In a world where communication is key, hearing aids serve as a lifeline for individuals experiencing hearing loss. These compact yet powerful devices can vastly improve the quality of life, facilitating better communication and enjoyment of everyday sounds that many take for granted.
The Mechanics of Hearing Aids: How They Function
Hearing aids are complex pieces of technology designed to help people hear more clearly in a range of environments. But how do they work?
- Microphone: The journey of sound through a hearing aid begins with the microphone. This component picks up sounds from the environment and converts them into electrical signals.
- Amplifier: These electrical signals are then sent to an amplifier. The amplifier, as the name suggests, boosts the strength of these signals in certain frequency ranges.
- Advanced Processing: Hearing aids analyze sound input, remove noise, and apply filter to improve sound quality.
- Speaker (Receiver): The amplified signals are sent to the speaker, which converts them back into sounds that are then delivered into the wearer’s ear.
“Hearing aids are complex pieces of technology designed to help people hear more clearly in a range of environments.”
How Hearing Aids Help You Hear Better
A hearing aid’s primary job is to amplify sound, making it easier for individuals with hearing loss to hear. However, modern hearing aids are much more sophisticated and can differentiate between different types of sounds and different types of environments.
For instance, they can prioritize speech over background noise, making it easier to have conversations in noisy environments. This advanced technology can also be tailored to an individual’s unique hearing loss pattern, amplifying specific frequencies more than others to provide a personalized hearing experience.
Do Hearing Aids Help in Background Noise?
One of the most common challenges for people with hearing loss is understanding speech in noisy environments. Fortunately, modern hearing aids have features designed to help in these situations.
Many hearing aids have directional microphones. This feature allows the hearing aid to focus on the sound coming from in front of the wearer (usually the person they are talking to) and reduce the sounds coming from other directions.
Additionally, hearing aids often have noise reduction algorithms. These digital features analyze the incoming sound and reduce the volume of noises that are constant, like the hum of a refrigerator or the buzz of a crowded room.
Components of a Hearing Aid
While the specifics may vary, most hearing aids contain the following key components:
- Microphone: Captures sounds from the environment.
- Amplifier: Boosts the strength of the captured sounds.
- Speaker (Receiver): Delivers the amplified sounds into the wearer’s ear.
- Battery: Powers the hearing aid.
- Volume Control: Allows the user to adjust the loudness of sounds.
- Program Button/Switch: Enables the user to change settings for different listening environments.
Understanding these components can help you choose the right hearing aid and better understand how to maintain and troubleshoot your device. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the different styles of hearing aids, their features, and how to choose the right one for you.
Varieties of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids come in a wide range of designs to suit varying degrees of hearing loss, lifestyle needs, aesthetic preferences, and budget constraints. Here we delve into the key styles you’ll likely encounter on your journey to improved hearing.
Different Styles of Hearing Aids
Receiver In Canal Hearing Aids
Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) or Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE) aids are similar to BTE models, but the speaker (or receiver) is placed inside the ear canal, connected to the main unit by a thin wire. This design can provide more natural sound and less occlusion than traditional BTE models. This style makes up 81% of all hearing aid sales.
Open Fit Hearing Aids
Open fit hearing aids are a variant of RIC and BTE models, but they are designed to keep the ear canal open to allow for the passage of low-frequency sounds naturally, while amplifying high-frequency sounds. This style can be less noticeable than other BTE models and reduces the sensation of your voice sounding “plugged up.”
Deep in the Canal (CIC) or Mini CIC
These invisible hearing aids are custom-made to fit deep within your ear canal, making them the least noticeable type. Their discreet nature makes them a popular choice, but due to their small size, they may lack some features such as directional microphones.
Canal-Fitted Hearing Aids
Canal hearing aids, also known as In-The-Canal (ITC) aids, are custom-made to fit partly in the ear canal, offering a balance between size and functionality. They’re more visible than CIC models, but they often come with additional features such as volume control.
