Just Getting Started With Hearing Aids? Here's a 60-Minute Research Roadmap.

September 28, 2023
Blake Cadwell
Written by
Blake Cadwell
Blake Cadwell

Blake Cadwell is a hearing aid wearer and co-founder at Soundly. He regularly tests and reviews hearing technology to share his experience with Soundly’s readers. Blake's research and perspectives have been featured in the The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, AARP and FastCompany.

Soundly Staff
Reviewed by
Soundly Staff
Soundly Staff

Soundly conducts in-depth research to guide prospective hearing aid wearers. Our work is funded through reader support. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

No items found.

When I sat down to research hearing aids for the first time, it took me hours to figure out what questions to ask. I'm a fast learner, but as the saying goes, I didn't know what I didn't know.

Hearing health is now what I spend most days thinking about. I have more knowledge, but I also know what questions are important.

So think of this guide as a letter to my former self - "Here's what you didn't know, kid."

I've organized this guide as a step-by-step research process. You'll find links to resources I recommend you read or videos to watch.

I've tried to time the entire crash course to about 60 minutes. So grab a pair of headphones, buckle up, and let's go!

First stop, know your hearing loss.
(10 minutes)

Before discussing hearing aids or technology, you'll want to know what you are working with. If you don't have a hearing test, start with our five-minute test here.

I suggest you click download on the results screen to refer to your results later. Leave this tab open and come back when you are finished.  

If you have a hearing test in-hand, you can skip this step. 

Next, let's review the results.
(10 minutes)

With your hearing test complete, it's time to get familiar with the results. I suggest watching the video below. If you are in a hurry, you can jump to 2:30 where the video discusses typical hearing loss patterns. See if you can spot your hearing loss shape (I have a cookie-bite). You can also read more about types of hearing loss here


Write down your hearing goals?
(5 minutes)

Now that you understand your hearing loss level and type (ie, moderate sloping or mild notch), it's worth thinking about any other personal aspects that are important for you. Some questions to get you started:

  • Do you have hearing aids? 
  • Are you used to one brand? 
  • Do you want to reduce Tinnitus?
  • Are you struggling with background noise?
  • Are you looking for something that blends in?
  • Is budget a significant factor for you?
  • Would you like to have more control or more professional support?

If I had known to ask these questions when I started my search, I would have answered that I wanted a reasonably budget-friendly option with Bluetooth and lots of DIY controls but the possibility for care when needed. You might respond differently (that's the point).   

Jot down a few notes to refer back to later in this exercise. 

Consider your care model.
(10 minutes)

At this point, we'll shift focus from your hearing to your care options. Why concentrate on the style of care instead of technology? Your preference in care model will directly impact which types and brands of hearing aids you can access. 

You have basically three options:

Option #1 Prescription  

You'll visit a local doctor who will conduct a hearing test and use special software to program a hearing aid to match your prescriptive targets. This option is typically the most precise and the most expensive. Most of the top brands are only readily available through this format. 

Option #2 Telehealth

A couple of leading brands offer telehealth programming at a distance. You'll take a hearing test online or send in a test you get locally. A professional will program your hearing aids to match that test and ship them to your door. The price for this service is typically 50% lower than local care. Jabra Enhance Select is my favorite telehealth option. 

Option #3 OTC

If you want to program your hearing aids using a smartphone, you can purchase over-the-counter. OTC hearing aids were legalized in late 2022 and are popular for first-timers and budget shoppers. OTC is only a good option if you have mild-moderate hearing loss (double-check those hearing test results). Lexie B2 Powered by Bose is my favorite product in this category.

If you want more detail on this decision, take 5 minutes and watch this video. 

Time to choose a hearing aid style (10 minutes)

Time to choose a hearing aid style (10 minutes)

Hearing aids come in three main styles.

  • About 80% of wearers choose behind-the-ear for comfort and advanced tech  
  • About 20% choose in-the-ear for invisibility and convenience with glasses, masks etc. 
  • Wearers with profound hearing loss sometimes choose implanted hearing aids (Cochlear implants or Bone Conduction implants) 

Take a few minutes to watch this video to learn more about styles and jot down the style that sounds right for you. 

Create a product shortlist.
(15 minutes)

It's finally time to talk about brands and products. We are 45 minutes into this crash course, and you should now be ready to start your personal hearing aid shortlist. The upfront homework will make things way easier at this step.

If you are feeling ambitious you can go deeper on product technology options here.

