Guide to the Best Hearing Aids for Seniors

In the UK, around 12 million people (approx. 18% of the population) suffer from hearing loss. The cause of most hearing loss is ageing. As we age, we lose our ability to hear soft sounds, especially in the high frequency range.

The result is that you can feel people are mumbling. You may have to turn up the volume on your TV or find yourself straining to follow a conversation in noisy environments. Older people often report that in a restaurant or café environment, the effort required to hear is tiring leading them to become disengaged with the conversation.

Our brains process our hearing, and as our hearing deteriorates, not enough sound data reaches the brain to make sense of the incoming speech. The brain will try and fill in the gaps in the sound data. This takes a lot of effort and explains why you may find what should be a pleasurable conversation tiring.

Dealing with Sweat - How to Keep Your Hearing Aids in Top Condition This Summer

Why are Hearing Aids Important for Seniors?

By treating age-related hearing loss with hearing aids, you allow the right amount of sound to reach the brain. As a result, understanding speech becomes easier and social environments become less frustrating and pleasurable again.

Hearing loss in the elderly can also cause indirect issues such as cognitive decline and social isolation, so treatment with hearing aids is not only important for hearing, but also for general quality of life.

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline in seniors. When individuals have difficulty hearing, their brains have to work harder to process sounds and understand speech. This increased load on the brain can lead to cognitive decline over time. Additionally, the reduced auditory input resulting from hearing loss can lead to a decrease in brain stimulation, which further contributes to cognitive decline.

Fortunately, wearing hearing aids can help alleviate these issues. By amplifying sounds and improving the clarity of speech, hearing aids reduce the cognitive load on the brain and provide the necessary auditory stimulation. This, in turn, can help slow down cognitive decline and improve overall quality of life for seniors.

Social Isolation and the Role of Hearing Aids

Social isolation is a common consequence of hearing loss in seniors. As hearing abilities decline, seniors may struggle to participate in conversations and social activities, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Hearing aids play a crucial role in combating social isolation by improving communication and facilitating social interactions.

By amplifying sounds and enhancing speech clarity, hearing aids enable seniors to engage more effectively in conversations, both in one-on-one settings and in group settings. This is especially important for seniors with different types of hearing loss, as hearing aids can be customised to address their specific needs. This can help seniors maintain their social connections, participate in activities they enjoy and generally improve their mental and emotional well-being. Hearing aids empower seniors to remain connected with their loved ones and the world around them, enhancing their overall quality of life.

Key Features to Look for in Hearing Aids for Seniors

Choosing the right hearing aid for seniors involves considering key features that can enhance their overall auditory experience. Here are the key features to look for:

  • Noise Reduction: Hearing aids with noise reduction capabilities help minimise background noise, allowing for clearer conversations in noisy environments.
  • Feedback Suppression: Hearing aids with feedback suppression technology reduce or eliminate whistling sounds, providing a more comfortable listening experience.
  • Connectivity Features: Hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity can wirelessly connect to smartphones, televisions, and other devices, allowing for phone calls and audio streaming.
  • Battery Life: Consider the battery life of the hearing aid, as longer battery life reduces the frequency of battery replacements.
  • Comfort and Fit: It is important to choose a hearing aid that is comfortable to wear and fits securely in the ear.
  • Cost and Payment Options: Consider the cost of the hearing aid and explore payment options, such as insurance coverage or financing plans.

What Are the Best Types of Hearing Aid for Seniors?

Hearing Aid technology improves with each new release of hearing aids by the manufacturers. There are different types of hearing aids ranging from ones that go behind the ear (BTE and RIC) and ones that go in the ear (IIC, CIC, ITC and ITE). In each category we have highlighted which we feel is the best aid released in the last year.

Best Receiver in Canal Hearing Aid

Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) are the most popular hearing aids and are very light and comfortable to wear. Though they tend to sit on the ear, the device is very small, and the wire into the ear is very thin and therefore unnoticeable. They offer a natural sound experience and are known for their open-fitting design. Here are the key features of RIC hearing aids:

  • Natural Sound: RIC hearing aids provide a more natural sound experience by allowing low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally.
  • Open Fitting: The open fitting design of RIC hearing aids allows for better ventilation and reduces the occlusion effect, providing a more comfortable and natural listening experience.
  • Directional Microphones: RIC devices often come equipped with directional microphones that enhance speech understanding in noisy environments.
  • Less Visible: RIC hearing aids have a less visible behind-the-ear portion, making them a more aesthetically appealing option for seniors.
  • Manual Control Options: Many RIC hearing aids offer manual control options, allowing users to adjust settings like volume and program settings according to their preferences.
  • Battery Life: RIC hearing aids typically use smaller batteries, but rechargeable options are also available for convenience.