In-The-Ear Hearing Aids
Also known as In-The-Ear (ITE) aids, these devices fit entirely in the outer ear. They are larger than canal aids and thus more visible, but their size allows for more features and easier handling. They can be a good option for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
For a long time, the trend was to go with smaller and smaller devices in the ear. But in the last 2 years since we have seen rechargeable custom devices, sales have increased in the number of ITE full-shell and half-shell hearing aids.
Behind-The-Ear Hearing Aids
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) aids are among the most recognizable. These devices have a casing that sits behind the ear, connected to an earmold or earpiece that delivers sound into the ear. Their larger size accommodates more features and they are suitable for nearly all types of hearing loss. This style used to be the dominant style in the market but has fallen to only 6% of all hearing aid sales.
Pull Quote: “Choosing the right hearing aid style is crucial as it can affect not only how you hear but also how comfortable you are wearing the device.”
Comparing BTE and RIC Hearing Aids
While both Behind-The-Ear and Receiver-In-Canal hearing aids have their casing sitting behind the ear, they differ in where the sound is amplified and delivered:
- BTE Hearing Aids: The sound is amplified in the casing behind the ear and sent through tone hook to a tube to an earmold in the ear.
- RIC Hearing Aids: The sound is sent as an electrical signal through a thin wire to a receiver in the ear canal where it is amplified. This reduces maintenance as tubing does not have to be changed and adds to the sound quality.
RIC aids tend to provide more natural sound and less occlusion, but BTE models may offer more power for severe hearing loss.
Unveiling the Self-Fitting Hearing Aid: The Future of Personalized Hearing Care
The world of audiology has recently witnessed a groundbreaking development that is set to revolutionize the hearing aid industry – the advent of self-fitting hearing aids. These Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids represent an exciting new frontier in hearing care, offering a level of convenience and accessibility that was previously unimaginable.
“The advent of self-fitting hearing aids represents a significant shift in the hearing care landscape, propelling us into an era of increased accessibility, lower cost and personalized self-care.”
In the traditional model, acquiring a hearing aid has been a multi-step process involving professional audiologists. From initial testing to fitting and subsequent tuning, each stage required one or more visits to a hearing care professional.
The emergence of self-fitting hearing aids has the potential to simplify this process dramatically. By leveraging advanced digital technology and innovative design, these devices enable individuals to perform their own hearing tests and adjust their hearing aids to their personal preferences – all using a simple smartphone app.
These devices are geared towards making hearing aids more accessible to the millions of individuals suffering from hearing loss. By eliminating the need for professional fitting and adjustments, OTC hearing aids can significantly reduce the overall cost of obtaining a hearing aid. This makes them a promising solution for those who have previously been deterred by the high costs associated with traditional hearing aids.
However, it’s important to note that while the self-fitting hearing aid is a promising development, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. These devices are primarily designed for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Those with severe hearing loss or more complex hearing issues may still require professional assessment and fitting.
As we move into the future, the exciting potential of self-fitting hearing aids is clear. They mark a new chapter in the evolution of hearing care – one that prioritizes accessibility, affordability, and personalization. Yet, as with any new technology, it’s crucial to make informed decisions. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a hearing care professional can help determine if this exciting new option is the right fit for you.
Additional Features to Look for in a Hearing Aid
Modern hearing aids are more than just simple sound amplifiers; they’re sophisticated devices packed with features designed to enhance your listening experience. When choosing a hearing aid, consider these additional features that can make a big difference:
- Directional Microphones: These can focus on sound coming from a specific direction, typically in front of you. This can help make conversations in a noisy environment clearer.
- Noise Reduction: Many hearing aids have settings that reduce background noise. This can be particularly useful in loud environments like restaurants or shopping centers.
- DDN or AI: Deep neural networks and AI are the most advanced hearing aids making them perform better in more complexed environments.
- Rechargeable Batteries: Some hearing aids come with rechargeable batteries, eliminating the need for regular battery changes.
- Telecoil: A telecoil can wirelessly connect to hearing loop systems in public places like theaters or churches, allowing the sound system to be directly transmitted into your hearing aid.
