hearing aids

The 12 Best Hearing Aids of 2021

Our top picks based on features, price, fit, and more.
By Courtney Schmidt, Pharm.D.
Updated September 09, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

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Hearing loss is often treated with hearing aids, and although they aren't a cure, hearing aids offer a potentially life-changing improvement to the way you hear. Our expert review will provide you with everything you need to know to find the right hearing aid for you.

A quick look at the best hearing aids

Why trust our expert review?

Hours of research

Experts consulted

Brands considered

Models considered

Models selected

5,100

11

17

95

12

Our experts independently recommend products we believe provide value in the lives of our readers. We've spent collectively more than 5,000 hours conducting in-depth research on hearing aid devices. To make these selections, we:

  • Consulted with audiologists and geriatric care experts
  • Mystery shopped the brands
  • Surveyed hundreds of hearing aid users
  • Tested various models of hearing aids
  • Interviewed experts in the field
  • Read thousands of verified customer reviews

Hearing Aids Reviews

Related Items

Editor's choice: Lively

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100-day money back guarantee; on-demand care 7 days a week

Lively earns our editor's pick due to the company's combination of quality, prescription-strength products and a commitment to ongoing service to the customer. Hearing health professionals will often tell you—the benefit you get from your hearing aid isn't simply due to the device itself, but it often comes down to the way the device is programmed. When an audiologist tailors your hearing aid settings specifically for your type and degree of hearing loss, you will have better outcomes. Lively's business model is centered around the customer's need to have direct and ongoing access to an audiologist to ensure each customer gets the help they need. You get personalized, professional expertise without the hassle of in-person visits to an office or hearing center for a fraction of the cost of traditional hearing aids.  

Lively lets customers take a hearing test online and do a pre-purchase video consultation with an audiologist. The hearing aids can be paired with a smartphone app that allows you to adjust settings or volume. After purchasing, customers get audiologist support to set up their devices and the app, and additional consultations for up to three years if they need to adjust their devices.

A pair of battery-powered Lively hearing aids costs $1,450, or 71% less than the average $5,000 price tag for similar high-tech aids purchased at an audiologist. A pair of Lively's rechargeable hearing aids costs $2,000. The company offers financing options that allow you to pay as little as $65 a month. 

Cost: $1,450 - $2,000
 
Battery: Rechargeable & Battery-powered options
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Remote phone app or audiologist consultation
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warrant and 3-year loss-and-damage protection
 
Financing: Yes

Read our in-depth review of Lively here.

To buy: ListenLively.com

Best invisible fit: Eargo

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Lifetime support; 2-year warranty; Federal employees may get at no cost

Eargo is known for having small, rechargeable hearing aid devices that nearly disappear when positioned in the ear canal. Because of their small size, you'll almost forget they're there, and you won't get that "plugged up" feeling of larger in-canal hearing aids

These hearing aids are designed for users with mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss.

Eargo employs a unique design that allows for a more natural hearing experience with noise reduction and feedback cancellation. What's more, the company offers financing options that gets you a hearing aid for as little as $70 a month. If you're a Federal employee, you may be able to receive your Eargos at no cost. 

When you purchase, you'll get a personal hearing professional to help you along the way, and you'll get this customer support for a lifetime. 

With Eargo, you don't get a consultation with an audiologist. These hearing aids won't be a solution for all types of hearing loss, but may be a good fit for those with mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss without complications. Eargos can be used right out of the box, and you can make adjustments yourself through the smartphone app, or the company can assist in programming remotely.

Cost: $1,500 - $2,950
 
Battery: Rechargeable
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Remote
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: Unlimited repairs and one-time replacement. 45-day return policy.
 
Financing: Yes

Read our full Eargo review here.     

To buy: Click to see exclusive offer for Health readers

Best Value: MDHearingAid

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45-day trial and money-back guarantee

MDHearingAid offers behind-the-ear hearing aids affordable on almost any budget. 

MDHearing Aids are intended for users with mild-to-moderately severe hearing loss. Advanced models provide noise reduction, feedback cancellation, directional microphones, customized hearing settings, and smartphone compatibility.

Cost: $400 - $1,599
 
Battery: Rechargeable & Battery-powered options
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Remote phone app
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: Limited basic warranty. 45-day return policy.

Financing: Yes

Read our full MDHearingAid review here.

To buy: MDHearingAid.com.