Oticon has just released (2024) its latest Receiver-in-Canal hearing aid, Otiocn Intent. Intent is Rechargeable and available in four technology levels: 4, 3, 2, and the top-of-the-range 1. The technology level you choose will depend on your lifestyle and budget.

The new Sirius™ platform powers Oticon’s Intent. Sirius™ enables Oticon’s new 4D sensor technology, Deep Neural Network (DNN) 2.0, MoreSound Intelligence™ 3.0 and MoreSound Amplifier™ 3.0 to operate.

The new Oticon rechargeable battery lasts all day; a 15-minute charge gives four hours of use.

The hearing aids use Bluetooth and will pair with many mobile phones, with some allowing for two-way streaming. To check their compatibility with your device, please click here.

Oticon Intent have the best feedback cancellation system. MoreSound Optimiser detects and prevents the hearing aid from feedbacking (whistling) without sacrificing gain (volume). 

Best Behind the Ear Hearing Aid

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids sit behind the ear and are popular among seniors due to their comfort and versatility. The device has an ear hook from which a tube is attached. The tubing can be of different circumference and thickness (depending on the severity of loss) and attaches to an earpiece that fits in your ear. The earpiece could be a dome shape or a custom-fit mould.

Here are some key features of BTE hearing aids:

  • Comfort: BTE hearing aids are designed to sit comfortably behind the ear, making them suitable for extended wear.
  • Level of Hearing Loss: BTE devices can accommodate a wide range of hearing loss levels, making them a versatile option.
  • Amplification: BTE hearing aids provide powerful amplification, making them suitable for individuals with severe hearing loss.
  • Noise Reduction: Many BTE hearing aids come equipped with advanced noise reduction technology, allowing for clearer conversations in noisy environments.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity: Some BTE hearing aids offer Bluetooth connectivity, allowing for seamless integration with smartphones and other devices.
  • Battery Life: BTE hearing aids typically have larger battery sizes, providing longer battery life and reducing the need for frequent replacements.

In 2023, Phonak released their latest power BTE hearing aids called Phonak Naida Lumity.

Available in three styles: Power rechargeable, Super Power SP using a 13 zinc-air battery and Ultra Power UP using a 675 zinc-air battery. Naida Lumity comes in four technology levels: 30, 50, 70 and the top of the range 90.

Phonak’s hearing aids are compatible with nearly all Bluetooth smartphones. Phonak has been refining the Bluetooth streaming in their devices since the launch of Marvel hearing aids in 2018. Lumity hearing aids allow for hands-free use of a mobile. Keep your phone in your pocket and answer your phone call by pressing a button on the hearing aid.

In 2019, Oticon released its latest power BTE hearing aid, the Oticon Xceed. Though slightly older, it is still one of the most powerful hearing aids on the market, providing clear sound without distortion.

These devices can produce 146 dB SPL, which is the sound pressure level. They feature BrainHearing technology and a new Opensound feedback system. The Oticon Xceed provides more access to speech than ever before for patients with severe to profound hearing loss.

BrainHearing is possible with Opensound Navigator. This technology can reduce noise from any direction and process multiple voices simultaneously, enabling the user to locate individual sounds/speech from 360° and focus on what is important to them. Oticon’s research concludes that by giving the brain more information to perform, the listening environment is enhanced, reducing listening effort and improving speech understanding.

Oticon Xceed can connect and stream from compatible mobile phones, and the Oticon app can be used as a remote control.

Oticon Xceed is available in a superpower (SP) size 13 battery and a UP version with a 675 battery.

Best Invisible in Canal Hearing Aid

Invisible-in-Canal (IIC) are the smallest hearing aids on the market. More than any other model, they fit the furthest down the ear canal, making them virtually undetectable. These models can help the most with hearing voices and providing more natural sound.

