Best OTC hearing aids (2024): Tests and Reviews

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If you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars buying an OTC hearing aid, make sure you’re getting a product that provides a permanent long-term solution to your hearing loss needs. Aside from the obvious things like sound quality, take a few minutes to look at these specifications.

Which size and style is best for you? Most hearing aids available on the market are classified as either behind-the-ear (BTE) or in-the-ear (ITE). BTE hearing aids are probably what you think of when you imagine a hearing aid, consisting of a plastic case that houses the electronics, a thin cable that runs over the ear and inside the canal, and a small speaker known as the “receiver” that sends amplified audio from a person’s surroundings into their ear. In contrast, ITE models are self-contained units that look like a standard pair of wireless earbuds. In-ear hearing aids are popular for their stealthy aesthetic, and they’re much easier to get in and out than their behind-the-ear counterparts. Still, contemporary BTE hearing aids are noticeably smaller than those from “back in the day.” It just depends on which one you find most comfortable.

Replaceable or rechargeable battery? Just like wireless earbuds, most OTC hearing aids come equipped with rechargeable batteries and (usually) portable charging cases for easy transport. If you factor in the case’s battery life, you’ll find that most OTC models last about a week before you need to connect to a power source. Without a case, rechargeable hearing aids offer 10 to 24 hours of battery life per charge (but that’s reduced by a few hours if you’re using them to stream via Bluetooth). Replaceable batteries, like the ones found in the Sony CRE-C10, can last 70 hours or more before the battery dies. Sounds great, but it means keeping extra batteries on hand and dealing with tiny cells, which can be tricky for people with dexterity issues.

Are you comfortable making adjustments? While prescription hearing aids are fitted in the office by a licensed hearing care specialist, OTC devices are self-fitting. In most cases, OTC hearing aid users are expected to tune the device to their ears, usually with the help of a smartphone app. While it’s certainly nice to be able to adjust to your needs on the fly, it can cost you personalized care.

How is the company’s customer support? If only you could count on quality support from every hearing aid manufacturer! Unfortunately, OTC hearing aid companies are just that – companies. There is no “standard” for customer service in the industry. Companies like Jabra offer extensive support to patients, but other brands may leave you on your own.

Is there any testing going on? If you are not happy with your hearing aids, you will probably want the option to return them without having all that money written off as a sunk cost. Most states require manufacturers to provide patients with a minimum trial period, but I recommend being safe by getting this information before you buy.

What about the warranty? Equally important is the inclusion of a comprehensive manufacturer’s warranty for a reasonable trial period. Most brands cover manufacturing defects for up to a year, but it goes without saying that the longer the coverage period, the better the deal. Irrespective of which OTC hearing aid you get, make sure the warranty covers loss, damage, and wear and tear.

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