- Wireless Connectivity: Some hearing aids can connect wirelessly to devices such as your TV, computer, or smartphone, allowing you to stream audio directly.
- Apps: Most hearing aids can now be controlled via an App to allow you increased functionality
- Remote Controls: Some models offer remote controls, allowing you to change your hearing aid settings without touching the hearing aid.
- Learning Features: Advanced hearing aids can learn and remember the settings you prefer in different environments and automatically adjust when you return to those places.
“Modern hearing aids are more than just simple sound amplifiers; they’re sophisticated devices packed with features designed to enhance your listening experience.”
Steps to Choosing the Right Hearing Aid
Choosing the right hearing aid is a significant decision that can dramatically impact your quality of life. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:
- Understand Your Hearing Loss: Start by getting a thorough hearing evaluation from a hearing care professional. Understanding the type and degree of your hearing loss and how to read an audiogram is the first step in choosing the right hearing aid.
- Consider Your Lifestyle: Your lifestyle and the listening environments you frequent should guide your choice. If you often find yourself in noisy places, look for a hearing aid with premium noise reduction. If you enjoy theater or concerts, consider a device with a telecoil. But if you are not in loud and noisy situations, economy level or OTC hearing aids may be just find for you.
- Budget: Hearing aids range in price significantly. Determine what you can afford before you start shopping and remember to consider ongoing costs such as batteries and maintenance.
- Test Drive: Many providers allow you to try out hearing aids before you commit. Take advantage of this to ensure you find a device that is comfortable and meets your needs. Also, learn about the trial period in your hearing aid.
- Get Professional Advice: A hearing care professional can provide invaluable advice tailored to your specific situation. They can help you navigate the myriad of options and features to find the perfect device for you.
- Aftercare and Support: The service doesn’t stop once you’ve purchased your hearing aids. Regular check-ups and adjustments are crucial to ensure your hearing aids continue to work optimally. Ensure your provider offers good aftercare support. Often times this is included in the price (called bundled)
Remember, the right hearing aid for you is one that meets your hearing needs, fits comfortably, and suits your lifestyle and budget. It’s worth taking the time to explore your options and make an informed decision.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing
Before you invest in a hearing aid, it’s crucial to consider a few key factors to ensure you make the best decision for your specific needs. Here’s a checklist to help you prepare:
- Type of Hearing Loss: Your type of hearing loss (sensorineural, conductive, or mixed) will influence the kind of hearing aid that’s best for you.
- Degree of Hearing Loss: The severity of your hearing loss, whether it’s mild, moderate, severe, or profound, will also affect your choice.
- Lifestyle Needs: Consider your daily activities, hobbies, and work requirements. Do you need a robust, water-resistant model for outdoor activities? Or perhaps a discreet model for professional settings?
- Manual Dexterity: Smaller hearing aids can be challenging to handle for those with issues related to dexterity. In this case, larger in-the-ear rechargeable models may be more suitable.
- Aesthetic Preferences: While function should be a priority, the look and feel of the hearing aid also matter. Consider which styles you would feel most comfortable wearing. Generally speaking a behind the ear RIC device is the most popular.
- Budget: Consider the upfront cost of the hearing aid as well as ongoing costs for maintenance, batteries, and potential repairs.
“Investing in a hearing aid is a significant decision. Consider your specific needs, lifestyle, and budget to ensure you choose the right device.”
Adjusting to Your New Hearing Aid
Adjusting to a new hearing aid takes time and patience. Here are some tips to ease the transition:
- Start Slow: Begin by wearing your hearing aid in quiet environments, gradually moving to noisier situations as you grow more comfortable.
- Practice Listening: Engage in listening exercises to help your brain adjust to interpreting the new sounds you’re hearing. This could involve watching subtitled movies or listening to audiobooks.
- Adjust Volume Gradually: Start with a lower volume and slowly increase it, allowing your ears to adjust to the new level of sound.
- Wear Them Regularly: Consistency is key. Aim to wear your hearing aids during all waking hours, unless advised otherwise by your healthcare professional.
