It’s easy to take hearing for granted, but when a person’s hearing starts to decline, their quality of life can decline with it. Thankfully, modern science has given us the hearing aid, which millions of people around the world now use to improve everyday living.
While hearing aids can’t restore the user’s natural hearing, they’re able to amplify environmental sounds and make up the difference, much like prescription glasses. Many people with hearing aids swear by their use. Hearing aids aren’t just for the elderly, either, despite popular assumptions. Many adults and children also use them to manage hearing loss resulting from disease or long-term damage.
Hearing aids have evolved over the years, and modern hearing aids can be stylish and feature-rich, with technology like Bluetooth connectivity and wireless synchronization.
In this guide, we look closer look at hearing aids and how to choose the right hearing aids for you. We’ll also give you our top picks for the best hearing aids on the market.
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Overall: Eargo Neo
- Best Smart Tech: Widex Evoke RIC10
- Best Value: MDHearingAid Air
- Best Discreet Hearing Aid: Phonak Lyric
- Best Rechargeable: Miracle Ear iRHYTHM
The Best Hearing Aids: Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Eargo Neo
A flexible, high-quality hearing aid suitable for a wide range of users.
Why We Picked It
The Eargo Neo offers a flexible, high-quality product. Buyers can buy the Eargo Neo directly or spread the cost with a financing plan. The Eargo is practically invisible when in use and offers a level of comfort that makes the hearing aid almost unnoticeable to users. It includes 4 sound profiles, which users can switch between with a double-tap on the ear.
The Eargo features a rechargeable battery with easy charging. Users simply connect the hearing aids to the Eargo case, which doubles as a charger. A fully charged battery can last for up to a week, and the hearing aids can charge in as little as thirty minutes.
Eargo will assign you a Personal Hearing Professional as your audiologist, so you can get in touch if you experience any problems. They can use the information from your hearing aids to help resolve your query. Buyers can return their Eargo devices within 45 days for a refund, though a handling fee may be payable in some states.
Keep in Mind
While the Eargo includes a 45-day return period, a handling fee applies in some US states.
In a Nutshell
- 4 sound profiles
- One-time purchase or finance option available
- Battery can last up to a week
Best Smart Tech: Widex Evoke RIC10
Widex Evoke RIC10
Leverages smart tech for a cutting-edge user experience.
Why We Picked It
The Widex Evoke RIC10 hearing aid is an excellent example of the technical sophistication on offer from modern hearing aids.
The RIC10 is a receiver-in-the-canal hearing aid. Users can control the settings of their Widex Evoke through the TONELINK app, adjusting volume, directional settings, and programs to achieve the optimal settings for their level of hearing loss. The app comes with multiple programs, including programs for everyday use, listening to music, and listening in various audio landscapes. It also includes a few special programs, like a Zen relaxation program.
The RIC10 comes in a wide range of colors, including several subtle flesh-tones, so users can either opt for these as discreet options or aim for something more eye-catching.
Keep in Mind
Due to its advanced features, the RIC10 is more expensive than some alternatives.
In a Nutshell
- Wireless connectivity to TONELINK app
- App includes multiple programs
- Range of colors available
Best Value: MDHearingAid Air
An affordable hearing aid that doesn’t sacrifice quality.
Why We Picked It
The MDHearingAid Air is available for a one-time payment at a low price point, but the manufacturer also offers a monthly payment plan to help buyers spread the cost.
As well as being budget-friendly, the MDHearingAid Air is also perfect for users looking for discreet hearing aids, thanks to their near-invisible design. A transparent tube connects the user’s ear to the neutral, skin-toned hearing aid. This model is designed to be worn without custom fitting and the settings are designed to meet the needs of most users, so you won’t need to work with an audiologist.
The MDHearingAid Air has better noise reduction than the entry-level Pro model from the same brand and also features feedback cancellation technology to reduce whistle sounds. Users can adjust the volume of the hearing aid as desired and switch between 3 different audio settings to suit the situation and their level of hearing.
