The Best Hearing Aids | Health’s Buying Guide 2021

A review of the best hearing aid brands and models of 2021
By Courtney Schmidt, Pharm.D.
Updated September 14, 2020
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.

We've developed this buying guide to provide you with valuable information you'll need as you make the life-changing investment that will change the way you hear.

These are the 4 best hearing aids you can buy online:

  • Editor's Choice
    Lively
    $1,850/pair
  • Best “Invisible” Fit
    Eargo
    $1,850/pair
  • Most Affordable
    MDHearingAid
    $399/pair
  • Best for Bluetooth
    Audicus
    $998/pair

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:

  • Consulted with independent hearing loss experts
  • Consulted with geriatric care experts
  • Surveyed hundreds of consumers
  • Read thousands of verified customer reviews from third parties such as Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports.

If you’re not sure, whether buying a hearing aid online is right for you, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. We’ll also tell you about the top hearing aid brands you can purchase through an audiologist or hearing aid specialist. We consulted with Michelle Brady, an audiologist with Access Audiology in the New York City area, and she gave us the top picks she recommends for her patients.

These are the 6 best hearing aid models according to an audiologist: 

What you must consider before buying a hearing aid

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 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.

Reviews of the Best Online Hearing Aid Brands for 2021

VISIT SITE

Lively earns our number one spot 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 $1,850, or 63% 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 $2,400.

To buy: Lively.com

VISIT SITE

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.

Read our full MDHearingAid review here.

To buy: MDHearingAid.com

Call to buy: 1-800-995-7690

VISIT SITE

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.   

Read our full Eargo review here.     

To buy: Click to see exclusive offer for Health readers

VISIT SITE

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

Audiologist's Pick for the Best Hearing Aid Models of 2021

Phonak Paradise has a little bit of everything making it the best overall pick. 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.

The average cost of a hearing aid from the top five manufacturers is about $2,400. Starkey, Widex, and Oticon are on the higher end of the spectrum averaging about $2,600 per hearing aid. Signia (Siemens) is on the lower end at about $2,300 per device. Phonak and ReSound are in the middle at around $2,400 each.

The Lyric hearing aid is the only one of its kind on the market. This device gives you the most invisible fit but also the most care-free fit. This is a set it and forget it type of hearing aid. This hearing aid is placed deep into your ear canal by your hearing care professional, about 4mm from your ear drum. This device has an internal battery that you do not have to change. You wear it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and the battery lasts anywhere between 2 to 3 months. You can shower and sleep with this hearing aid! Patients of any age are candidates for this hearing aid. For younger patients who are concerned about the look of hearing aids, they don’t have to worry about it being seen. Also, it is amazing for our family members who have other ailments such as blindness or dementia. You don't have to worry about putting them on or taking them off, making it a very easy hearing aid for many!

 

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. 

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Additional Hearing Aid 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.

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.