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Despite the prevalence of hearing loss, only 20% of individuals who might benefit from treatment actually seek help, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationUntreated Hearing Loss in Adults. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Accessed 1/19/2023. . Hearing aids are one of the most common tools recommended by audiologists to address hearing loss, and there are now more models available than ever before to address mild hearing loss specifically, thanks to the emergence of the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid market in 2022.
To determine the best hearing aids for mild hearing loss, the Forbes Health editorial team consulted several audiologists from the Forbes Health Advisory Board for product recommendations based on their expertise. Star ratings were solely determined by the editorial team and are based on starting prices, average user ratings and product features that are typically important to hearing aid users. Read on to find out which hearing aids made our list.
Note: Product prices are accurate as of the publication date.
Available at Best Buy and certified Jabra Enhance centers, these rechargeable OTC hearing aids look like modern earbuds but provide an enhanced hearing experience that can be set up and controlled easily by the user via an accompanying app. Jabra Enhance Plus hearing aids use four microphones to help reduce background noise and improve speech clarity, and they feature three listening modes to cater to various noise environments and hearing needs.
“GN Hearing (the manufacturer of Jabra devices) makes fantastic products, and they have the longest history with Bluetooth connectivity on the market, as they were the first to come out with the ‘made for iPhone’ devices,” says Amy Sarow, Au.D., an audiologist based in Michigan and Forbes Health Advisory Board member. “This is a company I’m very confident in, in terms of their quality and customer support.”
“The ReSound OMNIA is a high-quality hearing aid with great sound quality, and it also works seamlessly with the ReSound app,” says Dr. Sarow. “This hearing aid is a great option for those with mild to severe hearing loss and has great options for those interested in Bluetooth connectivity. The M&RIE [microphone & receiver-in-ear] is a fantastic option that can help with background noise and wind noise, as well as the perception of the wearer’s own voice.”
The Resound Omnia’s powerful battery easily supports a full day’s wear, including streaming, with 30 hours of use from a single three-hour charge. Furthermore, all parts of this hearing aid are nano-coated for a very durable hearing aid.
Read our full review of ReSound hearing aids here.
The Phonak Audeo Lumity is a great option for those with mild to moderately severe hearing loss who are active and spend a lot of time outdoors, due to its durability and water resistance rating (IP68), says Dr. Sarow. “Phonak’s SmartSpeech technology provides additional benefits in speech understanding, and the Tinnitus Balance program provides customizable tinnitus relief options for the user,” she adds.
“Phonak has a focus on broadband sounds rather than nature sounds, with white noise, pink noise or a shaped sound for your hearing loss,” notes Abram Bailey, Au.D., an audiologist, hearing care consumer technology expert and Forbes Health Advisory Board member. “Phonak also allows the sound to be shaped using a three-band graphic equalizer,” enabling the user to adjust the low, mid and high sound settings for their hearing aids.
Read our full review of Phonak hearing aids here.
Offering up to 55 million adjustments every hour, Starkey Evolv AI hearing aids pair the convenience of rechargeable hearing aids with advanced sound quality, making them a quality pick for a person with mild hearing loss. “Evolv AI is a great rechargeable hearing aid family that is available in custom in-ear models and behind-the-ear models,” says Dr. Bailey. “They offer modern features like tap control, hands-free calling and fall detection, and they deliver great general hearing aid functionality.”
These hearing aids also provide an advanced sound quality and an additional 40% reduction in noise energy compared to the brand’s previous technology, helping reduce a user’s listening effort, according to the company.
Read our full review of Starkey hearing aids here.
Available at Best Buy and Walgreens and via the Lexie website, these Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids offer a self-controlled, customizable hearing experience. Wearers simply pair the OTC devices to the accompanying app and complete the app’s hearing check, which automatically syncs the hearing aids’ settings to the wearer’s needs. The devices use directional microphones to amplify sounds wearers want to hear—and cancel out sounds they don’t want to hear.
“Lexie was developed by the HearX Group, which was founded several years ago on the premise of helping people detect and treat their hearing loss,” says Dr. Sarow. “The Lexie Lumen OTC hearing aids offer an app for self-fitting that is user-friendly, and the dome tips come in a variety of sizes for a good fit in the ear. Lexie also offers remote hearing care for additional support with the device.”
LexieB2 Powered by Bose rechargeable hearing aids are an OTC optionthat can be fitted, tuned and adjusted by the wearer via the Lexie app. Available at Best Buy and on the Lexie website, Lexie B2 rechargeable hearing aids pair with the Lexie app to provide audiologist-quality customization and fine-tuning for users with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, according to the company.
“Bose has a very simple and intuitive method for self-tuning, which allows the user to skip doing a hearing test through the device (typical on other devices),” says Dr. Bailey. “They merely move two adjustment wheels, and their research showed that users were mostly able to get themselves to a place of receiving good benefit using that system. Also, it’s nice that they added rechargeability.”