- Communicate with Your Audiologist: Keep your audiologist informed about your experiences. They can help make necessary adjustments and provide advice to improve your experience.
Remember, adapting to hearing aids is a process. It’s normal to experience some challenges along the way, but with patience and consistent use, you’ll soon reap the benefits of improved hearing.
Digital vs. Analog Hearing Aids: A Matter of Relevance
In reality, the comparison between digital and analog hearing aids is becoming less relevant in today’s world. Throughout my 16-year audiology career, I’ve only encountered a handful of very old analog hearing aids. The industry has overwhelmingly shifted towards digital technology due to its superior flexibility, programmability, and sound quality.
As a result, virtually all hearing aids sold today are digital. Therefore, when considering your hearing aid options, the digital versus analog debate should not be a primary concern. The focus should rather be on the specific features, comfort, and effectiveness of the digital hearing aids that are currently available.
Top-Rated Hearing Aids of August 2023
As technology continues to advance, so do hearing aids. In this ever-evolving market, it’s essential to stay updated on the latest offerings to make an informed decision. Here, we present a selection of the top-rated hearing aids available as of August 2023.
“Staying updated on the latest hearing aid technology is crucial in making an informed decision that best suits your hearing needs.”
Trusting My Expert Reviews
As an audiologist for over a dozen years, I have fitted more than 6000 hearing aids in my career, averaging 12 fittings per week. This extensive hands-on experience, coupled with my interactions with all major hearing aid manufacturers, gives me a unique understanding of the hearing aid landscape.
In addition to my clinical experience, creating this website has exposed me to a wider array of Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids than your typical audiologist encounters. I’ve devoted significant time to researching these devices, understanding their pros and cons, and figuring out how they can best serve those with hearing loss.
When I review a hearing aid, I bring all of this experience to bear, giving you an unbiased perspective rooted in deep expertise. I evaluate devices based on their sound quality, comfort, ease of use, reliability, and value for money. My goal is to help you find the hearing aid that will best improve your quality of life.
“When I review a hearing aid, I bring all of my experience to bear, giving you an unbiased perspective rooted in deep expertise.”
Remember, while I strive to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information, it’s essential to consult with a hearing care professional before making a final decision. The right hearing aid for you depends on your specific hearing loss, lifestyle needs, and budget.
My Hearing Aid Recommendations
|Top Selection||Starkey Genesis|
|Best Value||Sennheiser All Day Clear OTC device|
|Most Budget-Friendly Bluetooth||Lexie B2 By Bose|
|Most User-Friendly||Starkey Custom Hearing Aids|
|Best Invisible Fit||Phonak Lyric|
|Most Popular||Phonak Audéo Lumity|
|Best for Natural Sound||Oticon Real|
|Top Pick for Tinnitus||Widex Moment|
|Best Rechargeable Battery Life||Starkey Genesis|
|Best Waterproof Hearing Aid||Phonak Audeo RL|
|Most Advanced Smart AI Features||Oticon Own and Oticon Real|
|Best Hearing Aids for Dexterity Issues||Starkey Genesis AI ITE|
Top Selection: Starkey Genesis AI: Delivering Superior User Experience
The Starkey Genesis AI hearing aid line stands out with its user-friendly and intuitive design, making it especially appealing to seniors and those with less active lifestyles. Key features include fall detection, the My Starkey App for wellness tracking, Edge Mode+ Technology for speech emphasis, superior waterproofing, and Bluetooth compatibility with Apple and Android devices. They are available in six different form factors, including both disposable battery and rechargeable versions.
Best Value: Sennheiser All Day Clear OTC Device
When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, the Sennheiser All Day Clear OTC device is an excellent choice. Priced at an MSRP of $1399, these ready-to-wear hearing aids are designed for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. The All Day Clear model combines exceptional hearing performance with seamless connectivity, all encased in a sleek design that ensures all-day wearing comfort.
Key features of the Sennheiser All Day Clear include:
- Two Automatic Environments: This device can adapt to different sound environments, such as quiet conversations and conversations in noise.
- Three-Band Equalizer: Users can make sound adjustments to fine-tune their listening experience.