Budget-conscious buyers will be glad to know that this hearing aid also comes with a 45-day trial. If you aren’t satisfied with the fit, you’ll receive a full refund.
Keep in Mind
The MDHearingAid Air lacks advanced features, but provides excellent value.
In a Nutshell
- Near-invisible design
- No need for an audiologist
- 45-day trial
Best Discreet Hearing Aid: Phonak Lyric
A discreet hearing aid that keeps out of the way.
Why We Picked It
Many people are self-conscious about wearing hearing aids, but the Phonak Lyric can help to make the transition to using hearing aids much easier.
The Lyric is offered on a yearly subscription model and can’t be bought on a one-time basis. The subscription covers a full year’s worth of hearing aids, with each set designed to last months. If a repair or battery replacement is needed, subscribers instead receive new hearing aids. The initial fitting of a Lyric device takes about an hour, but subsequent visits will take around 10 minutes.
The Lyric is made from a biocompatible material that shapes itself to the contours of the user’s ear, so it should allow most users to achieve discreet comfort. Although the fitting process is performed by a Lyric provider, users can remove the device themselves using the provided tool.
Users can try Lyric risk-free for 30 days, which may be useful for people who want to see how discreet they are before committing to the purchase.
Keep in Mind
Lacks advanced features like wireless connectivity, but offers a discreet experience.
In a Nutshell
- Discreet and comfortable
- No need for repair or recharge
- 30-day trial period
Best Rechargeable: Miracle Ear iRHYTHM
Miracle Ear iRHYTHM
A rechargeable hearing aid for users on the go.
Why We Picked It
The iRHYTHM has a stylish modern design with long-lasting battery life, offering up to 24 hours of use for each charge. The lithium-ion batteries can be recharged overnight, ready for use the next day. When in use, the iRHYTHM sits discreetly behind the ear, and its adaptive directionality, environment management, and noise management automatically regulate incoming sound.
These iRHYTHM is Bluetooth-enabled, which allows users to connect the devices with a phone or TV. Water-resistance protects the iRHYTYM in bad weather and against splashing, though the devices aren’t suitable for total immersion. With a robust design, the iRHYTYM will also resist damage and dirt, meaning you can use them for longer without interruption.
Keep in Mind
Though they provide an excellent recharge option, users will have to remember to recharge them regularly.
In a Nutshell
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries
- Discreet profile
- Bluetooth connectivity
How We Chose the Best Hearing Aids
To choose the top hearing aids out there, we looked at several key areas to build an overall picture of the user experience.
Some people may be able to get hearing aids through their insurance plan, and there are generally more options for support for children than there are for adults. Hearing aids aren’t covered under Medicare, however, so some buyers will need to keep their budget in mind.
For each product, we noted the price, including whether the product offered a subscription option or a payment plan. Some brands offer financing options, which can help low-income shoppers spread the cost of the purchase.
Hearing aids work like microphones, transforming environmental sound into electrical information, which is then transmitted to the ear. This process always results in some changes to the sound, so the sound quality of the hearing aid determines the level of fidelity it has to live sound. Better sound quality may improve a user’s quality of life, but that might also mean a higher price tag.
Modern Technology Features
Hearing aids can benefit from many modern technologies, like portable chargers and Bluetooth connectivity. While advanced features can make hearing aids more expensive, they’re a great way to reduce frustrations, allowing users to concentrate on the positives. We noted the advanced features of each model and how they affected the user experience.
Some hearing aids come in a range of colors, with many offering a variety of flesh tones to help the user achieve a discreet look. Others offer bright, vibrate, or metallic colors for those who prefer to treat them as a visible accessory.
Hearing aids are designed to be worn for hours at a time, so it’s important they achieve the desired level of comfort. We noted the style of fit for each model, and how comfortable it was to wear for long periods.
Like glasses, hearing aids become part of your overall appearance, which some will find more difficult to come to terms with than others. Many hearing aids are designed to look unobtrusive, and customers typically prefer these. We give an assessment of how noticeable each model is, which some will consider a deciding factor in the model they choose.