Here are the key features of IIC hearing aids:

  • Ultimate Discretion: IIC hearing aids are the most discreet option, as they are virtually invisible when worn.
  • Inner Ear Placement: IIC devices are placed deep in the ear canal, making them invisible to others.
  • Custom-Made: IIC hearing aids are custom-made to fit the individual’s ear canal, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit.
  • Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss: IIC devices are suitable for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Inner Ear Sound Processing: The placement of IIC hearing aids allows for natural sound transmission and localisation.
  • Limited Features: Due to their small size, IIC hearing aids may have limited features such as volume control or directional microphones.

Phonak’s new Paradise Titanium, released in 2022, is our choice for the best IIC. Phonak currently has the only mainstream hearing aids made from medical-grade titanium. Titanium is up to 15 times stronger than traditional hearing aid materials. It is also thinner than existing hearing aid materials, which means the hearing aid can be made smaller and, therefore, fit deeper into the ear.

Phonak Marvel Titanium is powered by the Sword 3.0 chip (which consists of 42 million transistors) and runs the new AutoSense 3.0, which constantly scans the listening environment and fine-tunes the audio with up to 200 adjustments for an optimised listening experience.

Phonak Marvel Titanium is available in two technology levels: P70 and M90. The P90 offers the best performance in background noise environments.

Best Completely in Canal Hearing Aid

Completely-in-Canal (CIC) are similar to IICs but don’t fit as far down into your ear canal. You may still be able to see part of the hearing aid, though it won’t be as obvious as a RIC or BTE. Here are the key features of CIC hearing aids:

  • Minimal Visibility: CIC hearing aids are the smallest and least visible type, making them an excellent choice for individuals seeking a discreet hearing solution.
  • Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss: CIC devices are suitable for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Small Size: CIC hearing aids are known for their small size, providing a comfortable fit and reducing the awareness of wearing a hearing aid.
  • Customisation: CIC hearing aids are custom-made to fit the individual’s ear canal, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit.
  • Battery Life: Due to their compact size, CIC hearing aids use smaller batteries, which may have a shorter lifespan and require more frequent replacements.
  • Earwax Clogging: CIC hearing aids may be more susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker, requiring regular cleaning and maintenance.

In 2023, Starkey launched Starkey Genesis AI. The new range includes two CIC models, one with Bluetooth streaming.

Starkey’s Genesis AI features a new Neuro Processor, which provides enhanced memory, speed, and overall performance.  This advanced digital processor is designed to mimic brain function and includes several key features:

  1. Increased Speed and Enhanced Computer Power: The Neuro Processor is four times faster than previous processors used in Starkey’s hearing aids. This speed allows for quicker sound processing, making the hearing aid more efficient and effective in real-time audio processing. With six times more transistors, incoming sound signals are processed four times faster, allowing for more complexity and nuance.
  2. Neuro Sound Technology lets wearers hear soft sounds without noise interference. It also helps distinguish words and speech more intuitively, reducing the user’s listening effort.
  3. Mimicking Brain Function: The processor technology mimics the brain’s function in processing sounds. This approach aims to provide a more natural hearing experience, aligning more closely with how the human auditory system naturally operates.

Widex, a family-owned Danish manufacturer, has released the Widex Moment range, which contains two important technological advances, PureSound and TruAcoustics.

Widex’s PureSound technology reduces the time it takes for a hearing aid to process sound. Many hearing aid wearers report a tinny or distorted sound when listening through their aids. This is typically due to the time difference between a direct sound signal hitting the eardrum and the processed sound from the hearing aid. Widex PureSound has zero processing delay, and their research includes users finding Widex Moment sound more natural and distortion-free.

Widex TruAcoustics is a new technology that ensures the hearing aid produces the correct amount of gain at the eardrum. For the hearing aid user, TruAcoustics technology ensures a more accurate fitting prescription, a more natural sound and improved speech recognition.

You can control a Widex Moment CIC from a mobile phone using the Widex Tonelink app.

Widex Moment comes with a 5-year manufacturer guarantee.