- Wind Noise Control: This feature helps reduce wind noise when outdoors.
- Balance Adjustments: Users can adjust the balance for streaming audio.
- Dedicated Sound Mode: A special program for live music enhances the listening experience at concerts or performances.
- In-the-Moment Controls: Simple and intuitive controls make it easy to adjust settings on the go.
- Rechargeable Battery: The device has a 16-hour battery life on a single charge.
- IP68 Rating: This rating signifies that the device has a high level of protection against dust and water.
Most Budget-Friendly Bluetooth: Lexie B2 By Bose
The Lexie B2 by Bose is a leading choice for Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids in 2023, specifically designed for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Enabled with Bluetooth 5.0 technology, these hearing aids connect easily to smartphones, providing a seamless user experience. These devices come equipped with a customizable app allowing users to modify volume, noise-canceling levels, and different listening programs suited to various environments. A standout feature is the Lexie B2’s ability to stream phone calls directly to the hearing aids, creating a hands-free experience akin to a Bluetooth headset.
The Lexie B2 hearing aids, priced at $999 for a one-time payment or $49/month for 24 months (with a $249 startup fee), are known for their advanced features such as noise cancellation, wind noise reduction, and personalization options through the Lexie app. These devices are durable, and discreet, and offer a comfortable fit with multiple ear tip options. Note that streaming phone calls is exclusive to iPhones, and Android devices and flip phones are currently not compatible.
Lexie B2 hearing aids offer an optimal balance of advanced technology, customization, ease of use, and affordability, making them a top OTC budget-friendly choice in 2023.
Most User-Friendly: Starkey Hearing Aids
- Starkey’s Genesis AI hearing aids stand out in the hearing aid industry for their superior user-friendliness, integrating cutting-edge technology to enhance users’ quality of life.
- They address the common concern of maintenance with a design that features an easy-to-change wax trap and microphone filters, making regular upkeep less daunting, especially for elderly users or those with fine motor difficulties.
- Unlike many hearing aids that depend on disposable batteries, Starkey Genesis AI hearing aids come with user-friendly rechargeable custom devices, eliminating the need for constant battery replacements and reducing long-term costs.
- The hearing aids are accompanied by a top-rated mobile app, offering an intuitive user interface for real-time control and customization of the hearing aids, enhancing the user experience.
- Unique voice prompts replace traditional auditory signals, providing clear instructions and reducing confusion for users.
- Exceptional waterproofing and dust protection (IP68+ rating) and industry-leading battery life ensure the longevity and reliability of these hearing aids, allowing users to confidently rely on them in various conditions.
Best Invisible Fit Hearing Aids: Phonak Lyric
As an audiologist, it’s essential to provide the best hearing aids to those who need them. Invisible Fit hearing aids are a popular choice among many due to their discretion and comfort. These devices fit directly into the ear canal, making them virtually invisible to others. They offer the advantage of a natural sound experience as they use the ear’s anatomy to direct sound into the ear canal. These devices provide an excellent solution for those seeking to improve their hearing without drawing attention to their hearing aid.
Among the Invisible Fit hearing aids, the Phonak Lyric device stands out as an excellent choice. This 100% invisible hearing aid is placed in your ear canal by a trained professional and can be worn 24/7 for months at a time, providing clear, natural sound. The Lyric uses advanced micro-engineering to capture sound vibrations and amplify them for the wearer. It’s designed to use the outer ear’s natural anatomy to direct sound to the device, making for a very organic listening experience. The Phonak Lyric is not only remarkable for its sound quality but also its durability and longevity. Its extended wear capability offers a hassle-free solution, making it an optimal choice for individuals seeking high-quality, effortless hearing improvement.
Phonak Lumity RIC: The Leading Hearing Aid on the Market
Phonak’s Lumity line of hearing aids, particularly the Lumity RIC, has established itself as the most popular hearing aid on the market, thanks to its innovative approach to sound processing technology. The Lumity line focuses primarily on improving speech understanding in environments filled with background noise. This line of hearing aids uses a unique combination of advanced algorithms and hardware that Phonak claims significantly enhances the listener’s experience, especially in challenging situations such as social gatherings, restaurants, and other crowded places. Additionally, Phonak recently introduced a slim style, broadening the aesthetic appeal to include more female customers.
