Hearing loss is an unfortunate part of aging for many adults. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that as many as one in three seniors aged between 65 and 74 has a degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss impacts every area of life, making it harder to follow conversations, hear properly when out and about, or even enjoy a favorite TV show. Hearing aids help seniors improve the quality of their hearing, and enjoy life once more.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a hearing aid. Let’s dive right in with all the information you need to find the right hearing aid for you.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
Hearing aids amplify sound so it’s easier to hear. A tiny microphone picks up the sound around you, and then sends it to a processor to be converted into electronic data. Then, the receiver in the hearing aid sends the amplified sound to your ear. Of course, all of this happens so fast you don’t notice a delay.
Nowadays, hearing aids don’t just amplify any sound that’s there. Many modern hearing aids are intelligent enough to amplify the most important parts, such as boosting the sound of music or conversation, while keeping the background sound low. Most models have different settings you can choose, based on what’s happening around you.
What Kind Of Hearing Aids Are There?
The main kinds of hearing aids are behind the ear (BTE) and in the ear (ITE).
Behind The Ear Styles
Behind the ear is the style most of us think of if we think about hearing aids. A BTE hearing aid sits snugly behind the ear, with a tube connecting it to a small custom earpiece that sits within your ear canal.
A receiver in canal (RIC) model is a variation of the traditional BTE model. With RIC hearing aids, the receiver itself sits within the ear canal and is connected to the outer portion of the hearing aid via a wire rather than a tube.
Open fit hearing aids are another variation on the BTE model. Open fit models have a smaller, thinner tube, which keeps the ear canal more open and allows more natural sound to enter.
In the ear styles
Nowadays there are also several in the ear (ITE) models available. These hearing aids sit completely within the ear canal and are much more discreet.
There are also different types of in the ear hearing aids.
- Custom mold ITE hearing aids are molded to your ear and either fill the whole of your outer ear shell (whole shell) or half of it (half shell.)
- In the canal hearing aids (ITC) are custom molded to fit partly in the ear canal. This makes them much less visible than most other styles.
- And finally, there are completely in the canal hearing aids (CIC). These fit entirely within your ear canal and are the least visible of all the styles.
How Do I Get Fitted For A Hearing Aid?
The best way to get fitted for a hearing aid is to contact a professional hearing aid company and make an appointment to see one of their hearing specialists. Most professional hearing aid companies have specialist centers nationwide where you can be assessed.
Seeing a professional is especially important for first time hearing aid users. They can assess both your hearing loss and your lifestyle, to help you find the style that’s best suited to your needs. That means you’re more likely to get the results you want from your hearing aid.
What Are Some Other Features Of Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids these days come with an array of different features. While you won’t necessarily want every single feature, knowing what’s out there equips you to ask the right questions and make a good choice for you:
- Streaming music or TV direct to the devices. If you want to hear TV or music easily, this is a great feature, as your hearing aids will pick it up directly and act as your own personal amplifiers.
- Smartphone control. Many modern styles allow you to control the settings and volume via your smartphone or tablet.
- Remote control. Some models come with a handy remote control so you can make adjustments without needing to fiddle with the hearing aid itself.
- T-coil technology. Have you ever seen a sign in a public place such as a church or theater about hearing aid loops? That means the place is equipped with an assistive hearing system designed to enhance sound for hearing aid users. A t-coil or telecoil is a small copper coil within the hearing aid. When you’re within a t-coil loop area, the system produces a magnetic signal that’s picked up by the t-coil in your hearing aid, enhancing music, voices, lectures, and so on.
- Direct audio input. Some models let you plug directly into a TV or other sound source, for a clearer hearing experience.
- Noise reduction. The type and sensitivity of noise reduction vary from model to model, so be sure to find out what kind of noise reduction is on offer.
- Directional microphones. Some models have directional microphones that amplify the sound coming from in front of you, but not beside or behind you. This is particularly helpful for hearing conversations.
- Sound profiles. Some models offer different sound profiles for different types of environment (for example public places vs one on one conversations). These sound profiles can be saved for immediate access at any time. Some models even have the capacity to “learn” about the different environments you go into, for an enhanced experience the next time you go there.
What Are Some Other Questions I Should Ask about Hearing Aids?
Finding a hearing aid that suits your specific hearing loss and lifestyle is the first and most important step. However, like any other device, you want to make sure your hearing aid is easy to use, and that you’re covered if something goes wrong with it. That’s why we recommend asking about:
- Batteries. Some models use rechargeable batteries and some use replaceable batteries. Find out how often the battery will need to be recharged or replaced, and how easy it is to do that.
- Warranties. What happens if one of your hearing aids breaks? What kind of repairs or replacement are you covered for?
- Evaluation period. Many hearing aid companies offer an evaluation period (typically 30 days) for you to try out your hearing aids. If you return them within that period you’ll get a refund, no questions asked.
- Follow up support. Can you call a number for help? Perhaps they do an automatic check-in call? Some manufacturers even offer an app or an online quick-start guide to help you through the first few days of trying out your new hearing aids.
- Cleaning. It’s always a good idea to ask how to clean the specific model you’re considering.