Call to buy: 1-800-995-7690

Audiologist's pick: Phonak Paradise

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Customized background noise level; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

Phonak Paradise has a little bit of everything. Its high-performance hearing technology, exceptional quality, rechargeable battery life, Bluetooth connectivity, and affordable pricing makes this hearing aid a popular choice for both hearing aid wearers and hearing care professionals.

With autosense technology, this hearing aid automatically senses your sound environment and adjusts accordingly. If you're in an empty restaurant and all of a sudden there's a rush, your hearing aids will automatically sense the increase in background noise and make the necessary adjustments with limited interruption to your hearing ability. You don't have to press any buttons or pull out your phone. 

The Phonak Paradise allows you to stream anything from any Bluetooth device in stereo. You can also answer or decline calls at ear level with a simple tap. The microphones in the hearing aid double as a phone microphone so your phone can be in another room and the person on the other end can hear you perfectly! Phonak also has Roger wireless technology. Roger is their accessory brand which provides remote microphones, table microphones, and TV streamers. The use of these wireless devices helps to improve speech understanding in difficult-to-hear environments. The TV streamer allows you to stream the television sound directly into your hearing aids without any intermediary device. This is a highly recommended accessory for patients who like to listen to the TV louder than their significant other or watch TV in bed and do not want to disturb anyone else. You can set your own preferred volume separately, leaving the TV at the preferred volume for your spouse. If your phone happens to ring, you can seamlessly switch over to the phone call or ignore it with a tap and continue streaming the TV. The remote microphone or table microphone are excellent accessories to better enhance your speech understanding in noisy environments.

Cost: $2,698 - $4,798
 
Battery: Rechargeable
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Local fitting included with purchase
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Read our in-depth review of Phonak here.
 
To buy: Phonak hearing aids

Best for bluetooth: Audicus

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Membership program with new hearing aids every 18 months; unlimited access to hearing experts

Audicus offers some of the most affordable digital and Bluetooth hearing aids available – with some of the most advanced features available at that price point. 

When you purchase a device, Audicus allows you to upload your audiogram results or take its free online hearing test (the test takes approximately 16 minutes to complete, according to the company) from the comfort of your home. Then, a team of audiologists program each hearing aid to suit your customized hearing loss profile. As well as online purchase options, Audicus also has clinics around the US, with their flagship clinic located in the Denver, CO area.

In addition to competitive pricing, Audicus helps customers save money through a hearing aid membership program. For a monthly fee that starts at $39, their membership program covers a new set of hearing aids every 18 months, accessories, and insurance to protect you in the event of your hearing aids getting lost or damaged. 

Cost: $998 - $2,798
 
Battery: Rechargeable & Battery-powered options
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes (The Wave and the Spirit)
 
Adjustment: Remote phone app & mail-in options
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 1-year manufacturer's warranty for upfront customers, unlimited for Members. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Financing available: Yes, through Affirm

Read our in-depth review of Audicus here

To buy: Audicus.com

Call to buy: 1-833-766-4780

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Most versatile: Signia Pure Charge&Go X

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10 color options; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

Signia is an industry leader, offering state-of-the-art devices that perform. With the Charge&Go 7x, you'll have 48 channels and six customizable programs to choose from. This stands in stark contrast from out-of-the-box online options that can't offer this level of personalization. 

Signia's receiver-in-canal device uses long-lasting lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that provide 20 hours of use when charged for four hours. You can stream wirelessly from Apple devices, with no other devices needed. 

With the Charge&Go X, you're getting the most advanced sound quality Signia offers, along with features that allow the hearing aid to detect your movement and your own voice to make it an exceptional hearing experience. Being able to sense movement and detect changing hearing environments make this hearing aids extremely versatile, allowing users to adapt to any situation. 

Signia's smartphone app allows the user to customize their hearing whenever they like.

Cost: $2,898 - $4,598
 
Battery: Rechargeable
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Self-adjust phone app
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Read our in-depth review of Signia here.
 
To buy: Signia hearing aids

Most natural sound: Signia Silk

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Ear-to-ear wireless feature; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

The Signia Silk is a completely in-the-ear hearing aid. The small size gives you the invisible fit you want with the customization you need to get your ideal hearing experience. With 48 channels and six customizable programs, you have plenty of choices to find the right fit for you. 
 
The Silk is ideal for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, but likely isn't the best choice for those with more severe hearing loss.
 
This hearing aid offers a natural hearing experience. So natural, in fact, that you might just forget you're wearing it.
 
Cost: $2,898 - $4,398
 
Battery: Battery-powered
 
Bluetooth capabilities: No
 
Adjustment: Self-adjust phone app
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Read our in-depth review of Signia here.