How to Effectively Clean and Maintain Your Hearing Aids

Best In the Canal Hearing Aid

In-the-Canal (ITC) only fit partially in the ear canal. They differ from CIC hearing aids, which sit fully inside the ear canal. Here are the key features of ITC hearing aids:

  • Discreet Design: ITC hearing aids are less visible in the ear than larger styles, providing a more discreet hearing solution.
  • Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss: ITC devices are suitable for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Customization: ITC hearing aids are custom-made to fit the unique shape of the individual’s ear, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit.
  • Features: While ITC hearing aids may be smaller, they can still include features such as volume control and directional microphones.
  • Earwax Clogging: ITC hearing aids may be more susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker, requiring regular cleaning and maintenance.
  • Price Range: ITC hearing aids are available in a moderate price range, making them a popular choice for seniors seeking a balance between features and affordability.

An ITC hearing aid may be the best option if you want nothing behind the ear and an easy-to-handle hearing aid with all the functionality of a RIC or BTE.

Resound, a Danish manufacturer, released Nexia Hearing Aids in 2023.

The Nexia ITC hearing aid is a rechargeable custom-made hearing aid. The Nexia charger has custom-made inserts to fit the hearing aids.

360 All-Around— All Access Directionality automatically adjusts the hearing aid’s directional microphone patterns to allow users to hear what’s important and monitor the sounds around them.

Front Focus –  Front Focus uses a powerful combined directional pattern from both hearing aids to focus on the person in front of the user. When you need extra help in very noisy environments, Front Focus improves speech undressing.

Natural Hearing – By adding a microphone in the ear canal as part of the RIE-style receiver module, Nexia takes advantage of the user’s unique ear shape to collect sound the way nature intended. This results in an immersive hearing experience with greater depth and a sense of spatial awareness.

Best In the Ear Hearing Aid

In-The-Ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom-moulded devices designed to fit snugly within the outer portion of your ear canal. They offer a blend of benefits and features that make them appealing for individuals experiencing mild to severe hearing loss.

Some key features of ITE hearing aids are:

  • Discreetness: ITE hearing aids are less visible than Behind-The-Ear (BTE) models, making them a popular choice for those who prioritize aesthetics.Comfort: The custom fit ensures they sit securely and comfortably in the ear, minimising the risk of irritation or slippage.
  • Superior Sound Quality: Many ITE hearing aids utilise dual microphones, enhancing sound localization and speech understanding in noisy environments. The placement within the ear canal also contributes to a more natural amplification effect.
  • Advanced Features: Some models offer features like Bluetooth connectivity for direct streaming of phone calls and music and customizable settings to personalize your listening experience.
  • Natural Sound Amplification: The positioning within the ear canal provides a more natural amplification of sound
  • Customization: ITE hearing aids are custom-moulded to fit your unique ear shape, ensuring optimal comfort and performance
  • Suitable for Various Degrees of Hearing Loss: They can effectively address mild to severe hearing loss.

We have selected the Oticon OWN ITE as the best In-the-Ear ITE hearing aid.

Oticon Own is available in 5 technology levels, all of which are Bluetooth compatible in the ITE version. It comes with a 5-year manufacturer warranty.

More Sound Intelligence – Technology that gives access to all relevant sounds in a clear, complete and balanced.
More Sound Amplifier – Rapid high-resolution amplification.
More Sound Optimiser – Optimal gain without feedback risk.
Direct Streaming from Apple and Android (requires Android version 10 or above).
New Polaris Platform, 64 channel processing, twice as much memory and speed with Deep Neural Processing.

The Oticon APP allows the user to change the volume and program of the hearing aids.

Best Overall Hearing Aid

Choosing a top overall hearing aid may differ from user to user. Keep in mind that the best hearing aid for you will depend on your personal preferences.

However, the new Oticon Intent is a universally excellent hearing aid for most users. It comes in four technology levels. The entry-level Intent 4 is packed with new technology and is at an excellent price for brand-new Tech! Widex Moment is only available in RIC, though extra models will be added soon. The new RIC rechargeable version is, at the time of release, one of the smallest rechargeable RIC hearing aids on the market.

Choosing from Hearing Aid Reviews

With so many hearing aids to choose from, it’s important to evaluate the best hearing aids to buy based on your individual needs. Hearing aids for seniors come in very different fits, styles and performances.

If you or an elderly loved one is experiencing hearing issues and would like to see a private audiologist in London for independent advice on choosing a hearing aid, please schedule an appointment.