COVID-19 Update: With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many seniors are struggling with loneliness and isolation. We’ve developed a list of products that caregivers or seniors can purchase to help older adults stay happy, healthy and connected, whether they are aging in place at home or in an assisted living community.

Bluetooth-capable hearing aids can significantly benefit users, but not all are created equally. We’ve gathered the three best options to help you or a loved one make the right selection for your needs. Hearing aid technology has advanced considerably over the past two decades, and many hearing aid manufacturers are incorporating technologies used in other types of mobile devices into their newest hearing aids, which gives users greater flexibility for use and a more personalized experience.

While Bluetooth hearing aids may cost a bit more than traditional hearing aids, many users feel that the benefits are worth the cost. Using a Bluetooth device can help you hear audio more clearly on different devices, such as on a phone, on a smart TV, or in the car. Users can also stream audio straight to the hearing aid, similar to how headphones work, allowing them to listen to what they wish without disturbing others around them.

In this article, we give more information about the features that Bluetooth hearing aids offer and provide an overview of some of the best products from top-quality manufacturers.

The Three Best Hearing Aids with Bluetooth Capabilities

Audicus: Best for Affordable Bluetooth Hearing Aids

We mentioned that Bluetooth-capable hearing aids tend to run higher than traditional ones, but Audicus specializes in making this technology more approachable for many seniors. It offers a “hearing aid club,” where members receive new hearing aids and an audiologist exam every 18 months, allowing them to change the sensitivity of the device as their needs change. It also allows members to take advantage of changes in hearing aid technology without purchasing a new device outright. The monthly pricing starts at just $39 per month, with a $100 entrance fee.

Audicus isn’t a one-size-fits-all company. Instead of offering a handful of models, it has hearing aids with a la carte features, allowing for greater customization. Two Audicus devices come standard with Bluetooth compatibility, and all are fully digital, with noise suppression technology and directional options. The Audicus Wave is the top-of-the-line hearing aid, is nearly invisible, and can communicate directly with most smartphones, allowing users to benefit from full integration.

Starkey Hearing Technologies: Best for Assistive Features

Starkey’s hearing aids are more expensive than other brands, but considering the built-in assistive features to help protect seniors and those living alone, many feel it’s worth the price. Starkey is an American company, founded in 1964, and it has made a name for itself by embracing new technologies for leading-edge devices.

The premier devices from Starkey, the Livio and the Livio AI models, incorporate artificial intelligence technology and embedded sensors in addition to sound amplification. These devices have fall detection sensors and audible memory cues, which can help seniors with a complicated medication regimen, or those who struggle with maintaining a schedule, help stay on top of daily tasks. The fall detection sensors are sensitive enough that wearers may not need a secondary fall detection device.

Livio AI also has a “transcribe” feature that transcribes conversations from the smartphone into an audible message. These can include “reading” the calendar appointment feature on a phone’s calendar app to remind people of important appointments or other regular health needs, such as checking blood sugar. There’s also a feature that allows the messages to be saved, copied or emailed. Caregivers or family members of Livio AI users aging in place may find this feature especially useful, as they’re able to keep track of their loved ones and may be able to help schedule audible reminders to ensure their needs are being met.

Unique among Bluetooth-capable hearing devices is the Alexa connectivity option, allowing a more immersive listening experience. Plus, both the Livio and Livio AI are car-compatible for models that allow Bluetooth connection. However, devices like these don’t come cheap. The basic model of the Livio hearing aid is about $2,000, and the MSRP of the Livio AI is $3,500.

Widex: Best for Artificial Intelligence Features

Widex is a global hearing aid manufacturer and arguably the most technologically advanced. It specializes in hearing aids that incorporate technologies used for other wireless and mobile devices, adding value to the user, but one of the most important advances for hearing aid wearers is Widex’s leading-edge personalization tools, which use AI features for unique sound adjustment and advanced app features. Widex also offers audiologist assistance, which helps with the personalization of its devices.

The Widex Beyond and Beyond Z hearing aids feature Bluetooth connectivity, and they both share the same features, including inner ear canal fit, noise reduction features and programmable settings with push-button adjustments. These were designed specifically for seamless integration with both Android and iOS devices. The only difference between the two is the battery capabilities. There is also a line of Bluetooth accessories for the hearing aids, including headphones, car chargers and those that integrate with a smart TV.

The Benefits of Bluetooth Hearing Aid Devices

Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid devices allow wearers to use their hearing aids as headphones for a wide range of devices, from the car to their phone or TV. This means that instead of removing the hearing aid to use headphones or struggling with a phone call, the hearing aids do double-duty and make it easier to use modern technology.

In addition to convenience around the home, many event venues, like concert halls and sporting arenas, are beginning to offer Bluetooth connectivity for hearing aid users, where wearers can log into the site, connect their hearing aid and be able to customize the sound to their preference. For seniors who may have been uncomfortable during their performance events, this perk can open up more options for fun.

Aside from entertainment value, Bluetooth hearing aids better mimic the body’s natural healing ability. The devices “talk” to one another, giving users a binaural hearing experience. That is, if you hear a sound on one side, the sound is communicated to the hearing aid in the other ear. You’ll be able to hear clearly with both ears and have better sound clarity and pick up speech better.

How to Pick the Best Bluetooth Hearing Amplifier

Finding the best Bluetooth-enabled device may be a question of looking at your budget. The lowest-priced device on this list is from Audicus, which requires a $100 deposit and then a monthly subscription of $39/ month, which averages out to $468 per year. By comparison, the Livio AI from Starkey, with all the options, is $3,500.

Finding the right hearing aid also depends on your usage. If you’re primarily living alone, one that connects to your devices and Alexa may be more useful, and people who live in a group home, such as assisted living, may wish to have a hearing aid that allows them to customize their experience on shared devices, such as a communal TV.

Another factor to consider is the customizability of the hearing aids. People who have different degrees of hearing loss in each ear may prefer a company that uses an audiologist report to make a custom hearing aid while those with minor hearing loss may not need this feature.