We've broken the products below into three groups. Each group includes at least one option for in-the-ear and behind-the-ear hearing aids. If you are considering Cochlear implants, you'll want to switch to this guide.  

Group #1
Prescription Hearing Aids

These are our top four choices for prescription hearing aids. Oticon, ReSound, and Phonak are consistent leaders among the most popular behind-the-ear styles, and Starkey is a leader in custom in-the-ear products. You'll usually work with a local doctor to access these brands and products.

Phonak Audéo Lumity
Best Bluetooth Connection

Phonak Audéo Lumity

Phonak Audéo Lumity

As low as $3,198 / pair
Listen to a demo
pause
Behind the Ear
Professional Fitting
Bluetooth
Rechargeable

Phonak Lumity hearing aids are new in August 2022 and replace the world's most popular hearing aid (Audéo Paradise).

Lumity get’s top marks from audiologists for stable Bluetooth connection, precise customization and impressive accessories like the Phonak Roger Pen.

Think of this hearing aid as the Mercedes level. High-end, built by the world's largest hearing company and packed with all the tech you could want.

  • Overall Notes: Audéo Lumity is the #1 hearing aid on the market by sales volume. It offers best-in-class Bluetooth streaming, powerful sound algorithms, remote care, and an innovative ear vent. If you can swing the cost for this premium device, chances are that you'll be very happy.
  • Price: The national average price for Phonak Lumity is $6,213 per pair. In my price research I found two larger providers who offer lower prices starting at $3,195/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth and hands-free calling, behind the ear style, motion sensors
  • What audiologists say: “Our patients say that the sound is clear and crisp, while maintaining natural sound quality. Patients also love the unique ability to pair with almost any cell phone and take calls hands-free.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
Soundly Scorecard
+
No items found.
Pros

Top of the line customization, Bluetooth connection and rechargeable batteries

Enhanced background noise reduction

Highly water-resistant option available for active lifestyles

Cons

Audeo Lumity is a premium product with an average price of $3,198 - $7,000 per pair

Phonak manages sound quality in a way that can lead to a "closed off" feeling compared to Oticon or ReSound's more open sound quality

Get the full Phonak Lumity breakdown 👉
Learn More
Man wearing Oticon hearing aids
Oticon Real
Best for Natural Sound

Oticon Real

Oticon Real

As low as $3,198 / pair
Listen to a demo
pause
Behind the Ear
Bluetooth
Professional Fitting
Rechargeable

Oticon Real was released in February 2023 and is positioned to become one of the most popular hearing aids in the world.

This hearing aid is rechargeable offers hands-free calling via iPhone and audio streaming via Android.

What makes the Oticon special is the way the hearing aids handle sound. While most hearing aids suppress background noises and prioritize only voice, Oticon Real gives the brain a more natural, full sound landscape.

Oticon used a 360 spherical microphone to capture sounds from 12 million real-life situations to achieve this new approach. Their new Oticon Real model also has some built-in features to increase listening comfort in the presence of intrusive sounds like dog barking or doorbells ringing.

  • Overall notes: Oticon Real is an undisputed leader among top-tier hearing aids. If you are attracted to the idea of hearing more of the sounds around you vs. solely focusing on voices, this product is a great choice.
  • Price: The national average price for Oticon Real is $6,330 per pair. In my price research I found some national providers with prices as low as $3,198/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth (not hands-free), Behind The Ear Style
  • What audiologists say: “Oticon is among the best. If you are looking for all-around, top-of-the-line technology, this is an excellent choice.” - Ramsay Poindexter, AuD
Soundly Scorecard
+
No items found.
Pros

Open sound quality that many users prefer

Bluetooth streaming from Android and Apple devices

Offered with both rechargeable and disposable batteries

Cons

Oticon Real hearing aids start at $3,198 and can cost as much as $7,000 with walk in care

Oticon Real hearing aids require a visit to an in person audiologist and are not sold online

Get the full Oticon Real breakdown 👉
Learn More
Soundly team reviewing NEXIA hearing aids
ReSound NEXIA
First Hearing Aid With Auracast

ReSound NEXIA

ReSound NEXIA

As Low As $3,198 / pair
Listen to a demo
pause
Behind the Ear
Bluetooth
Professional Fitting
Rechargeable

ReSound unveiled NEXIA in October 2023. If you’ve read our past reviews, you might know that ReSound is a regular innovator in the hearing category.

