While an estimated 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, only 30% of adults aged 70 or over have ever used hearing aids. Whether they are undiagnosed or apprehensive at the thought of buying hearing aids, the problem is the same: they are at risk of increasing their stress and blood pressure levels, muscle tension, and at worse, depression.
One challenge for seniors could be in sourcing the best hearing aids for their needs. Hopefully, this complete guide on the best hearing aids available in the United States should point you in the right direction.
When Should You Consider Hearing Aids?
Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Difficulty understanding people on the phone or when you cannot see their faces
- Complaining about people mumbling or speaking too softly
- Preferring louder volume of television or radio than other people
- Increasingly asking people to repeat what they said, especially in noisy or group situations
However, it is important to consult your doctor or a hearing specialist, who will be able to test your hearing capacity with great precision.
Understanding How Hearing Aids Work
Your inner ears have small hair cells which help capture sound. They can be damaged by long exposure to loud noises or simply die naturally as you age.
Once these inner ear hair cells die, there is simply no way of reviving them. Unlike eyeglasses, hearing aids cannot correct your hearing back to what it once was. What they do instead is amplify sounds in the specific range where hair cells have died.
This is why there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hearing aids. Some people might require one or two. Some might need to focus on lower frequency sounds, while others will need to help capture higher-pitched sounds and voices.
Pros and Cons of Different Hearing Aids Styles
Everyone has different ear shapes and comfort levels. Which is why hearing aids manufacturers have developed several different types of devices.
The Traditional Behind the Ear Hearing Aid
Also known as BTE (behind the ear), this is the most common type of hearing aid. All the electronic components are in a plastic case that sits behind the ear, and the sound is sent through tubing into the ear canal.
- Pros: Good amplification capacities, which makes them the first choice for those suffering from severe hearing loss. Easy to clean and easy to control the volume.
- Cons: More visible than other models.
Mini Behind the Ear
As the name implies: a smaller version of the traditional behind the ear model. It is also known as receiver-in-the-canal (RIC, receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), receiver-in-the-aid (RITA), and canal receiver technology (CRT).
- Pros: Comfortable and hardly visible. Easy to insert.
- Cons: Less powerful than traditional BTE models both in terms of battery and amplification.
Completely-in-the-Canal Hearing Aid (CIC)
This one is designed to sit directly in the ear, like earphones.
- Pros: Virtually invisible. They’re also less likely to pick up wind noise.
- Cons: They are vulnerable to buildups of wax and moisture and need to be cleaned regularly. The battery is small, so doesn’t last as long as others.
Traditional In-the-Ear Hearing Aid (ITE)
With this model, all the electronics are encased in the plastic box, which rests between the inner ear and outer bowl of the ear.
- Pros: Roomier than other mini models, so more powerful in terms of amplification features. They are also comfortable and very easy to insert and remove.
- Cons: More visible than fully in-the-ear-models.
The 3 Best Hearing Aids Brands of 2019
Founded in Denmark in 1956, Widex remains a family-owned company that has gained a reputation for delivering some of the highest quality hearing aids in the world. Their products are widely available across the U.S., as well as 100 other countries.
While coming from a traditional company, their hearing aids are innovative both in technology and design. They were the first to introduce the in-the-ear aids, and now even integrate Artificial Intelligence technology in their most advanced products.
- Pros of Widex: High-quality hearing aids with innovative technology. Widely available in the U.S.
- Cons of Widex: Because the hearing clinic distributors can set their own prices, the Widex products can vary greatly in cost – both depending on the product and where you look.
Eargo offers three models, with cutting edge technology and design. They are FDA-registered in class 1 of medical devices, and available for anyone to purchase online easily and fast. The shipping is free and covers all of the U.S.
Prices range from $1,650 to $2,750, which makes them affordable compared to other competitors who offer the same features.
- Pros of Eargo: Great, comfortable design and high-quality audio at an affordable price. Fast, free shipping in the U.S.
- Cons of Eargo: Hearing aids are only sold in pairs. Not recommended for seniors with severe hearing loss.
Resound is transforming the world of hearing aids by integrating them with modern technology such as apps and smartphones. Their focus is on people who need hearing aids in specific situations rather than everyday use, for instance eating at a loud restaurant or driving in heavy traffic.
Aside from controlling the volume and equalizer from your smartphone, you also benefit from other features such as the ability to locate your hearing aids through GPS in case it’s misplaced. You can also use accessories such as a mini clip-on microphone, which you can attach to your interlocutor in specific situations.
- Pros of ReSound: Long battery life. Connect to iPhones and iPads with or without extra accessories.
- Cons of ReSound: New technology can be overwhelming for some seniors.
Hearing aids can provide life-changing benefits to those suffering from hearing loss, but not all devices are created equal. And while the technology has drastically improved in recent years, there is still a number of factors to consider when purchasing your first hearing aids, such as:
- Insurance coverage: not all insurance plans cover hearing aids, so you might want to ensure yours does.
- Durability: You want to ensure your hearing aids are easy to clean, remove and insert, and that they don’t break easily.
- Availability for parts or replacement: You want to make sure your hearing aids are widely available, especially if you find the perfect device and want to buy it again later
- Sound quality: companies like Widex and Eargo have fantastic reviews regarding the quality of their audio. Some cheaper manufacturers might not be able to match it.
- Unnecessary features: some companies try to add numerous features which end up costly and often unused.
- Audiologist visits: seeing a hearing loss specialist isn’t a requirement for purchasing hearing aids. It’s up to you to decide if you want to do your research online or with the help of a professional.
Hopefully, this guide will help you choose your first pair, or at least point you in the direction of a recommended manufacturer for your next purchase of hearing aids.