If you or a loved one is considering treatment for hearing loss, then it can be confusing to know who to trust and which option is best.

With every website telling you something different and a multitude of solutions at different price points that all hold the same promises – it’s natural to feel overwhelmed.

But with hearing loss impacting 1 in 8 Americans and the World Health Organization predicting that hearing loss will double by 2050, you and millions of others are facing the exact same challenges and finding yourself confused about what your next step should be.

That’s why, in this article, we’re going to explain ALL the key options available to you and give you a full understanding of the landscape, as well as share an honest and unbiased overview of the benefits and negatives of choosing each option.

Things To Consider Before Looking At Your Options

Although I’m sure you’ve seen marketing messages that promise you the earth on a stick, the truth is, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution to addressing a hearing challenge.

The right option is very much dependent on your unique circumstances, lifestyle, and budget.

Things to consider include:

    • The level of your hearing loss?
    • How active is your lifestyle? Does your hearing need a little help or a lot of help?
    • Do you prefer to see a specialist face to face, or do you prefer remote support?
    • Can you travel for appointments or need care from home?
    • Do you demand the best of the best or want a solution on a budget?
    • Do you want to work with an individual for the long term, or are you happy to work with a corporation and speak to different people?

There is a lot to consider, but when armed with an understanding of your preferences, you can make a better decision on which of the many options available is right for you.

What Are The Different Options Available To Address A Hearing Challenge?

There are many options to choose from, ranging from low budget to high budget, depending on your preferences and circumstances.

They include:

  1. Earphones and Cell Phone Apps [$0-$250]
  2. Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids [$800-$1000]
  3. PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products) [$79-$1250]
  4. Online Hearing Aids with Audiological Remote Support [$1850-$2400]
  5. Big Box Retail Stores [$1250-$4000]
  6. Audiology Clinic [$2500-$7800]
  7. Hearing Loss Surgery (Cochlear Implants) [$30,000-$50,000]

Although they all hold similar promises, they all have very distinct differences.

Let’s explore each option in more detail.

#1 – Earphones And Cell Phone Apps

If you have zero budget and simply need some form of amplification in certain environments, then there are a few apps on Apple’s App Store that allow you to turn your earphones into amplification tools.

Essentially, they use the microphone of the device and then increase the volume on all sound, giving you an increased ability to hear. One notable app is called “Chatable” – it’s free to download and allows you to simply increase the level of volume on all sounds that your cell phone/earphones pick up.

For this app to work, you must have wireless earphones or wired headphones connected to your cell phone.

You can then sit your cell phone on the table to help you hear conversations better, with the elevated volume being pumped into your ears.

It offers 99 minutes of free listening per month, and then it asks you to sign up for a subscription of $59.99 per year.

Pros:

    • Doesn’t require any large fees (mostly free)
    • Only requires technology that you likely have available

Cons:

    • Only works in environments with very little background noise
    • Requires you to wear headphones/earphones and sit your cell phone in a very specific position
    • Is not unique to your hearing loss – it simply makes sounds louder
    • Doesn’t help address a hearing challenge
    • Includes no support or care – you’re on your own

This could be compared to using a magnifying glass if you had vision problems. It may help in very specific circumstances but is not a solution that will allow you to live your life comfortably or address the core challenge.

#2 – Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

In 2017, the federal government passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which aimed to give consumers greater access to affordable hearing aids. After many false starts, these devices are now slowly reaching the market.

The first big-brand device was the Bose SoundControl, priced at $850.00 that delivered two devices for each ear, an iPhone app, and a 90-day return policy.

These devices can be purchased without any form of hearing assessment, you fit them yourself, and you then use an app on your phone to select specific environments and make tweaks to the sound.

In many ways, they’re very similar to the earphones and cell phone app option that we recently discussed, but they supply you with devices that look very similar to traditional hearing aids.

Already, Bose is advertising these devices to the wider world, resulting in many people asking questions about them.

Our take on the Bose SoundControl devices is available by clicking here.

Pros:

    • Easily accessible
    • Purchase from your computer
    • Very competitively priced

Cons: 

    • Not tailored to your hearing loss
    • Doesn’t require any form of testing (it could be a buildup of earwax that is responsible for your reduced hearing, or you may have no hearing loss)
    • Need to fit them yourself, leading to potential discomfort and lack of performance
    • No support outside of your 90-day returns period
    • No warranty if you lose or damage them

To continue the comparison to your vision, this is the equivalent of buying off-the-shelf readers. They will help in certain situations but be a very generic option that isn’t unique to you.

Take a read of our alternative to OTC options here.

#3 – PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products)

If you have seen the hearing aid-type devices for sale on the internet, through adverts, or even in Walmart, then the chances are that it’s a PSAP.

This is an amplification tool.

It takes in sound through a small built-in microphone and then makes it louder into your ears, helping you to hear the sounds around you.

Starting as low as $79.99 and ranging to over $1000 – they provide a solution if you have a very mild hearing loss and require a “one-size-fits-all” amplification with very little room for adjustments.

Pros: 

    • Easy to purchase (either online or in-store)
    • Very low cost, priced from $79.99

Cons:

    • Not tailored to your hearing loss
    • Doesn’t require any form of testing (it could be a buildup of earwax that is responsible for your reduced hearing, or you may have no hearing loss)
    • Need to fit them yourself, leading to potential discomfort and lack of performance
    • No support outside of your 90-day returns period
    • No warranty if you lose or damage them

These are the equivalent to readers if you’re experiencing challenges with your sight – they help in certain situations but aren’t tailored to you, nor a long-term solution.

