The best hearing aid
Hearing loss is a common problem, especially as you age, although some people experience hearing loss earlier in life or have lifelong hearing impairment. Using a hearing aid can drastically improve the amount you're able to hear and can boost your quality of life.
There's a lot to learn about hearing aids before you buy, however, and this guide aims to give you the information you require. Our top hearing aid choice is the Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier, a highly effective model suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss.
Considerations when choosing hearing aids
Hearing aid vs. PSAP
Although the term "hearing aid" is generally used as a catchall, there's a difference between true hearing aids and personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). A hearing aid is a prescription-grade piece of medical equipment. It's tailored to your own level of hearing loss and any other requirements. A PSAP works in practically the same way as a hearing aid but isn't tailored to the individual, so you'll need to play with the settings to get effective results.
Digital vs. analogue
Digital hearing aids feature a microchip that serves to modify the signal of the sounds received and filter out any unnecessary noises, such as the wind or general interference. Analogue hearing aids don't have this microchip, so all sounds picked up get amplified, even those you don't want to hear.
Some hearing aids are so compact that they fit completely inside your ear canal with no parts on the outside of your ear, so nobody would ever guess you're wearing a hearing aid. There are far more bulky options, too, with large casings that fit over your ear. More compact hearing aids tend to cost more.
You don't want your hearing aid dying on you at a crucial moment, so it's important to know the battery life. The majority of models use alkaline cell batteries, which tend to last a long time. Some models can run for more than 500 hours before the battery must be replaced.
You can find some high-end hearing aids with Bluetooth compatibility, allowing you to take calls from your smartphone or listen to music.
Hearing aids generally have push-button controls to allow you to change the volume and switch between different programs depending on your environment. Choose a hearing aid with simple controls that you won't struggle to use.
Hearing aid prices
PSAP hearing aids cost between $50 and $300 each, though you'll sometimes get a pair at less than the cost of buying two separate units. Prescription-grade hearing aids cost several thousand dollars, though they may be at least partially covered by your medical insurance.
Q. Can I buy a hearing aid without a prescription?
A. True hearing aids require a prescription from a doctor to buy, but PSAPs (which are often interchangeably known as hearing aids) can be bought without any kind of prescription. If you're experiencing extreme hearing loss as you age or you have a lifelong hearing impairment, it's wise to see a doctor to be fitted for a real hearing aid.
Q. How do hearing aids work?
A. Hearing aids use a microphone to pick up sound and then transform it into an electrical signal. Higher-quality models have a microchip that can convert the signal into code and optimize them to remove background noise and tailor them to any user specifications. The electrical signal is then sent to an amplifier to strengthen it and onto a receiver, which transforms the signal into sound.
Hearing aids we recommend
Best of the best: Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier
Our take: This compact and comfortable model features four listening programs and 10 volume levels.
What we like: Includes access to excellent tech support should you have any issues. Small and discreet. Clear sound amplification without distortion.
What we dislike: Can take some trial and error to find your preferred volume and levels.
Best bang for your buck: Britzgo Digital Hearing Aid Amplifier
Our take: An excellent option for buyers on a budget -- it won't improve hearing as much as higher-end models, but it does help in some situations.
What we like: Lightweight and comfortable to wear with high- and low-tone control. Impressive 500-hour battery life.
What we dislike: Not great in crowds as it amplifies all background noise.
Our take: This quality listening device amplifies sounds while muffling background noise and controlling feedback.
What we like: Customize sound with the eight band graphic equalizer. Four digital sound-processing channels. Weatherproof design.
What we dislike: Not the easiest option to operate.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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