Most Natural Sounding Hearing Aid: Oticon Real
- Exceptional Sound Quality: The Oticon Real 1 features RealSound technology, delivering a full spectrum of sounds in different environments. This advanced technology results in a more comfortable and sharper perception of sound, guarding against sudden disruptive signals like wind noise and jostling.
- Superior Adaptive Capabilities: The SuddenSound Stabilizer and Wind & Handling Stabilizer enable the hearing aid to adapt quickly to sudden and loud sounds as well as wind and handling noise, respectively. This rapid adjustment reduces listening effort by 22% in the presence of sudden sounds.
- AI-powered Personalization: Leveraging artificial intelligence technology, the Oticon Real 1 is capable of processing large amounts of data, recognizing user’s hearing preferences, and adjusting in real-time to provide a personalized listening experience.
- Enhanced Training: Compared to its predecessor, the Oticon More 1, the Oticon Real 1 is trained in 12 million background noise situations (as opposed to 1 million). This enhances its ability to handle a wide array of environments, making it more adaptable and efficient in managing background noise.
- Tinnitus Support: The Oticon Real 1 offers tinnitus SoundSupport, which can be enabled by an audiologist to help users be less disturbed by the ringing, further enhancing the natural listening experience.
- Extensive Connectivity: The Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) technology allows for a wide range of connectivity options, and the device can be controlled via the new Oticon Companion app, providing users with a high level of flexibility and convenience.
- Comfort and Durability: Available in various models to cater to different levels of hearing loss, the Oticon Real 1 is comfortable and durable, designed to withstand dust and water. It offers a full day of battery life for rechargeable models and up to a week for disposable battery versions, depending on usage. This makes it a reliable companion for individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss.
Best Hearing Aid for Tinnitus: Widex Moment with Zen Program
When it comes to managing tinnitus, hearing aids have evolved to provide not only enhanced auditory comprehension but also therapeutic management for this often-debilitating condition. Most modern hearing aids now possess either built-in tinnitus sound generation capabilities or the capacity to stream sounds from dedicated tinnitus applications on smartphones. This opens up a range of options for personalizing treatment, enabling users to select sounds or frequencies that effectively neutralize their specific tinnitus symptoms.
While a number of hearing aids have made substantial strides in tinnitus management, one product truly stands out from the rest—the Widex Moment with Zen technology. This state-of-the-art hearing aid goes beyond merely providing tinnitus relief. It is designed to deliver a holistic and dynamic solution that transforms the way users perceive and interact with sound.
The Widex Moment offers industry-leading sound clarity by leveraging the latest advances in hearing technology. However, it’s the inclusion of Zen—a feature designed specifically for tinnitus management—that makes this device genuinely unique. Zen technology uses fractal tones—complex, naturally occurring sounds that are not repetitive, thus helping to avoid habituation. These calming, harmonic sound sequences, which can be customized to suit individual needs and preferences, are designed to reduce tinnitus symptoms and promote relaxation.
Demystifying Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a recent development in the audiology field, designed to make hearing assistance more affordable and accessible. Unlike traditional hearing aids, which require a prescription and fitting by an audiologist, OTC hearing aids can be purchased directly by consumers. They are generally best suited to adults with a perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. Some models offer features like noise reduction and directional microphones, and may even connect to smartphones for additional functionality.
Comparing OTC and Prescription Hearing Aids
OTC and prescription hearing aids aim to improve hearing, but they differ in terms of customization, cost, and the severity of hearing loss they can address. Prescription hearing aids are personalized to the user’s specific hearing loss pattern, usually providing better outcomes for those with moderate to severe hearing loss. They are also more expensive due to the cost of professional services, including hearing tests, fittings, and follow-up appointments.
