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Best Hearing Aids

Updated April 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. Read more
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How We Decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 19 Models Considered
  • 6 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 203 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Hearing Aids

    Last Updated April 2018

    Hearing loss is a widespread condition that affects millions of people globally. Sadly, it is often overlooked, disregarded, or accepted as part and parcel of the aging process. But the mental, emotional, and physical effects of hearing loss can be devastating and should never be ignored, regardless of age or severity.

    Whether you've been diagnosed with severe hearing loss or simply need a bit of a volume boost, there are a number of devices available that are specifically designed to improve hearing and reduce the isolation you may feel as a person with a hearing difficulty. The vast array of options is hope-inspiring, but finding the best hearing aid for your needs can be challenging. Don't fret – we're here to help!

    Here at BestReviews, we strive to bring you accurate, informative, and objective reviews so you can make the best possible buying decisions. For this reason, we never accept free manufacturer samples. Each of our guides and reviews is based on meticulous product research.

    If you find yourself struggling to hear in certain situations or feel that you could do with a little more volume, you’ll need to decide whether you need a true hearing aid or a personal sound amplification product, or PSAP. A PSAP isn’t quite the same as the hearing aid your doctor would prescribe; it’s available over the counter. If you're in the market for a PSAP, take a look at our product matrix above. We’ve rounded up five of the very best currently available for your convenience.

    Should you be experiencing more serious hearing impairment, we strongly recommend consulting an audiologist for a prescription-grade medical hearing aid tailored to your individual needs.

    Our detailed guide below will help you better understand your various options, bringing you one step closer to finding the product that's right for you.

    Approximately 20% of Americans are affected by some degree of hearing loss, and one out of every three people over the age of 65 will experience a decline in hearing ability.

    How do prescription-grade hearing aids work?

    Today, an estimated 90% of prescription-grade hearing aids on the market are digital. While there are a large variety of styles to choose from, they all work in more or less the same manner.

    • A microphone picks up sound and converts it to electrical signals.

    • A microchip translates these electrical signals into digital code, processing and optimizing them according to user settings before converting them back to electrical signals.

    • An amplifier receives these fine-tuned signals and strengthens them.

    • A receiver converts the amplified electrical signals into sound and delivers them to the ear.
       

    In the case of traditional analog hearing aids, the microchip isn't present. This means that all sounds are amplified – even the ones you don’t need to hear (like interference and wind) and those you don’t want to hear (like muffled conversations and background noise).

    Although analog hearing aids do tend to be more affordable and are still used by some people, digital hearing aids offer a vastly superior overall hearing experience.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you find yourself struggling to hear or make out sounds in certain situations, you may benefit from using a personal sound amplification product (PSAP).


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How do psaps work?

    The above explanation largely applies to PSAPs as well, with the exception being that the resulting sounds will have been processed according to pre-programmed manufacturer settings designed for common hearing issues rather than for individual needs.

    Types of hearing aids

    Should you be prescribed a hearing aid, you'll have no shortage of styles to choose from.

    Behind-the-ear (bte) hearing aids

    BTE hearing aids are popular for their versatility and are designed to fit behind or on top of the ear. An ear hook is attached to a tube which runs from the hearing aid to the ear canal where it is secured by either an ear tip or earmold.

    • Traditional BTEs are the largest in this category. Featuring a custom-fit earmold and a long body, this type of hearing aid is capable of accommodating more power, features, and controls than its smaller counterparts. This style is a good option for children, as the unit is easily reprogrammed and the earmold can be replaced as the child grows.

    • A mini BTE (mBTE) is a more compact version of a traditional BTE. These hearing aids are also known as “open-fit” hearing aids. They feature an ultra-thin transparent tube with a small, soft ear piece that doesn't block the ear canal. This design allows low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally while higher frequencies are amplified by the unit.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    If you regularly suffer from recurrent ear infections, you may be at risk of developing impaired hearing. According to the World Health Organization, one of the leading causes of hearing loss is chronic ear infections.