The brand was the first to partner with Apple for Bluetooth streaming back in 2013. In 2022, ReSound released an impressive algorithm update with improved beam-forming tech that boasted a 150% improvement in background noise.

ReSound is also the only manufacturer that places a microphone inside the ear to use the natural shape of the pinna to sort out background noise. Those popular features will remain with ReSound NEXIA with some exciting additions.

The first is a visible reduction in size. Impressively, NEXIA maintains a 30-hour battery life while cutting 25% off the overall size—big thumbs up from us.

The second big announcement is that NEXIA has an updated Bluetooth capability that allows Auracast streaming in public places. If you aren’t familiar with Auracast, check out our guide to the topic here.

ReSound is among the best in the industry at separating speech and noise in a background situation. Our lead audiologist recently put NEXIA in a test box and found the hearing aids could consistently provide up to 8-10 dB of background noise reduction.

ReSound NEXIA is on most of our shortlists for the best premium, receiver-in-canal hearing aids on the market.

  • Overall notes: ReSound NEXIA is an all around excellent product with an innovative approach to microphones and one of the smallest form factors in the industry. ReSound NEXIA has strong Bluetooth connection that now boasts Auracast compatibility.
  • Price: The national average price for ReSound NEXIA is $7,410 per pair. In our price research we've found some national providers with prices as low as $3,198/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth with hands-free calling for iPhone and iPad, Small behind the ear style
  • What audiologists say: “ReSound offers elegant design and good (if not elite) sound quality. These hearing aids are high quality and reliable.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
Soundly Scorecard
+
No items found.
Pros

Great for background noise management

Auracast compatible

Small form factor and an optional 3rd microphone in the ear

Cons

More expensive compared to direct to consumer and OTC options


NEXIA's in-ear M&RIE microphone is a bit larger and can be uncomfortable for some

Get the full ReSound NEXIA breakdown 👉
Learn More
Starkey Genesis AI Custom
Best Custom Invisible Hearing Aids

Starkey Genesis AI Custom

Starkey Genesis AI Custom

As Low As $2,998 / Pair
Listen to a demo
pause
In the Ear
Professional Fitting
Rechargeable
Bluetooth

Starkey is a U.S.-based manufacturer with a full line of hearing aids that includes behind the ear and in-the-ear styles. They make the list for their elite status in custom molded (nearly invisible products). If you can afford to pay medical-grade prices and want an invisible style, you won’t be disappointed by Starkey.

Starkey is known for intelligent features like fitness tracking, a virtual assistant, and the smallest Bluetooth hearing aid on the market.

  • Overall Notes: Starkey Genesis AI is broadly considered the best for custom mold hearing aids. If you want a custom mold, and lead an active lifestyle, this product is a great choice.
  • Price: The national average price for Starkey Genesis Custom hearing aids is $6,443 per pair. Our research indicates that you can get Starkey Custom devices for as low as $3,198 for a pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Full range of styles and features including Bluetooth, rechargeability, and fitness tracking for larger devices.
  • What audiologists say: “Starkey has been making the smallest and best custom hearing aids for decades. Genesis AI is currently the smallest custom device on the market with Bluetooth streaming capabilities.” - Ramsay Poindexter, AuD
Soundly Scorecard
+
No items found.
Pros

Smallest models are almost entirely invisible

Starkey is a leader in comfortable custom molded products

Larger sizes come with Bluetooth streaming and rechargeable batteries

Cons

This is a premium device which costs $3,000-$7,000 per pair

Custom molds require additional lead time and replacement time

The smallest version of Starkey Genesis AI customs are not Bluetooth enabled or rechargeable

Get the full Starkey Genesis breakdown 👉
Learn More

Group #2
Telehealth Brands

Two Telehealth brands currently lead the pack. If you want remote care's convenience (and lower prices), you'll love Jabra Enhance Select and Audicus. For in-the-ear fans, Audicus offers Telehealth care with Audicus Mini.

Jabra Enhance Select Hearing Aids
Jabra Enhance Select
Best Overall Value

Jabra Enhance Select

Jabra Enhance Select

$1,195 - $1,995 / pair
Affordable
Behind the Ear
Bluetooth
Rechargeable
Professional Fitting

Jabra Enhance Select hearing aids are made by the world's 4th largest hearing aid manufacturer (ReSound). Jabra Enhance (originally called Lively) made a name for itself by recreating the full-service audiology service online.

Instead of requiring you to come into their office, Jabra reduces the cost by programming remotely and shipping to your home.