By their nature, the quality of hearing aids is determined by both technical and personal factors. Customer reviews give us the big picture for both, telling us how users found them to use every day and noting any quirks or flaws that might only become apparent to regular users.
How do Hearing Aids Work?
Hearing aids are a corrective tool used to help people with hearing loss achieve a level of hearing that improves their quality of life.
Unlike prescription glasses, hearing aids don’t process stimuli passively. Instead, hearing aids are actually miniature recording and output set-ups, which pick up audio information, process it, and then “play” it, all in real-time.
The hearing aid picks up sound using an internal microphone, which is fed to the audio processing chip, which makes adjustments according to the specific noise profile the hearing aid is using. The filtered sound then broadcasts to the ear via an output device in the outer ear or ear canal.
Hearing aids don’t usually boost all noises across the board. Instead, they manage incoming audio input by its qualities. In practice, this means that a hearing aid can make hearing conversations easier in a busy environment by boosting audio profiles associated with speech and dampening those associated with background noise.
Who Uses Hearing Aids
While hearing aids are often associated with seniors, that’s not the whole story. Many adults and children also suffer from hearing loss, usually due to a birth defect, disease, or as a result of lifestyle damage.
If you or someone you know struggles to follow conversations, particularly when there’s little background noise, this could be a sign of hearing loss. Background noise will often make the problem more obvious, making it hard to keep up with what others are saying.
Where most people adjust easily to prescription glasses, hearing aids can be difficult for some users to come to terms with. The best approach is to explore the benefits of hearing aids with the user, particularly with regards to improving their overall quality of life.
Types of Hearing Aids
There are many different types of hearing aid available, each with their specific pros and cons. Here are the basic types:
- In-the-Canal: In-the-canal hearing aids are molded to fit in the ear canal of the user, which makes them less visible than other types. They can deliver sound directly, meaning they’re less susceptible to undesirable noise like wind.
- In-the-Ear: In-the-ear hearing aids either partially or fully fill the indented portion of the outer ear, which makes them suitable for users with a high level of hearing loss. They’re usually easy to adjust thanks to their accessibility, and less fiddly for users with a lack of fine motor control. However, some users can find them too visible, and they can pick up more unwanted noise than some models.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE): Behind-the-ear devices consist of a unit that sits at the back of the ear and a tube that wraps over the top of the ear and into the ear canal. This style can work for almost any type of user and has the benefit of being discreet and easy to control.
- Receiver-in-the-Canal: Much like behind the ear models, the main control unit sits behind the ear, connected by wire to an output device in the canal.
- Open Fit: Open fit is a variation on BTE, with an ultra-small tube to keep the ear canal open. These are less visible by nature than BTE designs and have a similar level of accessibility. Compared to BTE, they allow for more natural penetration of sound, so they work well for users who still have a moderate ability to hear sounds naturally.
What to Consider When Choosing a Hearing Aid
When choosing hearing aids, you’ll need to consider not just their specifications, but also your personal needs and preferences. It can be tricky to find the perfect model for you, so here are some things to keep in mind.
Hearing aids are expensive and not everyone will be able to get them on their insurance. For shoppers who might struggle to afford hearing aids, finance options or subscriptions can help to spread the cost.
Although many people have a fixed idea of what a hearing aid looks like, the truth is that the range of hearing aids now on the market is huge. They’re available in many different styles, from those designed for subtlety to sleek, modern designs that can double as an accessory. This makes hearing aids much more stylish than they were in the past and can help to restore self-confidence to wearers who are struggling to come to terms with wearing hearing aids.
Hearing aids aren’t passive devices, so they need power to work. This limits a hearing aid’s usefulness to the lifespan of its battery. As a general rule, hearing aids with a longer battery life work better for most users, as this means they can keep them in for longer and gives the user less to think about.
However, if you’re working with a limited budget, you could choose to prioritize other features, particularly if you have multiple sets of cheaper hearing aids or you don’t expect to use them for long periods at a time.
