There are a lot of different kinds of hearing aids on the market – maybe even enough to fill an Olympic pool (or maybe not). But before you take a dive into the world of improved hearing, you might need to put on your water wings by reading this article, and learning which hearing aid is “the best.”
“The best” is in quotes, because we’ll state plainly: there is no objectively “best” hearing aid. The model that best suits a businesswoman in New York might be entirely different from the model that best suits a farmer from rural Wyoming.
That being said, there is a general scale of quality, based on all sorts of metrics – such as discreteness, additional features, and power level options – that we’ll go over to try and find the upper echelon of hearing aids.
As objective as we’ll try to be, we don’t know your condition, and we don’t understand your exact needs. The only way to find the right hearing aid for you is to consult with a specialist who can help you understand your specific condition, as well as work out the best way to address it.
If you fill out our quick form, you’ll be connected with hearing specialists near you, who can help you on this journey.
Criteria for the best hearing aids
Despite how small they are, there’s a lot more to hearing aids than you might think.
We’ll be looking at all sorts of aspects when considering a hearing aid’s quality. These can include:
- The amount of power options available – the wider the range, the more people with hearing loss will be able to use the model
- The extra connectivity functions each hearing aid has, such as Bluetooth or specialist smartphone apps
- The hearing aid’s discreteness – how subtle it is, and how hard it is to notice from an outsider’s perspective
- How many colors are on offer
- How much they cost
- Their battery life, and whether they have rechargeable options
- Whether they have features that can help with tinnitus
- Their warranties/trial periods
- Their customer service availability
It might not be possible to find each and every one of these data points for every model we discuss here, but we can back up what we have found with honest research.
We’ll be looking at the most recent hearing aids released by the most prevalent brands, so if you’ve been considering a brand that isn’t on this list, it’s possibly outdated. This isn’t to say it’s not worth your time, as it could be a good starter hearing aid, but this article will simply be focusing on the top of the line.
We’ll be looking at Phonak, Signia, Widex, Oticon, Starkey, ReSound, and Eargo.
How we carried out our research
There are a lot of hearing aid manufacturers out there, and even more hearing aid models, so to make sure we were getting as much useful information as we could, we conducted extensive research.
This research took about 25 hours of digging through reviews, manufacturer's pamphlets, and websites. We compared the six biggest hearing aid brands, as well as a well-reviewed up-and-comer Eargo.
We also had professional input from our resident audiologist Lindsey Banks, who helped us verify our findings and rankings.
Our scoring system
We’ve tried to make our ranking system as simple as possible. All the criteria we mentioned above are ranked on a scale of one to five, one being the worst, five being the best. We then simply applied different weights to each total – for example, price is a more considerable issue than color – and tallied up the average scores.
If you’re confused, just look at the table and hopefully it will make sense.
|Price||Power Options||Functions||Tinnitus-specific Options||Reliability||Customer Support||Size range||Colour Options|
|Phonak Audéo Marvel||3||5||5||3||1||4||1||4|
|Phonak Bolero Marvel||3||4||3||3||1||4||1||4|
|Signia Pure Charge&Go X||3||5||5||3||3||1||1||5|
|Signia Styletto Connect||3||4||5||3||3||1||1||2|
|Oticon Opn S||2||5||3||1||5||2||1||3|
|Starkey Muse iQ||4||4||5||3||5||2||5||3|
|Starkey SoundLens iQ||4||4||3||3||5||2||1||3|
|ReSound LiNX 3D||3||5||3||3||3||3||5||5|
|ReSound ENZO 3D||3||5||3||3||3||3||1||5|
|Eargo Neo Hi-Fi||3||5||5||1||5||5||1||1|
The above table has a lot of what the industry considers to be premium hearing aids. But what if you're just dipping your toe into the hearing aid world and don't want to invest a significant amount of money into something you don't trust yet?