To buy: Signia hearing aids

Best rechargeable: ReSound One

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Microphone and speaker both offered in-canal; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

Rechargeable hearing aids allow you to wear your hearing aids without having to change the batteries. Each manufacturer has a rechargeable option, but ReSound's rechargeable hearing aids are one of the longest lasting, offering over 30 hours of continued use. The charging case also stores charge and can recharge your hearing aids on-the-go without plugging into an outlet.

Hearing aid apps are constantly evolving to give you more control over your hearing. Most hearing aid manufacturers give their patients similar controls including general volume, equalizer, noise reduction, and microphone direction. If you like to control your hearing aids as much as you can with your app, ReSound's app gives you more flexibility within these categories to enhance and fine tune your listening experience in real time. 

Cost: $3,198 - $4,798
 
Battery: Rechargeable & Battery-powered options
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Remote phone app & Live assistance
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Read our in-depth review of Resound here. 

To buy: ReSound hearing aids

Best for tinnitus: Widex Moment

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Ultrafast sound processing; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

There are many causes for tinnitus and many different types of tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are solutions. Widex Zen technology has been proven to help manage tinnitus by using sound therapy. Widex Moment with Zen tones uses auto soothing sounds to help relieve the bothersome sound of your tinnitus by promoting relaxation. Zen technology uses fractal musical tones to combat tinnitus. Fractal tones are musical chimes that are played at random. This is important because there is no pattern. The tones are always random so your brain cannot habituate to them leaving them ineffective against your tinnitus. These relaxing chimes help to alleviate stress and anxiety, which are known triggers of tinnitus. They are more pleasant to listen to than narrowband or broadband noise, which other hearing aids use to combat tinnitus.

It's important that if you have tinnitus to see your hearing care professional to rule out underlying causes and to help you manage it.

Cost: $2,798 - $4,598
 
Battery: Rechargeable & Battery-powered options
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Remote phone app
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Read our full Widex review here.
 
To buy: Widex hearing aids

Best features: Starkey Livio AI

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Hearing Aid and health tracker in one; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries within our aging population. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that patients with a mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. We can't always be there for our loved ones, and knowing that they are at risk for falling when you are not around can be scary. Starkey Livio AI has artificial intelligence that can detect a fall. You can add yourself or others as a contact in the app, and the hearing aid app will send you a notification if your loved one has fallen. You can get them the help they need as soon as possible.

Cost: $2,898 - $4,098
 
Battery: Rechargeable & Battery-powered options
 
Bluetooth capabilities: Yes
 
Adjustment: Remote phone app
 
Warranty & Money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty. 45-day risk-free trial
 
Read our in-depth review of Starkey here.
 
To buy: Starkey hearing aids

Most powerful: Phonak Naida Marvel 90

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Try risk-free for 45 days; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

If you have severe to profound hearing loss, a powerful hearing aid that provides clear sound is critical. The Phonak Naida Marvel 90, one of Phonak's top performers, is a behind-the-ear hearing aid designed specifically for moderate to profound hearing loss. 

This high-tech hearing aid has 20 channels and four customizable programs. Because it is a behind-the-ear hearing aid, the Naida Marvel is sturdy, comfortable, easy to clean and maintain, and comes with a long-lasting battery. Plus, it connects to most devices, including several smartphone models. Reviews speak highly of the intuitive nature of this hearing aid and give a lot of positive feedback about how easy it is to use. 

The new operating system -- Autosense 3.0 -- is the brains behind the hearing aid. One of the best upgrades with this operating system is Binaural VoicesStream technology, which is the technology that helps you hear in noisy environments. This is an upgrade from previous Phonak hearing aids. 

Like many of the other Phonak hearing aid devices, the Naida Marvel comes with Roger technology, which includes remote microphones, table microphones, and TV streamers. These wireless devices can help improve speech understanding in difficult-to-hear situations by picking up the speaker's voice through a Roger microphone and wirelessly transmitting it to the listener while reducing background noise.

The Bluetooth connectivity allows for direct streaming and hands-free calls from your smartphone, making it easy to connect to friends and family. You can also stream music and video clips directly to your hearing aid. Moving between devices such as your smartphone and a tablet is a bit tedious, but if you're only using your phone, this should not be a problem. You can check your phone's compatibility on the Phonak website. 

