We've developed this buying guide to provide you with valuable information you'll need as you make the the life-changing investment that will change the way you hear.
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:
In order to address the barriers that many people face in seeking care for their hearing loss, Congress passed a law in 2017 that made hearing aids available over the counter. This change allows the consumer to purchase hearing devices in person or online without requiring a visit to a physician, audiologist or hearing aid specialist. With that in mind, we developed a list of our top picks for hearing aids you can buy online.
To equip you with the best information as you choose a hearing aid, we:
These are the 5 best hearing aids you can buy online.
According to Michelle Brady, an audiologist in the New York City area, the most important thing to consider when shopping for a hearing aid is time.
Dr. Brady 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.”
Having the ability to buy hearing aids online is a huge win for the consumer; 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.
Eargo is known for having small, rechargeable, nearly invisible and super comfortable hearing aids.
They feature advanced invisible in-canal and in-canal fit styles that offer more natural sound quality in a hearing aid that’s more discreet and fits more naturally than some competitors.
To buy: Eargo.com
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.
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.
To buy: Audicus.com
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 two years if they need to adjust their devices.
A pair of Lively hearing aids costs $1,650, or 66% less than the average $5,000 price tag for similar high-tech aids purchased at an audiologist.
To buy: Lively.com
MDHearingAid is affordable on almost any budget thanks to its analog model, the PRO. This brand is one of the few companies still offering an analog hearing aid, which many people prefer as some believe analog aids deliver more natural sound than digital models.
The company also offers more capable, digital hearing aids, though these also come at industry-beating prices and can be considered economy models.
To buy: MDHearingAid.com
Widex is a leading provider of technologically advanced hearing aids. Choose from over seven hearing aid models with features like wireless connectivity to smartphones and TVs. More than some competitors, Widex hearing aids help users clearly distinguish between conversations, outdoor blockers like wind and other background noise.
To buy: Widex.com
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.
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.
Gives you better access to hearing on the telephone and with a range of assistive listening devices.
Most types of hearing aids have this option available. Completely-in-canal and invisible-in-canal hearing aids do not have telecoil due to their small size.
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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.