June 1, 2023 - 12:20 pm
Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend good over-the-counter hearing aids for seniors on a budget? I’m not sure what to get or where to buy them. — Hard of Hearing
Dear Hard of Hearing: Since hitting the market in October, FDA-approved over-the-counter hearing aids have become an attractive option to millions of older Americans.
These hearing aids can be purchased without a hearing exam, prescription or appointment with an audiologist. And the savings are significant. The average cost of an OTC hearing aid is about $1,600 per pair, which is about $3,000 less than the average price of a prescription hearing aid.
But sorting through all of the options and styles can be confusing. Here are some tips along with a reliable resource to help you choose.
Check your hearing
The first step is to get your hearing tested. OTC hearing aids are designed only for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Signs include trouble hearing speech in noisy places, in groups and during phone calls.
The best place to get your hearing tested is through a hearing care provider like an audiologist. These tests are usually covered by private medical insurance, and as of this year, Medicare will pay for general hearing evaluations without a doctor’s referral.
You can also assess your hearing at home with a good app-based hearing test such as Mimi (mimi.health) or SonicCloud (soniccloud.com).
If you have severe hearing loss, you probably will need a prescription hearing aid, which you must get through an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.
Choosing an OTC aid
If you decide that an OTC hearing aid may work for you, here are some pointers.
First, know that OTC hearing aids come in two types: self-fitting and preset. Self-fitting aids typically use a smartphone app to set up and adjust the device to suit your hearing needs, which makes them better suited for seniors who are technologically inclined. Preset hearing aids are much simpler devices that come with a number of set programs for different levels of hearing loss, and the controls are directly on the hearing aid.
Because OTC hearing aids have a learning curve, it is important to know how much customer support the manufacturer will provide.
You also need to find out about the company’s return policy. It can take weeks to get accustomed to wearing hearing aids and figure out whether they are really working for you.
Best OTC hearing aids
To help you cut through all of the options, the National Council on Aging, a national nonprofit organization, recently spent more than 5,000 hours researching, testing and interviewing customers about OTC hearing aids.
It came up with a list of nine winners based on such criteria as affordability, style and fit. Its top OTC hearing aids for 2023 include:
Best for seniors: Jabra Enhance (jabraenhance.com).
Best invisible fit: Eargo (eargo.com).
Most user-friendly: Lexie (lexiehearing.com).
Most affordable: Audien (audienhearing.com).
Most financing options: Audicus (audicus.com).
Best remote customer service: MDHearing (mdhearingaid.com).
Best rechargeable for the money: Go Hearing (gohearing.com).
Best variety: Lucid (lucidhearing.com).
Best earbud-style: Sony (electronics.sony.com).
To learn more, visit NCOA.org.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.