Other winning features of the Naida Marvel include excellent sound quality streaming from the TV, top-of-the-line wax guards, which users say are some of the best on the market, and the Phonak remote app, which allows you to control the hearing aids with your phone. This includes changing the volume, switching programs, adjust the sensitivity of the microphones, 

If budget is an issue, consider the previous model: Naida Marvel 70 hearing aid. This model has many of the same features as the Naida 90, but it also costs about $500 less per aid or $1,000 less per pair. 

Cost: $2,299 for an individual hearing aid to $4,598 for a pair

Battery: Rechargeable or 312 battery

Bluetooth capabilities: Yes

Adjustment: Local fitting included with purchase

Warranty & money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty and 45-day risk-free trial. 

To buy: Phonak hearing aids

Best for iPhone users: Oticon Opn S 1

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Try risk-free for 45 days; 3-year manufacturer's warranty

Oticon Opn S 1 rechargeable hearing aid is a top performer in the hearing aid market. This premier model features the most advanced technology Oticon has to offer. The OpenSound Optimizer allows the device to detect and prevent feedback proactively, and an improved version of the OpenSound Navigator means your brain decides who and what to listen to. 

This hearing aid has 64 channels, four customizable programs, and aggressive background noise reduction. Plus, Oticon hearing aids are known for their quality and durability. Users also report tinnitus relief from using the Oticon OPN S 3. Tinnitus is a ringing in one or both of your ears. 

The Opn S features IFTTT (If This Then That) compatibility which is how you will connect the Oticon device to the internet. This internet-based service can help you integrate your hearing aids with products like lighting systems, home appliances, home alarms, lights, and more. 

With the Oticon ON App, you can control your hearing aids from your smartphone, check the battery level, switch programs, and access user instructions. The Oticon app also features HearingFitness, which allows you to set listening goals and get tips on how to hear better.  

It's important to note that the Opn S 1 is more compatible with iPhones than Android. While possible to use with an Android, this hearing aid is best suited for iPhone users. 

The Opn S 1 comes with a rechargeable built-in lithium-ion battery that you charge overnight. Most users report 24 hours of power when fully charged. If you want a more affordable model, consider the Opn 3 hearing aid that uses a size 13 battery or a size 312 battery.

The Oticon Opn S 1 comes in a BTE (behind-the-ear) model or miniRITE (mini receiver in the ear) model. 

Cost: $2,495 to $4,599

Battery: Rechargeable or disposable 312 battery

Bluetooth capabilities: Yes

Adjustment: Local fitting included with purchase

Warranty & money-back guarantee: 3-year manufacturer's warranty and 45-day risk-free trial. 

Read our in-depth review of Oticon here.

To buy: Oticon hearing aids 

How we chose the best hearing aids

We consulted audiologists and geriatric care experts in addition to surveying hundreds of hearing aid users and independently testing various models. We read thousands of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties such as Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports.

Through this in-depth research, we determined the following to be the most important criteria to consider when shopping for a hearing aid:

  • Price
  • Audiologist care
  • Comfort and fit
  • Warranty
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer service
  • Features such as bluetooth capability and rechargeable batteries
  • Reliability

What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid is an electronic device designed to improve your hearing in both noisy and quiet environments. Hearing aids work by magnifying sound vibrations entering the ear. Most hearing aids have a microphone to pick up sound, an amplifier to make the sound louder, and a speaker to produce the amplified sound in the ear. Beyond the basic operating parts, companies offer hearing aid devices with different designs, features, and technology.

How to find hearing aids near you

Only a few years ago, there was only one way to get hearing help: make a trip to a doctor's office or hearing center. This was a challenge for many people who didn't have easy access to these locations.

Now, there are many ways to gain access to high-quality hearing aids, and you can choose which way is best for you.

You can still visit a hearing center to receive an audiologist consultation and purchase hearing aids in person. You can also purchase hearing aids online from direct-to-consumer companies that offer quality devices at much lower prices. Some direct-to-consumer companies provide virtual consultations with an audiologist for personalized assessments and adjustments along with your purchase.

Here's another alternative: you can purchase the same devices available at an audiologist's office or hearing center from a discount network for up to 35% less than retail price. When you purchase a hearing aid through this network, you'll be connected with an audiologist in your area for further care. Big-box stores such as Walmart and Costco sell hearing aids, too.

In the future, some hearing aids will be available to buy over the counter, and a consultation with a hearing care provider won't be required. The industry awaits guidance from the FDA on regulations that will govern over-the-counter hearing aids; this ruling should be forthcoming in 2021.

What you must consider before buying a hearing aid

Approximately 48 million Americans are living with significant hearing loss. While hearing loss can occur at any time in life, the problem becomes more common with age. The National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health, estimates that one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of people older than 75 experience hearing difficulties. Most of us, at some point in our lives, will either experience hearing loss or know someone who does.

It may surprise you to know, however, that only one in three adults who could benefit from hearing aids has ever used them. In fact, people with hearing loss tend to wait an average of seven years before seeking treatment. The American Academy of Audiology outlines some issues that may be preventing those with hearing loss from seeking help:

Given all of the constraints of seeking hearing care, we asked Michelle Brady, an audiologist with Access Audiology in the New York City area what she'd like people who experience hearing loss to know.

According to Dr. Brady, the most important thing to consider when shopping for a hearing aid is time. She explains, "Research has shown that the longer hearing loss goes untreated, the brain's ability to understand and decode speech decreases. Just like muscles in the body- if you don't use it, you lose it. Unfortunately, hearing aids cannot override the damage that occurs from years of decreased auditory stimulation. The earlier a patient gets hearing aids and wears them consistently, the better their brain will be able to process and decode speech."

Buying a hearing aid online

Having the ability to buy hearing aids online is a huge win for buyers; it eliminates some barriers that may prevent people from seeking care for their hearing loss. However, it's important to consider that buying hearing aids online isn't for everyone.

In some cases, hearing loss may be caused by a medical problem. Consultation with a medical doctor and an audiologist prior to buying hearing aids would uncover potential medical causes for your hearing difficulty. Buying hearing aids without that intervention may allow an underlying medical problem to persist.

It's also important to keep in mind that your ability to find the right hearing aid for your needs may depend on your specific type and severity of hearing loss. Hearing aids that are bought through an audiologist are programmed individually for each person, according to the specifics of their audiogram (hearing test). Many online hearing aid companies have an audiologist who will interpret audiograms and program hearing aids accordingly, but others do not.

Some of the less expensive devices may not have the detailed programming options necessary for many types of hearing loss. These devices are considered by hearing loss professionals not to be a true hearing aid, but more of a sound amplifier. That means they make everything louder, but they aren't able to target the specific frequencies where hearing loss has occurred or filter out background noise. While these devices aren't a good fit for everyone, they present an affordable and accessible option for those who might not otherwise seek hearing care.

If you aren't sure what type of hearing aid you need, speak with an audiologist or hearing aid specialist who can guide you in the right direction.

How to find affordable hearing aids

Hearing aids are expensive. Even reputable companies that manufacture inexpensive hearing aids charge around $200 per ear for analog and $400 per ear for digital. MDHearing Aid, for example, sells low-cost hearing aids with its analog Pro model priced around $199 per ear and its digital Air model starting at $399 per ear. 

Before buying a lower-cost model, make sure to check the fine print. Some retailers and online distributors advertise cheap hearing aids, but they are actually selling personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), which amplify sound, but they do not provide the same level of support as a hearing aid. 

Hearing aids are typically sold through an audiologist or big-box retailer like Costco. However, you can also find inexpensive hearing aids online through direct-to-consumer companies like MDHearing Aid, Lively, or Eargo, which manufacture and sell their own devices directly to consumers. 

If you want a more expensive hearing aid that's only offered through an audiologist, you can purchase through an authorized discount supplier that sells high-quality hearing aids like Phonak and Signia, but at a reduced cost. You still work with a local audiologist to get fitted and set up with your device, but the company facilitates the ordering and purchase process with the hearing provider, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars. 

Types of hearing aids

Here's a helpful explanation of the different types of hearing aids you'll find, and what each has to offer.

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Completely-in-the-Canal Hearing Aid

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid

Also called a mini CIC, this hearing aid is the smallest and least visible device used for treating hearing loss. It is positioned completely within the ear canal with only a tiny string visible outside the ear, which you'll pull to dislodge and remove the device. 

In addition to an invisible fit, CIC hearing aids offer users the advantage of less feedback when using a telephone and less disruptive noise from wind. Due to their small size, however, CIC devices may not have some of the features you'd get with other devices—they are often too small to incorporate a directional microphone, and batteries will be smaller and harder to change if they aren't rechargeable. Battery life is often shorter due to the small size of the device, and ear wax and moisture can affect functionality.

In-The-Canal Hearing Aid

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid

This hearing aid sits deep in the ear canal, but it's a bit larger and more visible than a completely-in-the-canal device. However, it can accommodate longer battery life and directional microphones, which are a downside of the smaller alternatives. It is still susceptible to issues with earwax and moisture and are sometimes difficult to handle due to their relatively small size.

Traditional Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aid

Traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid

This device sits behind your ear and uses a plastic tube that hooks over your ear to reach your ear canal. At the end of the plastic tube is a custom-fit ear mold that sits snugly within the canal.

These devices tend to be larger than others, but offer more capabilities such as directional microphones and telecoil. They may be easier to manipulate and provide more utility for those with severe hearing loss. Some users find, though, that the ear mold produces a full or plugged feeling in their ears, which can be a downside.

Mini Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aid

Mini behind-the-ear (mBTE) hearing aid

These hearing aids, also referred to as receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) or receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) devices, sit behind the ear like traditional types, but are smaller and less visible, especially when you choose one that matches your hair color. They have a tiny wire that hooks over the ear, which connects to a small receiver that fits inside the ear canal. This prevents the plugged-up feeling that many people dislike with the traditional behind-the-ear models. For many users, these hearing aids strike the perfect balance between aesthetic preference and functionality. 

Traditional In-The-Ear Hearing Aid

Traditional in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid

This type of hearing aid sits completely within the ear, but it is larger than the completely-in-the-canal type. It is large enough to offer functionalities such as Bluetooth, directional microphones, and telecoil, but the size of the device may limit their power as compared to behind-the-ear models. These hearing aids are typically easier to handle and insert than their smaller counterparts, but may be more visible.

Digital vs. analog hearing aids: what's the difference?

Hearing aids are available in analog or digital. Although digital is the most common type of device, some brands still carry analog hearing aids. The difference between analog and digital hearing aids comes down to the type of electronics used. Both devices convert sound waves, but it's how they convert sound saves that sets them apart.

With an analog hearing aid, you will experience amplification with all sounds, including nose and speech. In other words, they make continuous sound waves louder. Analog hearing aids require the user to change settings when in different environments. 

Digital hearing aids convert sound waves to digital signals, providing the clearest hearing possible. These devices are capable of clearing out background noise, reducing feedback, and helping to focus on the sounds and voices you want to hear. Digital hearing aids offer more complex programming, which allows you to process sounds more selectively.

In general, you will find more digital hearing aids than analog devices. Some companies discontinued selling any analog styles, while others continue to carry one or two types of analog hearing aids.  

Features to consider

As hearing aid technology evolves, so do the special features that may be available, depending on the hearing aid you choose. The following are a few of the most popular additional features that can make your hearing aid even more efficient at improving your hearing experience.

Smartphone Capabilities

Lets you stream calls and audio from your smartphone to your hearing aids. These features can connect to hearing aid apps, thus allowing you to adjust your sound settings discreetly.

Directional Microphones

These microphones help you converse in noisy environments by making the audio signal in front of you louder than the noise coming from the rear or sides. These devices work best when you are in close proximity to the sound source. They also let you optimize your hearing aid for different environments, like a busy restaurant or a quiet room. Advanced versions can focus behind the listener or to the listener's side.

Feedback Suppression

Helps block out high-pitched whistling sounds. It's useful for minimizing feedback if you're close to the telephone or if the aid is slightly dislodged from your ear when you move your jaw. It can also allow for better sound quality for listeners who have good hearing in the lowest pitches. 

Digital Noise Reduction

Improves listener comfort and communication in noisy environments by blocking out some background noise. This may make it easier to hear and understand speech.

Tinnitus Masking

Augments the volume of external noise to the point that it masks the sound of tinnitus (a perception of noise or ringing in the ears).

Rechargeable Batteries

Allows you to recharge your hearing aid batteries instead of constantly buying and replacing them.

Telecoil

Gives you better access to hearing on the telephone and with a range of assistive listening devices. Most types of hearing aids have the option available. Completely-in-canal and invisible-in-canal hearing aids do not have telecoil due to their small size.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if I need a hearing aid?

Unless a doctor or audiologist has recommended hearing aids, you may not know if you need a pair. But, if you're noticing hearing loss in one or both ears, it might be time to consider hearing aids.

Some signs of hearing loss to be aware of include:

  • shouting when talking
  • requiring electronic devices to be turned up louder than normal 
  • asking people to repeat themselves because you can't hear or understand what they are saying
  • straining to hear
  • ability to hear better out of one ear
  • difficulty hearing people on the phone 
  • certain sounds and voices sound muffled 

If you're experiencing any signs or symptoms of hearing loss, consider seeing a doctor or hearing specialist. They can perform a hearing test to determine the degree of hearing loss and recommend different hearing styles and brands.

How do hearing aids work?

Hearing aids are worn in or behind your ear. They are designed to make some sounds louder by magnifying sound vibrations entering the ear, which helps improve your hearing and speech comprehension. How a hearing aid works is fairly simple to understand. First, a microphone inside the hearing aid picks up nearby sounds. These sounds are analyzed and converted to electrical signals based on your hearing loss, which are then sent to the amplifier. The amplified sounds are sent to the speaker or receiver, which are transmitted to the inner ear by a tube or thin wire. Once in the inner ear, the sounds are transformed into electrical impulses that your brain processes into sound. 

Will a hearing aid restore my hearing to normal?

Even the most technologically advanced hearing aids will not restore your hearing to normal. Hearing aids are designed to maximize your hearing potential— especially in challenging listening situations. Although they serve as an excellent tool to help retrain your brain to interpret sounds and filter others out, they cannot restore your hearing. 

Do hearing aids use special batteries?

Hearing aids either use a rechargeable battery that comes with the hearing aid or a standard disposable battery. If the hearing aids use disposable batteries, make a note of the size. In general, standard hearing aid batteries come in four sizes. These include 10, 13, 312, and 675. You can purchase hearing aid batteries at pharmacies, retail locations, or directly through the hearing aid company. Most rechargeable batteries are unique to the hearing aid. Therefore, you will need to contact the company to purchase a replacement battery or charger. 

I have hearing loss in both ears. Is it necessary to wear two hearing aids?

If you have hearing loss in both ears, it is recommended that you wear bilateral hearing aids — one in your left ear and one in your right ear. Your brain receives signals from both ears, so it's easier to process the noise into sound if it is getting information from both ears. However, many earring aids can be programmed separately to accommodate the loss in each ear.  You can have hearing loss in one or both ears. However, most people have hearing loss in both ears.

What style of hearing aid should I wear?

Hearing aids come in a variety of styles. To find the right pair, you'll need to consider features, size, visibility, and the degree of hearing loss. In general, hearing aids come in the following styles:

  • in-the-canal (ITC)
  • completely-in-the-canal (CIC)
  • receiver-in-the-canal (RIC)
  • in-the-ear (ITE)
  • behind-the-ear (BTE)
  • mini behind-the-ear (mBTE)

In-the-canal and completely-in-the-canal aids are very small, so they may be more difficult to remove and adjust. However, they are the most discreet. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are bulkier and more visible, but they are also easier to handle and more appropriate for profound hearing loss. Since hearing aids cost a lot of money, it's important to research the different companies and styles to ensure you're getting the right hearing aid for your hearing loss. Reading a variety of hearing aid reviews can help you better understand the different styles and how people choose the best hearing aids for their comfort level and needs. 

Which is better: in-the-ear or behind-the-ear hearing aids?

Hearing aids come in several styles including behind-the-ear and in-the-ear. Finding the best device for you depends on several factors. 

A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid sits behind your ear with a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. The case that sits behind your ear holds all the electronic parts necessary to make it work. BTE devices are bigger, so they are typically easier to use and handle, making them a good choice for kids and seniors. They're also able to house a larger battery, which provides a longer battery life. Plus, the bigger size makes them more durable and able to provide more features. BTE hearing aids serve a range of ages and hearing loss. They are appropriate for all ages and work well for anyone with mild to profound hearing loss.

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit inside the ear, either partially or completely, and work well for mild to severe hearing loss. Some ITE devices come with a telecoil, which is a small magnetic coil, that enables you to hear sound through the circuitry rather than the microphone. This may improve the quality of phone conversations or help you hear in environments that use special sound systems like induction auditoriums. ITE aids are more discreet than BTE, but they are still bigger than nearly invisible options like a completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid. 

Are in-the-ear hearing aids any good?

In-the-ear hearing aids come in a shell that fits inside the ear, either partially or completely. These devices are appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss. Here are some pros and cons of in-the-ear hearing aids. 

Pros:

  • Able to come with a telecoil to help with sound during phone conversations 
  • More discreet than behind-the-ear devices
  • Easy to insert, handle, and manipulate 
  • Since they are slightly larger than nearly invisible devices, more features are included
  • Can accommodate features like directional microphones 

Cons:

  • Not recommended for profound hearing loss
  • Not appropriate for young children 
  • Larger than completely-in-the-canal hearing aids 
  • More noticeable than other discrete devices 
  • It may get clogged with earwax and require more cleaning 
  • More prone to feedback issues 

Are in-the-ear hearing aids comfortable to wear?

In-the-ear hearing aids are less bulky than behind-the-ear hearing aids but larger than the nearly invisible, in-the-canal styles. In-the-ear hearing aids sit in the outer portion of the ear canal and are custom-made to fit the shape of your ear. All hearing aids require an adjustment period, and many people find them uncomfortable, at least initially. If you normally wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, you may experience some discomfort with in-the-ear styles. Adjusting to a device in your ear takes time, but most people find these styles comfortable and easy to wear. 

How long does it take to get used to a hearing aid?

Adjusting to your new hearing aids takes time. For some people, getting used to wearing hearing aids happens within a few days. But for many others, there is a learning curve that may take a few months before being fully adjusted to wearing a new device. In general, you should notice a difference right away. If you're having problems, reach out to the hearing center or online retailer that sold you the hearing aids. They can provide tips and guidance to help with the fit and make your hearing aid experience better. 

Do small hearing aids work?

All hearing aids work to some degree. The style, size, and features determine how well they work for each type of hearing loss. Small hearing aids include larger styles like in-the-ear (ITE), and nearly invisible styles like in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC). These types of devices are more appropriate for mild to moderate hearing loss, with a select few able to work for severe hearing loss. 

The advantage of small hearing aids is the almost invisible appearance they provide. Many people can wear these types of aids without anyone knowing they have hearing aids. They are also lightweight and often provide a more natural sound quality since they are placed deep into the ear canal. That said, because they go in your ear, they may not be a good fit for everyone's ear canal. That's why it's a good idea to get fitted for a hearing aid by a professional. Small hearing aids may also require more battery changes since they can only hold a small battery. Moreover, the compact size may mean fewer features like more than one microphone. 

Does Medicare pay for hearing aids?

A hearing exam to determine whether you have hearing loss is covered by Medicare Part B, if it's ordered by your doctor. This hearing test will help you figure out whether you need a hearing aid. However, neither Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B (also known together as Original Medicare) will cover the cost of your hearing aids. Original Medicare doesn't provide coverage for routine hearing tests, fittings, or adjustments, either

However, some Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Medicare Part C) do provide coverage for hearing aids. If you're not familiar with Medicare Advantage plans, these are alternate ways of receiving Medicare coverage through private insurance companies, in place of Medicare Part A and B.

While Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional services such as vision, dental, or hearing coverage, you might be restricted to a local coverage area.

Which hearing aid is best for me?

Finding the best hearing aid to fit your needs often requires the help of an expert who can conduct a hearing test and ask questions related to your hearing loss. You also need to consider the nature and degree of your hearing loss, lifestyle habits, occupation, environments you frequent, and what you want out of a hearing aid. After working with a doctor or a hearing expert like an audiologist, you should have a better idea of your needs. Then, it's time to identify a list of hearing aids that match your degree of hearing loss and your budget. And don't forget about the fit and feel of a hearing aid. Most experts say the best hearing aid is one you will wear regularly. 

Which hearing aid is the best on the market?

When determining the best hearing aid on the market, you need to consider positive user reviews, expert recommendations, cost, features, warranty, technology, customer service and support, range of hearing loss it supports, and wearability.

Overall, the best hearing aid is the one you will wear consistently. When shopping, make sure to only buy what you need. Some devices come with an extensive list of features that many people never use, but make the product significantly more expensive. Take note of your needs and goals for wearing a hearing aid. Also, consider fit. The best hearing aid will fit you properly and be easy to remove and care for. 

Some popular brands of hearing aids include Phonak, Eargo, Lively, Audicus, Signia, Widex, Oticon, Starkey, and ReSound. 

Which hearing aid is the most affordable?

Hearing aids are expensive, so finding an affordable device is often a high priority for many people. Most companies offer a budget option relative to the overall costs of the products they sell. If you're looking for a hearing aid brand that consistently sells lower-priced products, MDHearing Aid is a great place to start. In general, MDHearing Aids range in price from $199.99 to $799.99 for a single and $399.98 to $999.99 for a pair. Signia is another company that makes reasonably priced hearing aids. While not as affordable as MDHearing, you can expect a single Signia hearing aid to cost between $999 and $3,000. Lively offers hearing aids for $1,450 per pair, which is significantly less than other brands that run between $2500 and $5,000 per pair. And the entry-level Eargo will run you about $1,850 per pair. 

Dr. Courtney Schmidt is a clinical consultant pharmacist and geriatric care expert. Since completing her Pharm.D. at the University of Florida, Dr. Schmidt has worked in multiple clinical settings and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Central Florida.