- Financing. Some manufacturers offer payment plans to ease the financial burden. Be sure to read the small print before signing up for one!
How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost?
Hearing aids are a significant investment. Expect to pay in the region of $3500 up to $6000 for a professionally fitted pair and anywhere from $300 to $1000 for over the counter hearing aids.
Summary of Hearing Aid Comparisons
We took a look at the top hearing aid companies and compared their products side by side. Click on the links to compare the best hearing aids, professionally fitted hearing aids, over the counter hearing aids, and bone conduction hearing aids.
- Beltone vs Oticon – Similar hearing aid features, but you may pay less for one than the other.
- Beltone vs Phonak – Two top brands who have both received innovation awards.
- Beltone vs ReSound – Both companies have been around since the 1940's and offer similar products, but one is significantly more expensive.
- Eargo Max vs Eargo Plus – Barely-there hearing aids are easy on the eyes and the budget, but which one is a better value?
- Miracle-Ear vs Phonak – Miracle-Ear has walk-in stores in all 50 states. But Phonak may be in the lead with cutting-edge hearing aid technology.
- Oticon vs Beltone – If you are on a budget, one of these is going to be less painful for your wallet.
- Oticon vs Phonak – One of these brands offers much more variety to choose from, while the other is focused on a smaller selection with an emphasis on advanced technology.
- Oticon vs ReSound – Two very similar companies offering a variety of hearing aid options and new features. While both offer reasonable pricing, one costs slightly less than the other.
- Oticon vs Widex – Both Oticon and Widex are global leaders in the hearing aid industry. But one is a clear winner when it comes to advanced hearing aid technology.
- Phonak vs Beltone – Two popular brands with similar hearing aids, but one outshines the other in customer service.
- Phonak vs Miracle-Ear – These two companies go head to head with easy to access stores and authorized retail locations throughout the U.S. But one is leading the way with hearing aid tech.
- Phonak vs Oticon – Oticon focuses more on providing consumers with technologically advanced hearing aids, whereas Phonak strives to provide a vast assortment of hearing aids.
- Phonak vs ReSound – Each offers the smart features you want in hearing aids and other desirable features as well.
- Phonak vs Signia – Makers of high-quality hearing aids, but one of these companies has a stronger focus on personalization and quality of life.
- Phonak vs Starkey – While both of these brands offer quality hearing aids, one stands out with a better warranty.
- Phonak vs Unitron – These sister companies make similar hearing aids, but one has features that appeal to a more active lifestyle.
- Phonak vs Widex – Phonak and Widex both sell their products primarily through a network of distributors. But there are some subtle differences between these two quality brands.
- ReSound vs Beltone – Similar companies with comparable hearing aid offerings, but one is much more expensive than the other.
- ReSound vs Oticon – Both these companies offer extensive support options. But when it comes to price, there is one clear winner.
- ReSound vs Phonak -ReSound and Phonak are both well-established companies in the field of audiology.
- ReSound vs Signia – ReSound and Signia are two long-standing companies both known for a broad range of hearing aid options. One, however, does a better job in the customer service department than the other.
- ReSound vs Starkey – Both companies led the charge in creating iPhone and Android-compatible hearing aids and have local dealers that are able to help with fitting and customer service issues.
- ReSound vs Widex – ReSound and Widex have similar hearing aid products, but only one has all the bells and whistles like feedback suppression.
- Signia vs Phonak – You can't go wrong with either of these brands, but one boasts advanced technology and surprising features like “invisible” hearing aids.
- Signia vs ReSound – Signia and ReSound offer a wide range of hearing aid options, but one excels in customer service and more advanced models for savvy users.
- Signia vs Widex – Both companies are focused on the user experience, especially when it comes to hearing natural sound. Read the comparison to see how they compare.
- Starkey vs Phonak – Phonak uses Marvel technology and Starkey has the Nano Shield. How do these benefit you? Read the comparison to find out more.
- Starkey vs ReSound – One is a leader in implementing hearing aids with nanotechnology, which protects the devices from sweat and moisture.
- Starkey vs Widex – Both Starkey and Widex offer a feature that filters out the “ringing in the ears” experienced by those who are affected by tinnitus.
- Unitron vs Phonak – Owned by the same parent company, Unitron and Phonak offer similar and comparable products. One of them tends to be a bit less expensive and geared toward an active lifestyle.
- Widex vs Oticon – These two advanced companies are set apart from the competition due to the range of technology that goes into making the hearing aids work.
- Widex vs Phonak – Both Widex and Phonak are known for the top-quality hearing aids they sell. Learn about the differences and similarities between the two.
- Widex vs ReSound – Widex and ReSound have a lot in common, such as the ability to update certain hearing aids through downloadable apps. But only one uses a protective seal against moisture from perspiration and humidity.
- Widex vs Signia – Both the Widex and the Signia product lines have comparable features. The two companies offer a full range of state-of-the-art hearing aid functions.
- Widex vs Starkey – Widex and Starkey product lines have models that can be easily controlled remotely by iOS and Android mobile devices as well. But one has models that could break the bank. Make sure to buy from authorized dealers to receive the full warranty.