Which hearing aid is best?
Millions of people suffer from some form of hearing loss. Some of it is age-related, but some is the result of a medical condition. The type of hearing aid available online or over the counter without a prescription is typically an FDA-registered Class I medical device. The best of these are prescription-grade and designed by doctors and hearing specialists.
If you’re looking for a lightweight and comfortable medical-grade hearing aid that’s nearly undetectable, even from up close, check out the EARGO Neo HiFi.
What to know before you buy a hearing aid
Common objections to hearing aids
Embarrassment: Many people feel embarrassed to wear a hearing aid, thinking it makes them look frail and elderly. These people look for hearing aids that are the least obtrusive.
Comfort: Some people have difficulty becoming accustomed to wearing a device in or on their ear. It may be because the hearing aid is old and bulky or because the device doesn’t fit properly. People with comfort issues should look for hearing aids that are lightweight and properly fitted.
Expectations: Many people find their hearing aids don’t work as well as they had hoped because they bought an analog hearing aid or an amplifier that isn’t even a hearing aid. When hearing aids are improperly fitted, they won’t deliver the clear sound wearers are hoping for. Look for digital hearing aids that you can custom tune to your personal sound profile.
Analog vs. digital
Analog hearing aids: Analog hearing aids convert sounds into electrical signals that are amplified and sent to the earphone. The main shortcoming of analog hearing aids is that they amplify all sounds equally. This means the volume of what you want to hear is louder, but so are all the other noises, like background noise, other conversations, wind and electrical interference.
Analog hearing aids are less expensive because they’re less effective. They also consume a lot of power, meaning the batteries need to be changed frequently. When used with a smartphone, analog hearing aids produce a disturbing buzzing sound that makes listening difficult.
Digital hearing aids: Digital hearing aids take sound waves picked up by a microphone and convert them into electrical signals that a tiny computer translates into a digital code, optimizing the signal according to the user’s customized settings. A microchip converts the code back into electrical signals that an amplifier strengthens and sends to the receiver.
Digital hearing aids provide just enough amplification that soft, loud and normal sounds are all clear and comfortable and background noise is suppressed. Digital hearing aids are power-efficient, so their batteries last longer. Talking on mobile phones is easy with digital hearing aids, some of which pair nicely with your mobile devices to use them as remote controllers.
What to look for in a quality hearing aid
Behind the ear hearing aids: Most of the working parts of BTE hearing aids are contained in a small plastic case that rests behind the ear. The case is connected to an earpiece by a small piece of tubing. BTE hearing aids are sturdy, easy to handle and easy to clean.
On the ear hearing aids: OTE hearing aids also fit behind the ear but are much smaller and are connected to earpieces by a tube so thin as to be nearly invisible. OTE hearing aids are more comfortable and less obtrusive.
In the ear hearing aids: All the parts of ITE hearing aids are contained in a shell that sits inside the ear. Also called half shell hearing aids, they have room for more features than in-canal hearing aids.
In the canal hearing aids: ITC hearing aids are the tiniest, with cases that fit entirely inside the ear canal. They deliver sound more directly and are the most “invisible” of all hearing aid types.
How much you can expect to spend on a hearing aid
When you see hearing aids for a few hundred dollars, you’re probably looking at sound amplifiers. Expect to pay from $1,000-$6,000 for good hearing aids.
Hearing aid FAQ
How long will it take me to get used to wearing a hearing aid?
A. Everyone’s experience is different, but all will take time to get it adjusted for peak performance and comfort. Some expensive hearing aids are supported by trained medical staff who can help you fit and fine-tune your hearing aid.
Do hearing aids use special batteries?
A. Yes, most hearing aids use zinc-air batteries that are specifically designed for hearing aids and come in different sizes.
What’s the best hearing aid to buy?
Top hearing aid
What you need to know: Get a medical-grade hearing aid without a visit to the audiologist’s office.
What you’ll love: This Class II medical-grade hearing aid is lightweight, comfortable and nearly undetectable. The sound is crisp, clear and natural. Eargo’s licensed hearing professionals help you tune your hearing aid for the best results.
What you should consider: There were occasional reports of feedback.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top hearing aid for the money
What you need to know: This rechargeable hearing aid was designed by a Board Certified ENT surgeon.
What you’ll love: This hearing aid has four programs that adjust for your hearing loss and environment. Two state-of-the-art microphones focus on the conversation in front of you while tuning out background noises. The rechargeable batteries last for 18+ hours, are lightweight and sit discreetly behind the ear.
What you should consider: It takes a while to learn how to adjust these hearing aids for best performance.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: These rechargeable hearing and music aids combine sound enhancement and noise-canceling technology for clear, easy-to-follow sound.
What you’ll love: These aids look like AirPods and come with a USB-C cable and charging case. Test your hearing and customize your settings with the free Oliver Pro app for iOS and Android. Four sizes of urethane foam ear tips are included.
What you should consider: The earbuds require regular replacement.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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