    Receiver-in-canal (ric) hearing aids

    RIC hearing aids, also known as receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids, are similar in appearance to BTE hearing aids but are even smaller and more discreet. This is due to the fact that the receiver is situated in the earpiece (rather than in the casing behind the ear) and connected to the unit’s body by a thin wire. These hearing aids are also open-fitted, and the combination of reduced occlusion and direct delivery of sound to ear (thanks to the receiver being placed into the ear) produces markedly clearer sound for most people. However, as the receiver is placed in the ear canal, it is also exposed to earwax and moisture which can affect performance.

    In-the-ear (ite) hearing aids

    As the name suggests, ITE hearing aids are placed directly in the ear. All ITE hearing aids are custom-molded and come in varying sizes and designs.

    • Full-shell ITE hearing aids are the largest and most visible ITE type of hearing aid. These hearing aids fill almost the entire hollow of the ear (concha). Due to their added size, many people are reluctant to wear these, but they do have benefits, including long-lasting battery life and easy-to-navigate controls.

    • Half-shell ITE hearing aids work the same as full-shell hearing aids do, but they only fill half of the concha. While not as large as full-shell hearing aids, half-shell hearing aids still offer good battery life and easy-to-use controls.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Many hearing-impaired individuals may find the lower prices of PSAPs enticing, but these products aren't suitable for everyone. If you’re uncertain of your hearing ability or experience moderate to severe hearing loss, it’s imperative that you seek professional advice regarding the most appropriate treatment for your condition.

    In-the-canal (itc) hearing aids

    ITC hearing aids are sought by many for their compact, low-profile design. As they fit in the ear canal, these types of hearing aids need to be custom-molded. While their reduced size is a huge plus for those seeking an inconspicuous option, they're not without drawbacks. Reduced size also means they have a shorter battery life, and because of their placement, they're more susceptible to malfunction due to microphone clogging or moisture.

    • Traditional ITCs are custom-molded to fit partly in the ear canal. They remain visible but are considerably smaller and more discreet than the larger ITE designs described above.

    Completely-in-the-canal (cic) hearing aids

    CIC hearing aids are smaller than ITC hearing aids and are placed deeper into the ear canal. These types of hearing aids are not only less noticeable, but thanks to their placement, they also pick up less wind noise.

    CAUTION

    As PSAPs are not regulated by the FDA, you will need to rely on the integrity and quality standards of the manufacturer. If you’re considering purchasing a PSAP, we highly recommend that you seek a reputable manufacturer with some experience or recognition within the medical field.

    Invisible-in-the-canal (iic) hearing aids

    Placed completely out of sight deep within the ear canal, IIC hearing aids are the smallest type of prescription-grade hearing aid available.

    Personal sound amplification products (psaps)

    PSAPs do not require a doctor’s prescription and are available over the counter. They come in many of the same designs that the prescription-grade hearing aids mentioned above do. But keep in mind that in-the-ear and in-the-canal varieties won't be custom-molded, and a behind-the-ear model may be more comfortable.

    Both hearing aids and PSAPs can take some getting used to. Your brain may need time to adapt to recognizing and separating the important sounds from the unimportant sounds.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Prescription-grade hearing aids vs. psaps

    Understandably, there is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between prescription-grade hearing aids and PSAPs, the latter of which are featured in our product matrix above. Both amplify digitally processed sounds before delivering them to the ear. So if they both ultimately do the same thing, what exactly is the difference?

    • Prescription-grade hearing aids are regulated by the FDA. True hearing aids are categorized as medical devices and are FDA-regulated. Hearing aids may only be prescribed to people diagnosed with hearing loss by a licensed audiologist. Before diagnosis, the patient must take a comprehensive hearing test.

    • PSAPs are not regulated by the FDA. To buy a hearing amplifier such as those mentioned in the matrix above, you do not need a prescription from a doctor. Anyone who needs generalized sound amplification can purchase one of these devices over the counter.
       

    So why not just use a PSAP? Well, as with any medical condition, individual symptoms and their underlying causes vary from person to person. For this reason, a hearing test is required to rule out any potentially serious underlying conditions, identify the patient’s unique needs, and if needed, program the hearing aid accordingly.