All Jabra products come with a 100-day return policy and 3 years of unlimited remote care. You can find the same product for sale at a local clinic for around $4,500.

Get started by filling out Jabra's online survey via the right-hand corner of their website.

  • Overall notes: If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, are on a budget, and want a hearing professional to program your hearing aids to match your hearing loss, this is one of the most compelling products on the market.
  • Price: $1,395 for a pair of battery-powered - $1,695 for a pair of rechargeable, $1,995 for enhanced sound quality
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth (not hands-free), Behind The Ear Style
  • What audiologists say: “Their audiologists can personalize and program Jabra hearing aids in real-time; highlighting the benefits of telehealth and competent professionals.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
Pros

One of the most affordable and convenient ways to purchase online while maintaining professional care

Comes with a 100 day free-return period

Offers rechargeable batteries and Bluetooth streaming

Cons

Remote care requires users to be somewhat tech savvy

Jabra only offers styles that sit behind the ear

Get Jabra Enhance Select prices and details 👉
See Price
Audicus
Largest Telehealth Selection

Audicus

Audicus

$998 - $2,998 / pair
Affordable
Behind the Ear
Professional Fitting
Bluetooth
Rechargeable

Audicus was one of the first brands to program hearing aids remotely and ship them to your door. When the brand launched nearly 10 years ago, Audicus was dubbed the Warby Parker of hearing aids. They make their service simple to use and offer a range of simple but effective products.

Unlike other over-the-counter style devices like Eargo and Lexie, you do not need to program your own hearing aids. The Audicus team of hearing specialists walks you through an online test or accepts an existing audiogram.

With the results in hand, they program your hearing aids before shipping. This streamlined process saves you time and cuts the cost by about 50%-70% compared to traditional options.

  • Overall notes: Audicus has more than 7,000 reviews with an impressive average of 4.7 stars. Their customer service and lifetime specialist support are unique to the industry. If you are on a budget and want fully customized hearing aids, Audicus is among the best options available.
  • Price: Models available, ranging from $699-$1,299 per ear.
  • Features: Full range of styles (invisible and behind the ear) and features (Bluetooth and rechargeable)
  • What audiologists say: “Audicus is a fair option for anyone looking for remote care. The Telehealth model helps reduce the final price.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
Pros

Audicus hearing aids are programmed remotely which leads to lower prices and more convenience

Audicus offers a diverse range of styles and pricing including an affordable in-the-canal product

Audicus offers their products with a monthly subscription starting at $99

Cons

Audicus hearing aids are more expensive than some other Telehealth alternatives.

Audicus hearing aids do not come with hands-on support at a local clinic.

Get $100 off any Audicus product with code 100HEARING 👉
See Price

Group #3
Over-The-Counter Brands

OTC hearing aid brands are a relatively new breed, but a few leaders have emerged with quality designs and excellent customer service. 

Image of Bose rechargeable hearing aids
Lexie B2+ Powered By Bose
Affordable and Rechargeable

Lexie B2+ Powered By Bose

Lexie B2+ Powered By Bose

$999 / pair
Affordable
Behind the Ear
Rechargeable
OTC
Bluetooth (iPhone Only)

In July 2022 Bose formed a strategic partnership with Lexie (a well respected hearing healthcare company) to release Lexie B1 hearing aids. In October they released a second model with rechargeable batteries. Then in May 2023 they added Bluetooth streaming capabilities for iPhone users. In January 2024 Lexie released a new and improved charger. Constant improvement on an already great product - we love to see it.

Lexie B1 and Lexie B2+ hearing aids are self-fit using an innovative app that allows hearing aid wearers to fit, program, and control their hearing aids with clinically proven, audiologist-quality results. Purchase B1 hearing aids for $849 or rechargeable B2+ hearing aids for $999 (compare models here).

  • How it works:
    ✔️ Start by purchasing Bose online or at a local retailer
    ✔️ Once the product arrives at your home, you'll download the app and self-program the hearing aids to match your hearing loss.
    ✔️ If you need further adjustments, Lexie has a team of licensed professionals who can make remote updates or provide technical advice.
  • Overall notes: If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, are comfortable with smartphone tech, and are on a budget, Bose is one of the most compelling products available.
  • Price: $849 for a pair of B1 hearing aids or $999 for a pair of B2+ hearing aids
  • Features: Rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth Streaming for iPhone users, Programming app, Behind The Ear Style
  • What audiologists say: “One of the simplest to use OTC hearing aids, at a very competitive price. A solid option for those who want to self-manage their mild to moderate hearing loss.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
Pros

Strong underlying technology

Self-fitting using the Lexie app

Affordable and rechargeable

Cons

Bluetooth for iPhone only  

Only comes in one color

Costs $150 more than disposable battery version

More Reviews + The Latest Pricing and Discounts 👉
See Price
Eargo 7
Only Rechargeable and Invisible Product On The Market

Eargo 7

Eargo 7

$1,650 - $2,950 / pair
In the Ear
OTC
Affordable
Rechargeable

Eargo is the disruptor in hearing health. Their product is rechargeable, invisible, and designed with a patented tip that allows your ears to breathe.

