The Best FDA-Approved Hearing Aids
As we age, it’s common to experience hearing loss to one degree or another. In fact, over 35 million Americans have some form of hearing loss, from mild difficulty understanding others to profound hearing loss in both ears. Finding the right hearing aid isn’t just a matter of purchasing a sound amplification device. In fact, with the advances in technology over the past 20 years, hearing aids have become more sophisticated, giving users a personalized and more natural hearing experience.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency that regulates the production of food and beverages, medications, and medical devices, both those made in the country and abroad, testing them according to standards for reliability, safety and performance. It also regulates hearing aids, medical devices designed to provide hearing assistance for individuals who suffer from mild to profound hearing loss in one or both ears. Hearing aids differ from over-the-counter (OTC) sound amplifiers in that manufacturers must demonstrate that the devices meet state and federal regulations regarding their effectiveness and safety regulations.
In this guide, we discuss some of the best hearing aids in-depth, plus provide information about how seniors can obtain FDA-registered hearing aids. We also evaluate three of the most popular and well-constructed devices and provide an overview of their features.
What Hearing Aids are FDA-Approved?
To be considered a hearing aid, as opposed to an over-the-counter sound amplifier, devices must meet FDA requirements. These FDA regulations stipulate that a hearing aid is “any wearable instrument or device designed for, offered for the purpose of, or represented as aiding persons with or compensating for, impaired hearing.” Regulations also cover labeling information and the device’s capability to safely deliver the services it claims to provide. The FDA considers unregulated, over-the-counter hearing devices to be Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), which only amplify sound rather than process it like hearing aids.
If you’re in the market for a hearing aid to treat hearing loss, the only FDA-approved hearing aids are sold through a licensed audiologist or hearing specialist. PSAPs aren’t intended to treat hearing loss but rather amplify sound for individuals with normal hearing. Because PSAPs aren’t considered medical devices as per the FDA, there is no regulatory classification for these, nor extra requirements that manufacturers must follow. However, these OTC devices can be listed with the FDA to assure users that the devices meet safety standards and do not cause injury through intended use.
If you have moderate or significant hearing loss, you’ll most likely be better served by purchasing an FDA-approved device through an audiologists’ office. Hearing specialists conduct personalized evaluations of each patient, testing both ears to determine the extent of hearing loss and recommending the right fit for each individual. While hearing aids and audiologist visits may cost more than simply purchasing an OTC hearing device, some seniors may feel that the higher-quality product with more features and a personalized assessment of the extent of their hearing loss is worth the expense.
The Best FDA-Registered Hearing Aids
OTC hearing aid manufacturers can register with the FDA. There are guidelines, which aren’t as strict, regarding these devices. The FDA soon plans to have OTC devices registered, but these regulations are still in the drafting and approval process.
Below are three of the best hearing aids that are FDA-registered. While these companies may offer OTC models, the ones we’re featuring below offer remote care with a hearing specialist.
Ten years ago, Hear.com became the first company to pioneer a remote approach to hearing care. Known for itsbest-in-class hearing aids, Hear.com focuses on providing customers with the most advanced devices on the market, regardless of budget or level of hearing loss. The company works with only the top 2% of America’s hearing professionals, ensuring that you will always receive the best and most personalized care. Customers enjoy a free consultation with a hearing aid expert before getting paired up with a partner provider in their area for a hearing test appointment. With over 1,600 partner providers across the country, these professionals evaluate your hearing, recommend specific devices, and fit them to your individual needs. Best of all, Hear.com has a 92% hearing success rate and offers a risk-free trial for your hearing aids.
The Horizon by Hear.com is a hearing aid geared toward active people wanting a small, sleek device with cutting-edge features. The Horizon’s Speech Focus technology narrows sound directionality, which allows you to focus on hearing what’s important to you in difficult listening environments and crowds. The device’s Relax Mode is another helpful feature, providing you with moments of calm through ambient sea sounds streamed directly through the hearing aids. Both the Speech Focus and Relax Mode features can be easily controlled through a smartphone app. Wearers also enjoy the benefits of wireless, portable rechargeability, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Lively is recognized for its comprehensive, fully remote hearing tests and online treatment led by a board of professional audiologists. The company has proven that online hearing care can be just as successful as in-person care by providing access to helpful specialists each step of the way. The device’s simple smartphone app allows you to make quick adjustments on the go, without having to struggle with it manually behind your ear. All hearing aid purchases give you access to a member of Lively’s hearing specialist team, who takes the time to listen to your needs and creates pre-set programs on your device to match your common environments.
The Lively is currently the company’s only hearing aid and is sold with a bundle that includes three years of remote follow-up care and easy adjustments through the Lively app. Offered in both a rechargeable and a battery-operated model, the Lively provides an almost-invisible design with top-rated technology. These hearing aids auto-detect and focus on voices above all unwanted background noise in a room, which makes it ideal for crowded or loud settings. Lively’s team customizes each hearing aid based on the individual’s test results. When it arrives at your doorstep, it is ready to use and personalized for your needs straight out of the box. From there, you have access to the company’s audiologists to continue improving your device’s performance. Convenient Bluetooth connectivity gives you the freedom to pair your hearing aids with a smartphone to take calls, listen to music or make easy device adjustments — no matter where you are.
Audicus provides some of the lowest cost hearing aids on the market, which is a consideration for many seniors on a limited budget. The Audicus Spirit uses industry-leading technology for sensitive detection technology with remote care capability. The Audicus mobile app allows users to make adjustments to the hearing aid on the go, depending on their current environment and is included in the base price for Spirit. It’s Bluetooth-enabled, allowing owners to stream from supported media devices (phones, tablets, TVs and even cars) directly into the hearing aid for personalized sound.
Over-the-Counter versus FDA-Registered Hearing Aids
FDA-registered hearing aids are evaluated to a stricter standard than over-the-counter amplification devices. For many seniors, especially those who already have moderate hearing loss, the extra support provided by in-person or remote audiology care, including the ability to change the settings and sensitivity as the user’s needs change, may make them worth the expense. Plus, most audiologists stay up-to-date about advances in hearing technology and can inform you of new products or services as they come onto the market.
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