Best Hearing Aids

The Best Hearing Aids of 2017

Hearing loss comes in many different forms. This means the best hearing aid for you may not be the best one for your spouse or neighbor. As such, our review looks at the best hearing aids for each type of hearing loss.   

The Discreet Hearing Aid

The Audicus Uno is an excellent discreet CIC hearing aid. Its customized fit ensures that it's both hidden from view and has a good seal in the ear canal to maximize the effects of the amplified sounds. In addition, the Uno features dynamic digital audio to automatically adapt to your environment. This eight-channel model has feedback management and a noise control filter, which is excellent in noisy rooms. However, the hearing aid is not water-resistant, which means you have to remember to remove it when you take showers or exercise vigorously.

The Value Hearing Aid

Hearing aids are not cheap, especially if your insurance doesn't cover them – many cost over $1,000 per ear. If you're on a budget, then the Pro Ears Pro Hear IV is a good value option. Not only does this digital hearing aid cost hundreds less than most devices, but it also comes in a low-profile, behind-the-ear design that features an amplifier capable of boosting audio by 17 dB on one channel and 22 dB on the second channel. In addition, it has adaptive feedback cancelling and a 10-channel noise-reduction microphone. Of course, it doesn't come without its faults. The fitting isn't customized to your ear, so it likely won't be as comfortable as other hearing aids.

Hearing Aid for Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

The Simplicity Hi Fi EP is a great example of a hearing aid designed for mild to moderate hearing loss. It features an open-fit design so you don’t feel like your ear canal is plugged up, and it also lets sounds flow naturally into your ear. This model has a micro poly tube connected to a vented soft dome that sits in your ear canal, a feature designed to bypass mechanical failure caused by ear wax build-up. However, for greater amplification, you can opt for a medium or large tube. The Simplicity Hi Fi EP comes in a single color option, beige, and is so small it's virtually invisible when worn.

Hearing Aid for Severe Hearing Loss

Severe hearing loss can happen at any age and requires a specialized hearing aid that does more than just amplify sounds. The Hi BTE Power Plus is a great option. You can customize this behind-the-ear hearing aid’s programming specifically for your type of hearing loss. In addition, the directional processing feature amplifies sounds in front of you while reducing background noises, which makes it easier to converse in crowded rooms. It also automatically adjusts its volume to makes sure the sound level is comfortable for the environment you’re in.

Hearing Aids to Help With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition that causes you to hear ringing in your ears, and it's usually the result of damage to the inner ear from long exposure to loud noises. Sometimes it goes away, but it may be permanent and can range in severity from a mild annoyance to debilitating.

The Phonak Audeo V-30 combats tinnitus with its tinnitus balance feature, which generates a specific frequency signal that helps minimize the ringing. In addition, the SoundRecover feature works to restore high-frequency sounds around you, while the auto acclimatization feature increases the amplification automatically. It also has a QuickSync feature that is beneficial if you wear two hearing aids – with just one touch, you can control the settings on both of them. The V-30 has a NoiseBlock feature as well, which blocks out annoyances, such as the humming of an appliance or noise in traffic, without affecting your ability to hear conversations.

Hearing Aids: What to Look For

While you don't need a diagnosis from a physician or a prescription to purchase a hearing aid, we recommend you consult with an audiologist (a physician that specializes in hearing) to diagnose your hearing loss. Often, you need an audiologist to customize your hearing aid’s fit and programming so you can hear as well as possible. However, if you already know what type of hearing loss you have, you should consider the following features:

Audio Format
Hearing aids either use an analog method of amplifying sounds or a digital signal processor. The analog versions simply receive sound and amplify it. In many ways, this type of hearing aid creates a more natural listening environment. However, since age-related hearing loss is typically the result of your ears picking up a narrower frequency range than before, it is likely less about needing amplification and more about not being able to differentiate between many sounds – for example, being able to pick out your granddaughter's voice in a room full of people. In this case, an analog hearing aid isn't going to be much help. 

Digital hearing aids, pick up sound with a microphone and analyze and process it before it’s amplified. This means the hearing aid can focus its amplification and filter out background noises. In other words, you can hear your granddaughter in a room full of people. The advantage of digital is clear, which is why you won't find many analog hearing aids on the market. That said, analog hearing aids are more affordable, so they might be a good option if you're hearing loss is mild.

Size & Type
The type of hearing aid you need depends on the nature and severity of your hearing loss. Minor hearing loss, namely that associated with age, is often improved with the use of an in-the-canal aid. Moderate loss requires more power, and in-the-ear models can help improve hearing quality. If you suffer from severe to profound hearing loss, though, you need more amplification, and that comes from the behind-the-ear and receiver-in-canal hearing aid models.

A telecoil is a small copper coil built into a hearing aid that makes talking on the telephone much easier, and it’s a common feature. Hearing aids with a telecoil filter out background noise and only pick up sounds from the telephone receiver. Some advanced models automatically switch to telecoil when you pick up a phone, while others transmit the signal to your other ear so you can talk using one hearing aid but hear the sounds coming from the receiver with both ears. If you work in a profession where you use the telephone frequently, you should look for an aid with a telecoil option.

Additional Features
There are additional features you'll want to consider when purchasing a hearing aid. For example, directional microphones help pick up sound when you're in social environments with lots of background noise.

In addition, advanced models have wireless connectivity, which lets you sync your aid to Bluetooth-compatible devices, such as your cell phone or television, and direct audio input lets you connect your hearing aid to audio devices. If you wear two hearing aids, some models can sync together so adjustments made to one are automatically made to the other.

Another feature you want to pay attention to is a hearing aid's ingress protection or IP rating. The IP rating indicates the degree to which the hearing aid is protected against dust or water.