Eargo 7 was released in 2023 with new features that adapt to your environment as you move through your day. Eargo has raised hundreds of millions to design their product from scratch and what they've pulled off is impressive.

Think of this product as the Tesla of hearing health. Eargo is best for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. If you want to try something new, this is a great option.

  • How it works:
    ✔️ Start by purchasing Eargo online or over the phone (or get a free sample product here).
    ✔️ Once the product arrives at your home, you’ll receive instructions to download the app and self-program the hearing aids to match your hearing loss.
    ✔️ If you need further adjustments, Eargo has a team of licensed professionals who can make remote updates or provide advice.
  • Overall notes: Eargo stands out for its design, innovation, size, and telecare team. The price is a bit higher than other OTC options but still lower than the national average.
  • Price: $2,950 for Eargo’s newest product (currently on sale)
  • Features: Invisible, self-programmed, rechargeable
  • What audiologists say: “If you are looking for invisible devices Eargo is one of the best options on the market.” - Ramsay Poindexter
Pros

Eargo is a tiny device that sits entirely inside the ear

Eargo is more affordable then custom mold hearing aids

Eargo is self fit using an app

Cons

Only appropriate for those with mild to moderate hearing loss

Requires some tinkering to fine tune the product

Eargo is not Bluetooth enabled due to the tiny size

Get a free (non-working) Eargo sample 👉
Learn More
Lucid OTC Hearing Aid Customization
Engage From Lucid Hearing
Sam's Club Upgrade Option

Engage From Lucid Hearing

Engage From Lucid Hearing

$799
Affordable
Behind the Ear
Rechargeable
OTC
Bluetooth

Lucid Hearing is an under-the-radar brand in the OTC market but has some of the strongest technology and experience. The brand is best known as the manufacturer behind all of the Sam's Club hearing center hearing aids.

The brand released two impressive OTC devices in late 2022. Engage is Lucid's rechargeable, Bluetooth enabled and self-fit hearing aid that sits behind the ear. The product comes in several colors and has one of the most stable Bluetooth connections due to a patented antenna.

  • How it works:
    ✔️ Start by purchasing Lucid Engage hearing aids online.
    ✔️ Once the product arrives at your home, you'll download the app and self-program the hearing aids to match your hearing loss.
    ✔️ If you need further adjustments you can take your hearing aids to a nearby Sam’s Club for free service or call Lucid’s hearing specialists.
  • Price: $799 for a pair  
  • Features: Rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth streaming enabled for Android and iPhone, fully customized to your hearing loss using an app, behind the ear style.

Pros

Bluetooth streaming for iPhone and Android

Rechargeable

Self-fit

Cons

Packaging and recharge case are less sleek than Bose and Sony

Purchase Lucid Engage online or at select retailers 👉
See Price
No items found.
No items found.

That's a wrap. 

If you've stuck with me this long, you should have a hearing test, some notes on preferences, and an idea of your preferred care model and style. You might even have a shortlist of brands to investigate further.  

If you still have questions, rest assured that this site is full of answers on topics like tinnitus management hearing aids for music, and ultra-low-cost options like Audien and Nano.

Ask your questions in the search bar on the right-hand corner of the site, or head here to compare more hearing aids side-by-side. 

We hope this 60-minute crash-course has been helpful. If you have comments or questions, feel free to email us at [email protected]

Frequently asked questions

No items found.

Ask Soundly

This is some text inside of a div block.
This is some text inside of a div block.
  • This is some text inside of a div block.
  • This is some text inside of a div block.
  1. This is some text inside of a div block.
  2. This is some text inside of a div block.
This is some text inside of a div block.
This is an AI-powered chat experience that synthesizes product manuals, white papers, and our content to give you instant answers. This feature is experimental. Verify all results and speak to your healthcare professional before making final decisions. Learn more in our updated Privacy Policy.