The best OTC hearing aid is the one that’s best for you. (Part 2)
As I mentioned last week, over-the counter hearing aids come in some 95 different models from 18 different brands. After 5,300 hours of research, consultations with a dozen audiologists and geriatric care experts, mystery shopping all 18 brands, surveying hundreds of hearing aid users, testing different OTC hearing aid models, interviewing experts in the field, and wading through thousands of verified customer reviews, the National Council on Aging narrowed the field down to the best in each of nine categories. You can read their full reviews here.
Or, before you get bogged down in details, you might want to use the highlights below to home in on the categories we didn’t cover last week.
Most User-Friendly: Lexie
The NCOA says that with these self-fitting hearing aids’ app, “you can get the best listening experience in every possible environment. We found the app easy to use, the manual clear and simple, and Lexie’s customer service helpful, prompt, and friendly.”
Their lowest-price model ($799 a pair) comes with six listening profiles to choose from, along with the same technology as the two pricier ones, so when you take a hearing test with the app, it will automatically adjust your hearing aids based on the results. You can also make adjustments with buttons on the device.
Customer service is by email, toll-free phone, or online contact form.
The standard warranty is for one year. Only the top-end model ($999) uses rechargeable batteries.
Best Remote Customer Service: MDHearing
While MDHearing’s standard warranty is for one year, or two for the top-of-the-line model ($699), you also get free, unlimited lifetime remote support from the manufacturer’s team of audiologists.
This support is available by phone, email, or chat. It covers not only adjustment and fitting questions, but also counseling and coaching about your hearing experience and hearing health overall.
Even though lower priced than most other brands ($299–699 a pair), MDHearing doesn’t skimp on features. Each of the four models comes with rechargeable battery and four adjustable hearing profiles, either through the app or buttons on the device. Before you buy, you get take a free online hearing screening and a free consultation with an in-house audiologist.
For $3.99 to $14.99 a month, you can buy an extended warranty covering damage and defects (but not loss or theft).
Best Rechargeable for the Money: Go Hearing
Like Henry Ford’s Model T, you can get these hearing aids in any color you want, so long as it’s black. But since these small, in-the-ear devices are hard to see, color shouldn’t make much difference.
What should make a difference is the list of sophisticated features you get for $199 or $299 a pair.
The higher-end model has three sound profiles (low, medium, or high frequencies), feedback cancellation, a digital sound processor, six processing channels and 12 bands. (The more channels and bands a hearing aid has, the ore accurately it can separate, analyze, and amplify sound frequencies.)
Batteries are rechargeable, and hold their charge for 30 hours – the longest in NCOA testing. Chargers are built into a plastic hearing-aid case and are good for six battery chargings before needing to be recharged themselves.
Instead of beeps at different frequencies, the free, two-minute hearing screening on their website plays a series of spoken numbers with background noise; this simulates the kind of listening experience you’re buying a hearing aid for.
Customer service, which the NCOA rated as “excellent,” is by phone seven days a week or by email. Standard warranty is one year. There’s no Bluetooth streaming or app for adjustments.
Best Variety – Lucid
Lucid makes both prescription and OTC hearing aids. Their five OTC models are preset and run from $199 to $999 a pair. You can choose between behind-the-ear, receiver-in-canal, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal models. The two lowest-priced models come with disposable batteries, while their two mid-price ones include Bluetooth streaming for music, movies, and hands-free phone calls. One model offers adjustment by app; you adjust the others with buttons on the device.
Like other brands, Lucid offers a free, five-minute online hearing test. But since they also make prescription hearing aids, you can also get a free hearing exam at any partner clinic that sells them (including many Sam’s Club locations). That way, if you need prescription hearing aids, you’ll know what kind to start shopping for.
There’s a 90-day trial period if you buy from Sam’s Club or directly from Lucid, 60 days if you buy from retailers like Amazon, Walmart or Big Buy, or pharmacies like CVS.
Free remote assistance from licensed hearing specialists is available by phone (Monday through Friday), chat, or contact form.
A one-year manufacturer’s warranty covers defects in workmanship. There’s optional loss and damage coverage for a monthly fee, but it comes with a $300 deductible per claim. So if you’re buying the $199 or $299 model, you might as well skip it.
Best Earbud-Style – Sony
Sony makes two earbud-style OTC hearing aids – one in-the-canal and one in-the-ear. In order to be small enough to fit inside the ear canal and be close to invisible, Sony’s C10 model has no room for a rechargeable battery or Bluetooth hardware. So if either of those features is important to you, you’ll go for the slightly larger in-the-ear E10. (Please be aware, though, that the Bluetooth works only with iOS phones, not Androids.)
Both models are self-fitting. When you pair them with your iOS or Android phone, a short hearing screening will match the sound profile to your hearing loss. From that point on, you can use their app to adjust overall volume, bass/treble and left/right balance, and fine-tuning for sound quality in different situations. Automatic adjustments on both models will change the sound settings as you go from one listening environment to the next.
Customer service is by phone, text, or online chat. Prices are $999 or $1,299 a pair. Standard warranty is one year.
When it comes to OTC hearing aids, along with just about everything else, different people have different needs, different priorities, and different preferences. Same with senior care management. No two clients are ever exactly alike, and all have different physical and psychosocial needs, different priorities, values, preferences, lifestyles, schedules and interests.
That’s why our very first step in custom-designing a coordinated senior care management plan at Senior Insights is to learn all about the individual we’ll be caring for. Our thorough three-part needs assessment goes beyond each client’s physical needs to learn about their emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial needs as well. So please contact us to learn more. You’ll like what you hear.
Last Week: Best for Seniors, Most Affordable, Most Financing Options, Best Invisible Fit