Lexie offers a one-year warranty on its B2 hearing aids, as well as a 45-day money-back guarantee and payment plan options for anyone who needs them.
To determine the best hearing aids for mild hearing loss, the Forbes Health editorial team consulted audiologists for specific product recommendations based on their years of experience fitting various hearing aid models for a wide array of patients. Each expert was careful to consider the newest hearing aid technology available when providing their recommendations, as well as newer brands and the roles they’re playing in this constantly evolving industry.
Star ratings were then solely determined by the editorial team and based on the starting price of a pair of hearing aids, the average user rating of each hearing aid and the inclusion of product features that are typically important to hearing aid users.
Starting price and user rating information are reflected from HearingTracker.com (when available). Hearing aid models also earned points for having Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free calling and a large number of color choices. All selected devices can be fitted and serviced by audiologists, and all over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid options can be self-fitted.
Read more about our hearing aids review methodology.
More than 37 million U.S. adults have some trouble hearing clearly, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication DisordersQuick Statistics About Hearing. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Accessed 12/27/2022. . Mild hearing loss is considered the least severe degree of hearing loss on the hearing loss spectrum.
Audiologists—the professionals who diagnose and treat hearing loss—measure hearing ability in decibels. People with mild hearing loss have lost the ability to hear between 20 and 40 decibels of sound. In practical terms, those with mild hearing loss have more trouble hearing soft sounds, such as a whisper.
“No two people’s hearing loss is the same,” says Robin Piper, Au.D., an audiologist and supervisor of audiology services at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “For someone who’s very active who’s in several different listening environments and in a lot of places with noise, even mild hearing loss is going to have a significant impact on their communication skills.”
The most common causes of mild hearing loss include:
If you have mild hearing loss and you’re having trouble communicating during your daily activities, then it’s time to do something about it, says Dr. Piper. Sometimes treatment can be as simple as addressing an underlying infection or removing earwax.
If you’re having trouble hearing in most situations, then hearing aids might be a more suitable option, depending on a hearing health evaluation from your audiologist, according to Dr. Piper. An assisted listening device, such as a television or phone amplifier, may also help.
Hearing aids are especially helpful for people who have damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids amplify sound as it comes into the ear and enhance the signal to give sound a clearer, crisper quality, explains Dr. Piper.
Hearing aid technology continues to improve over the years. Many modern hearing aids feature noise reduction technology to improve hearing in crowded situations, along with directional microphones to control the amount of sound coming in from different angles.
First, make sure you’re ready for a hearing aid. “They’re not going to work if they sit in the case,” says Dr. Piper. “The more consistently the patient wears the device, the better their brain is going to adjust to the amplified signal.”
All hearing aids contain the same three basic parts: a microphone to receive sound, an amplifier to boost it and a speaker to send the amplified sound to the ear.
Additional features are also available in many models, such as:
Think about your lifestyle and how you’re going to use the hearing aids when deciding on features, suggests Dr. Piper. “While not everybody needs the Cadillac of hearing aids, the budget option is not always the most appropriate, either” she says. Budget-friendly devices don’t always come with directional microphones or background noise reduction, which people often want.
An audiologist tests for mild hearing loss. During their examination, they look in your ears to check for problems, such as fluid buildup or a hole in the eardrum, which then may need to be evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, says Dr. Piper.
Patients may also be asked to put on earphones and listen to various tones and words to determine which ones they can—and cannot—hear. At the end of the exam, the audiologist reviews the results with you and makes treatment recommendations.
Sometimes. Hearing loss caused by chronic ear infections, fluid in the ears or earwax buildup can be treated and therefore reversed.
About 63% of U.S. adults with hearing loss have mild hearing loss, according to self-reported data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Self-reported hearing trouble in adults aged 18 and over: United States, 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 1/19/2023. .
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Stephanie Watson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous consumer health publications, including WebMD, Greatist, Healthgrades, HealthCentral, SurvivorNet, Harvard Health Publications, Cleveland Clinic Arthritis Advisor, Brain and Life and SELF. Previously, she was the executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch and Mount Sinai’s Focus on Healthy Aging. She has also written more than 30 young adult books on subjects ranging from celebrity biographies to brain injuries in football.
Robby has spent his career in a variety of writing, editing and storytelling roles. He now resides near Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife and three kids. He enjoys woodworking, playing rec league soccer and supporting chaotic, downtrodden sports franchises like the Miami Dolphins and Tottenham Hotspur.
Bluetooth hearing aids Abigail Friend is a board-certified audiologist based in Washington. Having family members with hearing loss, she understands the impact of hearing loss on a personal level. This experience led her to become an advocate for people with hearing loss and how it affects their lives and those around them. She believes all patients are unique and require personalized care for their individual needs.