Hearing aids come with a wide range of features, including modern ones like wireless connectivity and the ability to sync settings between multiple sets of hearing aids. We go into more detail below about what kind of features are available, which should allow you to decide which you personally value most.
Hearing aids aren’t just expensive, they’re also vital for a user’s quality of life. This is why warranty for hearing aids is vital, helping to cover the expense and ensure swift replacement if you encounter an issue with your devices.
Some hearing aids are available on a subscription basis. This can help to spread the cost of wearing hearing aids, and also allow you to access technical help if a problem should occur. However, subscription options can prove more expensive and inflexible in the long term, so be sure to check the costs involved before you sign the contract.
Forecasting Future Needs
Some hearing aid users already know their medical outlook, such as whether they can expect their level of hearing to remain stable or decline over time. Keeping this in mind when you choose your hearing aids can help you achieve greater value for money, enabling you to find hearing aids that will last you for a long time.
Finding a Trusted Audiologist
Many hearing aids include specialized audiologist support to fit and tailor your hearing aid to your needs. To get the best experience, you’ll need to find a brand that offers highly-qualified support with great levels of customer service.
Additional Hearing Aid Features
Hearing aids come with a wide range of features, some more obvious than others. These can seem overwhelming when shopping for options, so it helps to know what these features are and what they do, allowing you to make an informed choice.
- Wireless Capabilities: Like many modern devices, some hearing aids have wireless technology, such as Bluetooth. This allows users to pair the hearing aids with enabled devices, which can allow users to answer the phone or listen to music directly through their hearing aid. This effectively makes wireless hearing aids into AirPod-style devices.
- Noise Reduction: Noise reduction can help users to focus on certain sounds by reducing extraneous noise, allowing a more pleasant hearing aid experience and improving the user’s quality of life.
- Battery Life: The point of hearing aids is to improve your quality of life, but this only extends as far as the battery life of the device. This makes a long battery life one of the most appealing features of hearing aids. Many hearing aids offer battery life that will last the day, and which users can charge overnight.
- Noise Cancelling: Distinct from the kind of noise cancellation offered by headphones, noise canceling in hearing aids is about controlling the kinds of sounds you hear. It works by filtering for sounds with certain qualities, like those associated with human speech or background noise, and then amplifying or dampening them to make hearing easier.
- Synchronization: Typical hearing aids have multiple settings, and, with every individual being different, what works for one user won’t work for others. This can pose problems when you have multiple hearing aids, as these settings can be out of sync. Hearing aids with synchronization features will sync these settings between multiple sets of hearing aids, allowing users to swap easily from one to another.
- Telecoils: A telecoil is a kind of antenna inside a hearing aid, which is designed to listen to electromagnetic signals instead of sound as we understand it. Just like a radio, a telecoil can tune in to a signal broadcast to receive audio. This is usually a hearing loop in a movie theater or traditional theater, and allows users to listen directly to the show as if they were wearing headphones, cutting out background noise.
Tips for Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids can be life-changing, but to get the most out of them, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. These can help to ease the transition and may allay some initial concerns you might have when first using your hearing aids.
- Have realistic expectations: Hearing aids can drastically improve your quality of life, but they don’t address the root causes of hearing loss and aren’t a complete fix. You may not attain or recapture a perfect level of hearing.
- Be patient: As with many wearable medical devices, there’s an initial adjustment period with hearing aids. If you don’t feel the expected benefits immediately, give your brain time to adjust to the new stimulus, as performance should improve over time. If you still don’t experience the expected results after your adjustment period, you should consult your doctor.
- Practice: Most people with hearing loss get used to speaking louder, much like someone wearing headphones. Hearing aids will restore your awareness of your own speaking voice, so try speaking at a range of different voice levels to get a better feel for how you sound.
- See your doctor: After you start using your hearing aids, you should still see your doctor regularly. They can check your hearing to measure any further decline, which may lead to you needing more powerful hearing aids. They can also address any general concerns you have about using your hearing aids and can provide further advice for getting the best use out of them.
If you’re looking for more senior health guides, be sure to check out our other resources.