3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Hearing Aid

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Written by Meaghan Harmon

Of the 28.8 million U.S. adults who could benefit from using hearing aids, fewer than one in three people over the age of 70 have ever used them, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. If you’re experiencing new or worsening hearing loss, hearing aids may significantly enhance your quality of life—and finding the best ones for you is the first step.

Selecting the appropriate hearing aid can be a daunting process, as there are so many options, and individual needs and preferences vary greatly. If you’re looking to purchase hearing aids, here are a few things to consider before making a final decision. 

Cost

The cost of hearing aids can play a role in someone’s hesitation to have their hearing evaluated and pursue devices to improve their hearing capacity. A pair of top-ranking aids typically costs between $1,400 and $4,375 (and they’re usually not covered by insurance or Medicare), according to a Forbes Health review of the best hearing aids recommended by audiologists. However, these prices depend on the style of device you’re interested in using and where it’s purchased. Higher-tech hearing gadgets, such as ones with Bluetooth connectivity, may cost more than $6,000 for a pair. 

Keep in mind that you only need to purchase a hearing aid for the ear in which you suffer hearing loss. If you only suffer hearing loss in one ear, you only need one hearing aid. If you suffer hearing loss in both ears, you need to purchase a pair, as noted in the Forbes Health review.

When you buy hearing aids, you may not be paying for the devices alone, however. Audiologists often sell hearing aids in bundles with necessary services, such as fittings, cleanings and warranties. That said, proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations regarding over-the-counter hearing aids (i.e., hearing aids you could get without a prescription from an audiologist or hearing health professional) have led to “unbundled” options, which allow the consumer to buy the hearing aids separate from any necessary fittings or services.  

Many variables factor into the true cost of hearing aids. However, if the cost seems insurmountable, but you want—or need—to find hearing aid options, there are ways to make purchasing hearing aids more affordable, such as selecting a more basic model, exploring Medicare Part C coverage (if you’re eligible) or visiting a wholesale retailer like Costco to view their deals and offerings.  

Type 

There are many many types and styles of hearing aids to choose from, depending on your needs, preferences and degree of hearing loss, and some even come with advanced features. Hearing aid styles also come in a range of aesthetics, with some being more visible than others. Luckily, with the wide variety of types and styles, it’s possible to find a hearing aid that fits your budget and hearing needs, as well as your aesthetic preferences. 

Each hearing aid style has benefits and drawbacks. For example, behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are bulkier than other styles, with a plastic case that sits behind the ear and can interfere with wearing glasses. However, their larger size means there’s more space to access manual controls like battery and volume. On the opposite end of the spectrum, extended wear hearing aids—completely invisible devices placed deep in the ear canal by a hearing health professional—are worn 24/7. 

Many hearing aid choices exist for a range of hearing needs, including receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids, which deliver sound through a tiny speaker that rests in the ear canal via a discrete wire. Speak with your doctor or an audiologist about hearing aids available to you, as well as your comfort and cosmetic preferences. 

Degree of Hearing Loss

It’s important to take your degree of hearing loss into consideration when exploring your options for hearing aids. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, a more discreet device, such as a hearing aid that sits deep in your ear canal and is placed by a hearing professional, might be suitable. If you have more severe hearing loss or if your hearing is gradually  worsening, you may need to select a slightly more visible model that sits in the ear or a BTE model. 

If you’re unsure of your level of hearing loss or would like to confirm that you are, in fact, experiencing hearing loss, schedule a hearing examination with an audiologist. Once your needs have been established, they can guide you through the best hearing aid options, individualizing the process to suit your unique medical needs. 

Meaghan Harmon is an editor at Forbes Health.