On the other hand, OTC hearing aids offer a more affordable solution. They typically provide pre-set amplification settings, rather than a custom fit. This makes them a good option for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss who cannot afford prescription hearing aids.
Understanding Hearing Exams and Fittings
A hearing exam is the first step in the journey to better hearing. It involves a series of tests performed by an audiologist to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. Based on the results, the audiologist can recommend suitable hearing aids.
A hearing aid fitting involves programming the device to match the individual’s hearing loss pattern, as determined by the hearing exam. The audiologist may also adjust the physical fit of the hearing aid and instruct the individual on how to use and maintain the device. It is also essential that the audiologist verify hearing aids match the levels that research shows to be best, this is called real-ear measures.
Why Are Hearing Aids Priced High?
Hearing aids, despite their small size, encompass a significant amount of research, design, and technology, leading to their high cost. Manufacturers invest heavily in creating sophisticated algorithms and features for these devices. In fact, Sonova, the parent company of Phonak, Unitron, and Sennheiser spent $195 million on research in 2021. These research and design costs, coupled with the costs of training audiologists globally and providing customer support, are all factored into the final price of the product.
The high price also stems from the market size and the level of customization required for each device. While smartphones sell in the billions annually, only about 5 million hearing aids are sold each year in the U.S. This smaller market size necessitates higher prices to cover the significant investment in research and design.
See more information about why hearing aids are expensive.
Access to Hearing Aids: Increasing Options
The availability of OTC hearing aids is seen as a significant step toward increasing access to hearing assistance. By eliminating the need for a prescription and professional fitting, OTC hearing aids offer a more affordable option for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. They can be purchased in stores or online, which increases their accessibility, particularly in rural or underserved areas.
Where to Purchase Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
As an audiologist, I have seen how hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. The rise of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids has expanded access to hearing assistance technology, catering to those who prefer the convenience of purchasing directly. Here are some common places where you can buy OTC hearing aids:
- Online: Purchasing OTC hearing aids online is often the most convenient option. It allows for a wide selection, competitive pricing, and direct access to manufacturers. However, be aware of potential downsides such as the absence of a personal fitting and limited support. I recommend purchasing directly from the manufacturer’s website to ensure authenticity and up-to-date products.
- Electronic Stores: Some electronic stores, like Best Buy, have dedicated spaces for OTC hearing aids from popular brands like Eargo, Lucid, and Lexie, with more expected in the future.
- Pharmacies and Grocery Store Pharmacies: Major chains like Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart offer OTC hearing aids, but their employees may not have extensive knowledge about these products.
- Local Hearing Aid Clinics: Some clinics may offer OTC options, either in-store or through their website, sometimes even after a comprehensive hearing evaluation.
Locating Hearing Aids Near You
Identifying local resources for purchasing hearing aids can simplify your search. You can look for nearby hearing clinics, medical centers, or even large retail stores that carry hearing aids. Additionally, some online retailers offer options to have their products delivered directly to your home.
Visiting a Hearing Clinic
Visiting a hearing clinic is a traditional and often the most comprehensive route for acquiring hearing aids. Here, you’ll find a trained audiologist who can conduct an in-depth hearing test and recommend the most suitable hearing aid for you. It’s advisable to choose an audiologist over a hearing instrument specialist due to their advanced level of training and their ability to diagnose and treat a wider range of hearing conditions.
Buying Prescription Hearing Aids Through a Discount Network
Consider buying prescription hearing aids through a discount network such as ZipHearing or Hear-Better.com. These networks provide access to hearing aids from leading manufacturers at competitive prices. ZipHearing, for instance, includes local professional fitting appointment with every purchase, and their prices often beat those of traditional audiology clinics.
Buying OTC Hearing Aids in Stores
OTC hearing aids are now more accessible than ever, thanks to their availability in various physical retail stores. These include pharmacies, electronics stores, and even some grocery stores.
Buying OTC Hearing Aids Online
Online shopping offers a convenient alternative to in-store purchases. Numerous online platforms sell OTC hearing aids, including manufacturer websites and online marketplaces. When buying online, ensure you choose a reputable source to avoid counterfeit or substandard products. Online purchases also allow for easy price comparisons and access to customer and professional reviews, helping you make an informed decision.
