Hearing aids: How to choose the right one for you

March 29, 2024
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Investing in a hearing aid is no small thing. People with some degree of hearing loss can benefit greatly from a quality pair of hearing aids, but of course there’s no one-size-fits all solution to mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss.

Instead, there are a variety of these tiny sound amplification devices to choose from. You’ll find a wide range of prices and technology features across different brands, styles and hearing-aid models, so you may be looking for some help in making this important decision for your health and wellbeing.

Whether you’re on the lookout for your first pair of hearing aids, or you know it’s time to switch hearing aids and upgrade to something newer, we’re here with all the info on how hearing aids work, what your options are, and which hearing aid may be the perfect fit for you.

What is the best hearing aid in 2024?

Learn all about how hearing aids work — and which types and brands you should look out for — when picking out a hearing aid for you.

How do hearing aids work?

All hearing aids, regardless of brand or style, counter hearing loss. These tiny sound-amplification devices sit on or within the ear to capture, boost and transfer sound. This is all thanks to tech like microphones and speakers that relay important sounds to the wearer. 

There are a few ways to get your hands on a good hearing aid. The first is through your doctor. Simply schedule a checkup to learn more about the cause and severity of your hearing loss, then get a referral for a trusted audiologist for a more thorough hearing exam. This can set you up with a quality pair of prescription hearing aids. 

But it’s worth noting that these tend to be more expensive than your alternative option — over-the-counter hearing aids. Prescription devices can cost upwards of $1,500, while some OTC hearing aids, like the popular Jabra Enhance Plus hearing aids (starting at $799 a pair), can be much less expensive.

What are the different types of hearing aids?

Choosing the right fit can be an important, if easily overlooked, part of hearing-aid shopping. Do you go with a smaller device that discreetly fits in the ear canal? Or would you prefer something a bit bulkier that sits securely and comfortably behind and around the ear?

These are the most common styles of hearing aids you’re likely to come across:

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE): BTE hearing aids loop over the top of the ear, with most of the electronics in a plastic case behind it. With the largest design, these provide optimal sound amplification over other models.
  • Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC): RIC hearing aids (as well as the smaller receiver-in-the-ear, or RITE, devices) are similar to a BTE in design, but with a connecting wire in place of the BTE’s earmold. This gives the ear canal more room and results in a more comfortable fit.
  • In-the-ear (ITE): ITE hearing aids are made to sit entirely in the outer ear. These devices have a longer battery life and usually come with more features, such as volume control, than smaller models.
  • Completely-in-the-canal (CIC): CIC hearing aids have the smallest design, with a custom-built shell that fits in the ear canal. These are the least noticeable, but don’t offer many features or the most powerful sound amplification.
  • Open fit: A variation of a BTE, an open-fit hearing aid has an over-the-ear design with an open dome in the canal instead of a tube or mold. This keeps the ear canal open for natural sound to enter the ear as well -– ideal for mild to moderate hearing loss.

Should you get a prescription hearing aid or OTC hearing aid?

In October 2022, the FDA approved the use and sale of over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids. OTC hearing aids don’t require a hearing evaluation or prescription, but you must be 18 or older to make a purchase.

OTC hearing aids are ideal for mild to moderate hearing loss and can already be found from brands such as Eargo, Lively, and Audicious. If you suffer from severe or profound hearing loss, however, you should talk with your doctor or audiologist about prescription hearing amplifiers. While more expensive, they are regulated by the FDA for optimal amplification and typically come with services like ongoing maintenance and professional fitting by a specialist.

Tips for picking the best hearing aid for you

Shopping for OTC hearing aids online can be confusing. It can help to know which brands offer quality hearing aids.

Costco stands out as a wholesale retailer, with the Costco Hearing Aid Center offering hearing aids from trusted brands like Philips and Jabra. You can also schedule a hearing test with an audiologist at your local Costco Hearing Aid Center and get some guidance on finding the right sound amplification device for your needs. 

One thing that can make shopping for hearing aids easier is to know which features matter most to you. Consider this list of additional features that come with some hearing aids and see what jumps out at you:

  • Noise reduction: All hearing aids offer some level of noise reduction, but quality may vary between brands and models. 
  • Rechargeable batteries: Easily rechargeable hearing aids are growing more common. It can be a big convenience to invest in a rechargeable hearing aid over one that requires you to swap out batteries every so often. Most OTC hearing aids last around 10 hours on a single charge, but for the absolute best battery life we recommend the Sony CRE-E10 hearing aid, which can last more than 25 hours on a single charge according to Sony.
  • Directional microphones: All hearing aids include an omnidirectional microphone for picking up and isolating certain sounds, but some also include microphones that can focus on a single direction. Forward-facing directional microphones could be useful for things like one-on-one conversations.
  • Bluetooth / wireless connectivity: In this digital age, it’s hard to imagine any sound amplification device that does not include some kind of wireless connectivity. Bluetooth compatibility is an increasingly common feature in newer hearing aids. Look out for this feature if the idea of effortlessly connecting your hearing aid to your phone, computer, or TV is appealing to you. 
  • Preprogrammed settings: Some hearing aids can store more than one setting at once, usually configured by your audiologist, to meet different listening needs or sound environments. This can be helpful for people with the inner ear disorder Ménière disease who might need to make multiple hearing-aid adjustments daily.

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