#4 – Online Hearing Aids With Audiological Remote Support/Direct-to-Consumer

You may have seen adverts from Listen Lively or other popular online models that share how you can access hearing technology and audiological support online, and they make a great case.

You don’t have to visit a doctor, they’re reasonably priced, and the process feels very slick.

They serve as a solution to match commonly used gain and slope hearing loss targets, usually allowing you to connect to a cell phone app to make minor adjustments yourself or through a video call with one of their online audiologists.

They’re gaining popularity due to their convenience, with online reviews being mixed between good and poor experiences.

You can order them for as low as $1850, and you receive a box with your hearing aids programmed based on your online hearing assessment with online follow-up appointments.

Pros:

      • Easy to purchase online
      • Highly convenient
      • Hearing technology is developed by a reputable manufacturer
      • Often come with a money-back guarantee

Cons: 

      • They only require you to have an online hearing assessment (which is often inaccurate and can result in your devices being programmed incorrectly)
      • Nobody physically looks into your ears, meaning that there may be other reasons for a hearing loss (earwax, blockages, etc.)
      • You don’t receive any in-person support, help, or attention
      • You cannot utilize your insurance benefits
      • You don’t have one hearing care professional who you can build a relationship with, and you often speak to a different audiologist each time.

This is definitely a good option depending on your level of hearing loss, circumstances, and needs. If we continue the comparison to eyeglasses, then this would be the equivalent of completing an eye test at home on your own and then having a company mail you your eyeglasses.

#5 – Big Box Retail Stores (Costco/Sam’s Club, Etc.)

A common option for purchasing professional hearing aids is to visit your local Costco or Sam’s Club that often has an internal hearing aid center.

If purchasing real hearing technology customized to you is important to you, then this is a big step in the right direction compared to purchasing online.

Firstly, they require you to have a hearing screening to understand the rough level of your hearing loss.

They then have access to their own Kirkland branded hearing aids plus some reputable manufacturer technology, which ranges in price in the low thousands of dollars.

The technology is high quality, and you receive a professional fitting (often by a trained hearing aid dispenser), plus a warranty that varies from 1 to 3 years depending on where you purchase.

It is in a retail environment, so receiving follow-up care and support can sometimes be tricky with people waiting weeks before receiving support, and if you lose or damage your devices, then it can be a long process that can leave you without your devices.

Pros: 

    • You receive a hearing screening
    • You receive an in-person fitting
    • You wear professional technology
    • You have a warranty
    • You can return for help/cleanings/support

Cons:

    • You don’t receive a comprehensive or advanced hearing evaluation (this means that other factors could indicate a hearing loss, such as a buildup of earwax)
    • You don’t receive ongoing service.
    • Getting an appointment for support/help can sometimes have a long wait.
    • You can’t utilize your insurance
    • Payment plans are not available
    • A membership fee is often required

#6 – Audiological Care Within A Clinic

This could be considered as the traditional approach.

This is where you visit a doctor of audiology for a comprehensive hearing assessment that doesn’t just check your level of hearing but also your overall hearing health.

From there, they explore your options and help you to make a decision on which level of technology is right for you with access to all levels of the latest technology without limitations.

Upon a professional fitting, you then receive ongoing support and care for many years, including cleanings, readjustments, repairs, and a team of experts alongside you with appointments often available within 48 hours.

Often your devices come with extended warranties and protection, and your hearing health is the key priority throughout the process.

You can also utilize your insurance or payment plans.

Cons: 

    • You’ll have to attend multiple appointments

Pros:

    • You’re personally treated by a doctor of audiology
    • You receive ongoing in-person care
    • You’re fitted with the latest technology from a leading manufacturer
    • You receive a warranty/protection
    • You can utilize your insurance
    • Payment plans are available
    • You’re one of a small number of valued patients
    • You’re working with a small business rather than a large corporation

To use the eyeglasses comparison, this is the equivalent to visiting an optometrist, having your eyes professionally tested, working with you to find the perfect eyeglasses, and then supporting you to continually check any vision changes, replace any parts, and offer you in-depth support.

#7 – Hearing Loss Surgery (Cochlear Implants)

If your hearing loss is severe, then an option available to you is a cochlear implant.

This is a surgical implant positioned inside your cochlea that converts sounds into electrical impulses, which are then interpreted by the brain, all aimed at replacing your cochlea’s function.

Generally recommended for people with a severe hearing loss in both ears that have not received benefits from traditional hearing aids, a cochlear implant can cost between $30,000 and $50,000 on average, according to Boys Town National Research Hospital.

They’re a solution often covered by insurance but usually require replacement parts that may not be covered (it’s always worth clarification).

How To Make Up Your Mind

Hopefully, the above explanation gives you a better understanding of the options available to you and guides you in a direction that feels right for you.

As I said at the beginning, there isn’t a right solution for everybody – it depends on your circumstances and preferences.

If you’re still unsure and would prefer to chat with a trusted hearing care professional to explain your situation and receive tailored advice, then you can complete the “Request a Callback” form on this page, or you can click here to call anyone of our offices.

Our job is not to guide you in any particular direction, but it’s to understand your situation and make a recommendation that is right for you.

We’re here to help.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Nancy Duncan, Au.D.

Dr. Duncan’s Southcoast roots run deep, establishing a special connection to the community where she practices. A homegrown product, she graduated from Somerset High, just across the Taunton from Fall River, and received her B.S. in communication disorders and psychology from Worcester State College. Her master of science in audiology was awarded at the University of Arkansas in 1997, after which she worked for several private audiology practices in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.