    • Importantly, PSAPs are pre-programmed by the manufacturer and cannot be fine-tuned to individual needs after purchasing. However, while some would argue that PSAPs merely serve to amplify all sounds, many modern varieties are becoming increasingly technologically advanced, and some feature a number of useful pre-programmed settings. These may be selected by the user to optimize sound in a variety of situations that commonly pose a problem, such as a noisy restaurant.
    EXPERT TIP

    When purchasing a PSAP, opt for a model that comes with a variety of ear tips in different sizes to help ensure a good fit.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Considerations when purchasing a hearing aid or psap

    Whether you're weighing your medical-grade hearing aid options or considering the purchase of a PSAP, the following are some of the most important factors to take into account.

    Medical needs

    Medical requirements should always come before cosmetic or personal preference. Not all types of hearing aids are suitable for every condition, and it's always a good idea to discuss viable options with an audiologist. While the increased volume offered by PSAPs can help many, they may not be suitable for those affected by severe hearing loss.

    Size

    Size is an important factor and one that means different things to different people. While some may be unwilling to sacrifice the discretion provided by smaller models, others might need a larger option with controls that are easy to see and manipulate.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Those who use PSAPs are still advised to undergo a hearing test to rule out the possibility of an underlying condition that might require specialized treatment.

    Battery life

    Larger models tend to have extended battery life simply because of their added capacity. If battery life is a concern, you may wish to consider a rechargeable option or a replaceable battery in a medium or large design. Generally, the smaller the unit is, the less power, controls, and battery life it offers.

    Durability

    Hearing aids certainly aren't cheap, and if you purchase a medical-grade hearing aid, you'll understandably want it to last as long as possible. Behind-the-ear models are naturally more durable than in-the-canal types, which are exposed to moisture and earwax. Hearing aids that sit within the ear have a much higher rate of malfunctioning than exterior hearing aids.

    As most PSAPs are behind-the-ear varieties, durability is more likely to be determined by manufacturer standards and build quality – elements which are typically reflected in the price.

    Bluetooth capabilities

    Surprised? Don't be. Just like other forms of technology, hearing aids and PSAPs are constantly evolving, and today, many are able to link to your Bluetooth-enabled device. This feature allows users to seamlessly connect to televisions, phones, and mp3 players for added convenience.

    While PSAPs can never replace a hearing aid and are often at the center of heated debate among medical professionals, countless individuals afflicted by mild hearing loss experience improved quality of life thanks to these devices.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Hearing aid prices

    Hearing aids can be notoriously expensive; they generally range between $2,500 and more than $4,000. If you suspect that you are suffering from hearing loss, seeking the correct treatment is essential. For your health and safety, we urge you to consult an audiologist regarding the best hearing aid for your hearing loss needs.

    Psap prices

    For those who don't have severe hearing loss and need a simple and effective volume boost, there are a wide variety of affordable personal hearing amplification products available. These are priced anywhere from $20 for a basic, entry-level model to $200+ for PSAPs that offer higher levels of convenience, personalization, and overall design quality.

    Whether you use a hearing aid or a PSAP, ensure that the design fits your personal needs and that the controls are easily adjustable.

    Faq

    Q. How do I determine whether I need a hearing aid or a PSAP?

    A. If you've noticed a decline in your hearing ability, it's always best to visit an audiologist for a professional assessment. However, for the most part, a PSAP can greatly benefit the lives of those who struggle to hear in certain situations but don't display other signs of serious hearing impairment. That said, consulting a hearing specialist right from the start is advisable to help prevent or slow the progression of hearing loss.

    Q. I've heard I should open the battery door on my prescription-grade hearing aid at night. Why is this important?

    A. This is recommended to extend battery life and promote air circulation. Leaving the battery door open overnight helps to prevent corrosion by allowing moisture to escape.

    Q. Why does my hearing aid/PSAP keep beeping?

    A. There are a number of factors that could cause your hearing aid or PSAP to beep. Among the most common are a low battery, a change in settings/programs, or volume adjustments. If you've ruled out these causes and are certain that you haven't unintentionally pressed or jammed a button, contact your audiologist or product manufacturer for device-specific information and assistance.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Erica
      Erica
      Writer
    • Heather
      Heather
      Chief Content Officer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor