The 12 Best Hearing Aids of 2021
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
- Editor's Choice: Lively
- Best for Bluetooth: Audicus
- Best Invisible Fit: Eargo
- Best Value: MDHearingAid
- Audiologist's Pick: Phonak Paradise
- Most Versatile: Signia Pure Charge&Go X
- Most Natural Sound: Signia Silk
- Best Rechargeable: ReSound One
- Best for Tinnitus: Widex Moment
- Best Features: Starkey Livio AI
- Most Powerful: Phonak Naida Marvel 90
- Best for iPhone users: Oticon Opn S 1
Why trust our expert review?
Hours of research
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
Most versatile: Signia Pure Charge&Go X
Most natural sound: Signia Silk
Best rechargeable: ReSound One
Best for tinnitus: Widex Moment
Best features: Starkey Livio AI
Most powerful: Phonak Naida Marvel 90
Best for iPhone users: Oticon Opn S 1
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:
- Audiologist care
- Comfort and fit
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer service
- Features such as bluetooth capability and rechargeable batteries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Allows you to recharge your hearing aid batteries instead of constantly buying and replacing them.
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.
- 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
- 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.