Lucky for you, we've also made a table for cheaper hearing aids, found below. These hearing aids are all somewhat low on features, but also come at a far lower price point, so if you're looking to try a basic hearing aid, here are some options for that.
|Hearing Aid||Price||Power options||Functions||Tinnitus-specific||Reliability||Customer Support||Size Range||Color Options|
|Phonak Virto Marvel||4||4||5||1||1||4||1||2|
|Signia Pure 312||4||4||5||3||3||1||1||2|
|Oticon Xceed Play||4||4||3||1||5||2||1||5|
|Starkey Livio AI||4||4||5||3||5||2||1||3|
Our top five
If the table is all a bit overwhelming for you, here is a condensed list of our top five choices.
- Widex EVOKE
- Eargo MAX
- Starkey Muse IQ
- Starkey Livio AI
- Widex BEYOND
Based on our elaborate scoring system, the EVOKE is our number one pick. The only possible weak spot in the EVOKE is the price point (an estimated $2,500-3,000), but when you’re looking for such a premium product with all the bells and whistles attached, you should be anticipating a high price.
The EVOKE is described by Widex as “the world’s only truly intelligent hearing aid.” Can the product back up this scathing takedown of all other hearing aids? Well, based on our first-place placement, you can assume that the answer is yes.
What they mean by this is that the hearing aid is capable of growth and learning. Widex’s SoundSense Technology means that the EVOKE evolves as you use it – as you and other users personalise your listening experience, EVOKE learns from different situations.
Widex uses that anonymous data to create a better listening experience for everyone, meaning that if you were to get an EVOKE now, it’d be far more advanced than if you got one a year ago.
Their web page describes how it all works – how it recognizes different sounds and environments, and changes to suit them on the fly. If you want to sit back and let your hearing aid do the heavy lifting, while hopefully forgetting that it’s even there, this might be the one for you.
Eargo Neo/Neo Hi-Fi
Eargo is an interesting beast – it’s a new brand of hearing aid in an industry where most manufacturers are decades old and very well established. In an effort to stir up the hearing aid pot, Eargo has listened to all the common qualms with hearing aids, and designed a product to counter them.
We’ll actually be discussing two of their products within this placement, as they’re similar enough – while both being of high quality – that we can discuss them together here. These models are called the Eargo Neo and the Eargo Neo Hi-Fi.
One of the biggest selling points for Eargo is their invisibility. Once inserted into the ear, Eargo hearing aids are all but impossible to see with the human eye. This means if you’re worried about your hearing aid being brought up by someone, or falling out, Eargo is a solid bet for you.
They’re also particularly proud of their “Flexi-palms,” the earbud of the hearing aid that suspends it in your ear canal, allowing for more comfort and air circulation.
But what is the difference between Neo and Neo Hi-Fi? Well, that simply comes down to the sound quality. Both hearing aids can use the Eargo app and support lines, and both hearing aids are packaged with the same accessories.
The Hi-Fi is branded as the audiophile’s hearing aid, offering the absolute best sound quality a hearing aid can produce. This distinction seems to be the only big difference between the two products, so the cost comes down to how much you appreciate sound quality.
Starkey Muse IQ
This is the first hearing aid on our list that doesn’t go out of its way to push the envelope. The Livio AI touts its AI, while Eargo uses its fresh face to make a splash in a possibly stagnant ocean. But Starkey’s Muse IQ is just a good hearing aid.
In fact, the only area where the Muse IQ falls particularly short is in Starkey's customer support, as the manufacturer doesn’t offer a particularly robust support line. Like all customer support issues though, this could possibly be remedied by support from the independent audiologist who prescribes and supplies you the hearing aid.
So apart from the one possible negative, what is there to talk about? Well, like we said, this hearing aid doesn’t try anything particularly new – it just does all the old functions really well.
It’s rechargeable, with a great battery life; it offers great tinnitus relief, has a great feedback-cancellation system, is covered with a moisture/damage resistant coating, and has great sound quality, both for hearing your surroundings and for listening to music or television.
The full list of features is available on their website, but it seems to be above average quality across the board. If you’re interested in a hearing aid that doesn’t push the envelope, but develops the benchmark of what a hearing aid should be, the Muse IQ might be the way to go.
Starkey Livio AI
Starkey takes another spot in the top five! Like with their last contender, or really any hearing aid worth your time these days, the Livio AI offers premium sound quality – but what else has let them climb this far up the leaderboard?
