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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].