Understanding the Different Types of Hearing Aids
There are several types of hearing aids, each designed to suit different needs and preferences. These include Behind-The-Ear (BTE), In-The-Ear (ITE), In-The-Canal (ITC), Completely-In-Canal (CIC), and Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) hearing aids. Each type has its pros and cons, depending on factors like the severity of hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget.
What Are the Top Hearing Aid Brands?
There are several top-rated brands in the hearing aid industry. These include Starkey, Oticon, Phonak, Signia, and Widex. Each brand offers a range of hearing aids with different features and technologies, so the best brand for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Major OTC hearing aid brands are Sennheiser, Jabra and Lexie
Features of a Hearing Aid: What Do They Mean?
Hearing aids come with various features designed to enhance the user’s listening experience. These may include noise reduction, feedback suppression, directional microphones, and Bluetooth capabilities for connecting to other devices. Some advanced models also offer features like tinnitus masking, telecoil for better phone conversations, and rechargeable batteries for convenience.
Recognizing the Need for a Hearing Aid
Understanding How Hearing Aids Work
Hearing aids work by capturing sounds from the environment through a microphone, amplifying these sounds, seperating what you want to hear from the noise you do not want to hear and then delivering the sound to your ear through a speaker. Modern hearing aids are digital and can be programmed to amplify specific frequencies more than others, making them highly customizable to an individual’s specific pattern of hearing loss.
Can Hearing Aids Restore My Hearing to Normal?
While hearing aids can significantly improve your ability to hear and understand sounds, they can’t restore your hearing to normal. They amplify sounds, helping to make them more audible, but they don’t repair the damage to the inner ear that causes hearing loss.
What Kind of Batteries Do Hearing Aids Use?
Most hearing aids sold today are rechargeable. Rechargeable hearing aids use lithium-ion batteries, much like a smartphone, and can be recharged daily. But hearing aids can still use zinc-air button disposable batteries in different sizes (10, 312, 13, 675) to fit different styles and sizes of hearing aids.
Is It Necessary to Wear Two Hearing Aids for Loss in Both Ears?
If you have hearing loss in both ears, it’s generally recommended to wear two hearing aids. This is because using two hearing aids can help to improve your ability to locate the source of sounds, better understand speech in noisy environments, and provide a more balanced, natural sound quality.
Are In-the-Ear Hearing Aids Effective?
In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids can be highly effective for mild to severe hearing loss. They are custom-made to fit the shape of your ear canal and can offer a comfortable, discreet hearing solution. However, their effectiveness depends on various factors, including the degree and type of your hearing loss, your lifestyle needs, and the specific model of ITE hearing aid you choose. If you have good low frequency hearing you will likely experience occlusion.
Pros and Cons of In-the-Ear Hearing Aids
In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids have several advantages, including a more natural sound quality (since they are closer to the eardrum), discretion due to their smaller size, and ease of use since they don’t require a connecting tube. However, they also have some disadvantages. They may not be suitable for severe to profound hearing loss, they can be more prone to damage from moisture and earwax, and their small size can make handling them more difficult for people with dexterity issues.
Are In-the-Ear Hearing Aids Comfortable to Wear?
In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom-made to fit the unique shape of your ear canal, which can make them quite comfortable to wear. However, comfort can vary depending on the individual. Some people might find them uncomfortable initially, but most people get used to them over time.
Adapting to a Hearing Aid: How Long Does It Take?
Adapting to a new hearing aid can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, or even a few months in some cases. This period allows your brain to adjust to the new sounds you’re hearing. Regular use and follow-up appointments with your audiologist for adjustments can help speed up this process.
Do Compact Hearing Aids Work Well?
Yes, compact hearing aids can work well and offer the same technology and features as larger models. However, their smaller size might no bluetooth or wireless compibility and no rechargeable batteries. The suitability of compact hearing aids also depends on the type and degree of hearing loss.