Starkey has branded this as “the world’s first Healthable hearing aid.” What does this mean? A very fair question – and one with an easy answer. It basically means that this hearing aid allows you to keep an eye on your hearing and wellness by tracking your brain and body. It will alert you if it notices a problem, as well as alerting an emergency contact if it detects a fall.
This all stems from their artificial intelligence that has been programmed into the hearing aid. This AI, if it does everything Starkey claims it does, is absolutely amazing. It’s worth watching their video on it, as they go over a number of impressive feats.
These feats include:
- Being able to translate spoken languages in real time
- Turning itself on and off when it detects that it isn’t needed
- Being able to focus on the noise you want to hear, while drowning out the noise that you don’t
- Changing its settings based on your surroundings and tendencies
It’s an incredibly impressive piece of technology, let down only by the manufacturer’s substandard customer support lines and less than perfect tinnitus options. If this doesn’t bother you, then the Livio AI is a great choice.
Rounding off the list with a final Widex product, the BEYOND does well in every area, except for size range and tinnitus accommodation. It’s packed with as much power as you need, meaning it can be used by those with mild or profound hearing loss, and any condition in between.
It also scored a five on the “other features” scale, as it has anything you could want when it comes to additional functions. It also comes with the Widex BEYOND app, a great way to pair your hearing aid with your phone.
While the BEYOND does everything else to a great standard, if you’re looking for a hearing aid that helps you manage the ringing in your ears, you’ll want to look for another option. However, if you’re tinnitus free, this is a great hearing aid that will serve you in any other way.
What's the best hearing aid for me?
Different hearing aids are suitable for different people – it's all based on the individual’s hearing loss. The main ways these different models vary is in their size, and which part of the ear they’re supposed to fit into.
This variable size does have an additional effect, however – the smaller the hearing aid, the less power it typically packs. This means that smaller, more subtle hearing aids are typically prescribed to less severe cases of hearing loss. For example:
Mild hearing loss: The least severe form of hearing loss, mild hearing loss can be treated with any model of hearing aid. Specifically, CIC, IIC, and ITC hearing aids are well suited for this, as they are more subtle, and don’t need to bring much power to the table.
Moderate hearing loss: A bit more intense than mild hearing loss, but still suited for CIC, IIC, or ITC hearing aids.
Severe hearing loss: This level of hearing loss is when considerable decisions need to be made regarding the best hearing healthcare options. The best hearing aids for severe hearing loss tend to be BTE or RITE models.
Profound hearing loss: The highest form of hearing loss, profound calls for the most powerful kinds of hearing aids. Just like with severe hearing loss, these are BTE and RITE models. This level of hearing loss is also suited to cochlear implants.
Different kind of hearing aids
You might be wondering what some of the phrases we used above actually mean. If you're new to the world of hearing aids, the phrases BTE or ITC might be meaningless to you, so we'll give you a quick rundown:
BTE: Behind-the-ear hearing aids are what you picture when you think of a hearing aid. A curved piece of plastic resting behind the ear and encasing the digital innards.
RITE: Receiver-the-ear hearing aids look like BTE hearing aids, but they have a small rubber cord that leads into the ear canal. This cord is attached to a receiver that outputs sound.
ITC: In-the-canal hearing aids are the other kind of hearing aid you might picture when you think of a hearing aid. A small plastic mold, around the size of a quarter, that sits in the outer ear. They're generally weaker than a BTE or an RITE.
CIC: Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are smaller than an ITC hearing aid, as they're manufactured to fit into the ear canal rather than the outer ear.
IIC: Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids are the smallest type of hearing aid, and are designed to be completely invisible to the naked eye once they are inserted into the ear canal.
Hearing aids are a revolutionary piece of medical equipment. Rather than simply make things louder, they instead isolate and improve different kinds of sound based on the user’s condition and needs.
If any of these hearing aids have piqued your interest, then your best course of action would be to arrange a hearing test and see if you’re a candidate for a hearing aid. To get a free hearing test and consultation near you, fill out our form!
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