance Marketplace’s “What’s a Health Savings Account?” Found on the internet at https://marketplace.cms.gov/outreach-and-education/health-savings-account.pdf
  34. Johns Hopkins Medicine “The Hearing Aid Revolution: Cheaper and Easier to Get.” Found on the internet at https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/the-hearing-aid-revolution-cheaper-and-easier-to-get
  35. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services.” Found on the internet at https://www.prosthetics.va.gov/psas/Hearing_Aids.asp
  36. Medicare.gov’s “Hearing Aids.” Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hearing-aids
  37. Johns Hopkins Medicine, “The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss”. Found on the internet at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss
  38. Bigelow RT, et al. “Association of Hearing Loss With Psychological Distress and Utilization of Mental Health Services Among Adults in the United States.” Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7372323/
  39. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s “Hearing Aid Revolution: Cheaper and Easier to Get.” Found on the internet at https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/the-hearing-aid-revolution-cheaper-and-easier-to-get
  40. American Tinnitus Association’s “Causes.” Found on the internet at https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts/causes
  41. Johns Hopkins University’s “Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling.” Found on the internet at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling

Find the best [category]