Get helpful advice to start shopping for hearing aids for seniors. In this blog, you’ll learn how to evaluate hearing aid features and technology that make sense for seniors’ lifestyles, health and other important considerations.
The stereotypes about seniors not hearing well have been present for a long time. Think of TV shows and movies through the decades, and it’s easy to remember scenes with actors speaking comically loud to an older person.
Even though how we view and treat hearing loss has evolved, hearing loss’s association with aging hasn’t changed. In fact, the National Institute on Aging estimates that one-third of people over 65 have hearing loss, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that 28.8 million people in the United States could benefit from hearing aids. But of those people, very few get the help they need: less than 16% among those 20-69 years old and under 30% among those 70 and up.
Facts and figures paint part of the picture, but when you know someone with hearing loss and see how it affects their lives, it’s even clearer; Treating hearing loss is essential. Hearing aids for seniors can make a world of difference. Studies show a correlation between wearing hearing aids and reduced risks of dementia, depression and falling. In fact, in one recent study, researchers found that wearing hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia by as much as 42%—bringing it down to the same level as those who don’t have hearing loss.
Hearing aids also promise better social engagement with richer relationships and better quality of life. Surveys of hearing aid owners show higher levels of satisfaction with their ability to hear in all kinds of environments—by as much as 47% percent—over their peers without hearing aids.
However, it’s important to get the right kind of hearing aids, and that means choosing the best hearing aids for seniors based on their unique needs and priorities. Let’s dig into the details of how hearing loss affects seniors and what you need to consider when buying hearing aids, whether you’re shopping for yourself or helping a loved one.
Age-related hearing loss is known as presbycusis (press-buh-kyew-sis). The roots of the word—“presby” and “cusis,” meaning “old age” and “hearing problem,” respectively—tell the story plainly: With age comes a diminishing ability to detect sounds across the full range of human hearing. People often notice subtle changes in their 60s, but when hearing decline starts and how it progresses is highly individual.
The functional roots of presbycusis are often a mix of factors, including age-related anatomical or physiological changes, hormones, genetic predispositions, certain diseases, ototoxic medications, and noise exposure throughout a person’s life. With all of those possibilities in the mix, it makes sense that no two cases of hearing loss are the same and that treating it should be adapted to serve each person’s needs.
Hearing aids are the leading treatment option for presbycusis, but there’s no single title holder for the best hearing aids for seniors. There are numerous options on the market, varying in style, shape, technology and features. All those differences make hearing aids adaptable to the wide range of ways that presbycusis shows up in different people, not to mention the countless ways people live their lives.
Finding hearing aids for seniors typically start with speaking to a specialist and getting a full hearing test. That’s the baseline for determining the specifics of your hearing loss. Beyond that, it’s crucial to have a frank conversation with your provider about what you want to get from your hearing aids, as well as all the activities, habits and events that make up your life. (Having a loved one who knows your hearing join that conversation is also a very good idea!)
Ultimately, the best hearing aid for seniors is one that is effective, comfortable, convenient and tailored to your hearing. While it might seem like an easy transfer from one person to another, the lack of regulation around cleanliness standards or sterilization means you could receive an unhygienic product.
Presbycusis is a general term for hearing loss, and it doesn’t indicate the severity. So, the best hearing aid for presbycusis will depend on your specific case. For people with mild-to-moderate presbycusis, RIC (receiver-in-canal) or ITE (in-the-ear) models are both reliable options. BTE (behind-the-ear) models are generally better for more severe hearing loss—keep reading for more specifics about them.
The most important thing you can do is to simply get a hearing aid for presbycusis—they enhance your life and help protect your health in the long term. Meeting with a hearing care specialist is an opportunity to see, handle and try on multiple styles of hearing aids to find the best one for you.
For seniors dealing with the condition, the best hearing aid for tinnitus has specifically designed modes or functions that address it. Hearing aids are powerful tools to help with tinnitus, whether you have hearing loss or not, as they can help amplify the sounds around you enough to override the frustrating ringing in your ears.
Miracle-Ear has multiple models with tinnitus modes, so you can choose the style that you like best and get relief no matter what. Simply mention to your hearing care professional that you experience tinnitus, and they’ll ensure that any models you discuss have a tinnitus mitigation function.
The best hearing aid for severe hearing loss in seniors is often a BTE (behind-the-ear) model. BTEs are generally a little bit larger than other models, but their design has come a long way in recent years, so don’t need to worry about wearing a huge, heavy unit behind your ear. That slightly bigger size means that BTEs can pack more powerful sound, ideal for people with severe hearing loss.
The main component of a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid is a small plastic case that contains all the electronic parts, like microphones and amplifiers. The case fits comfortably behind the wearer’s ear, while a thin, transparent tube connects the case to a soft, custom earmold that fits inside the ear canal.
The size of BTEs also means there’s room for additional features like rechargeable batteries and direct audio streaming technologies. Having severe hearing loss doesn’t mean missing out on convenient features of other hearing aids—with Miracle-Ear’s BTE models, you can get everything you want in one package.
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 6 million Americans over the age of 65, so it’s often a joint concern with presbycusis. An exciting connection between reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and hearing aids has been showing up in recent studies. So, whether the disease is a current issue or a future concern, hearing aids can be a great help.
Picking the best hearing aid for Alzheimer’s patients is, of course, very individual, as no two cases are exactly alike. Caregivers and patients should talk to a hearing care specialist together, describing the lifestyle and medical considerations that the hearing aids need to meet.
For some Alzheimer’s patients, rechargeable hearing aids are a great option because of their ease of use—no fumbling with tiny batteries or remembering to change them at longer intervals. A daily habit of charging hearing aids is easier for many people to maintain, and keeps the devices reliably powered up.
It’s no secret that hearing aids are an investment—albeit a good one. However, every patient has a budget that they need to stick to. When you’re looking for the best cheap hearing aids for seniors, remember that “cheap” should only refer to the price, not the quality of the devices.
The Miracle-EarEASY™ line gives you a streamlined pair of hearing aids that meet your needs without breaking the bank. As our lowest-cost models, Miracle-EarEASY™ still delivers the top-of-the-line craftsmanship and reliability you expect, as well as lifetime aftercare and service that’s always part of the Miracle-Ear Advantage.
If you’re a bit self-conscious about wearing hearing aids, you’re in good company. The demand for inconspicuous models is high and has led to the shrinking of technology to make hearing aids nearly invisible.
The most discreet hearing aids you’ll find are ITE (in-the-ear) models like Miracle-EarMINI™. These models fit entirely in the ear, so there are no exterior components that sit behind your ear. At a glance, it’s hard to tell they’re there. These ultra-small units are custom-fitted to your ears for maximum comfort and the best sound experience.
The bonus with discreet hearing aids like Miracle-EarMINI™ is that they’re ideal for people who wear glasses. There’s nothing to get tangled up, whether you’re slipping on your sunglasses for a sunny day’s walk or popping on your reading glasses to look at a restaurant menu.
Did you know that your ears are as individual as your thumbprint? With all those different shapes and sizes, it’s easy to understand why hearing aids aren’t really a one-size-fits-all proposition. And for people with small ear canals, even standard-sized products, like earbuds or hearing aids, can be uncomfortable.
The best hearing aid for small ear canals is custom-fit to your unique ears—generally an ITE (in-the-ear) model. A hearing care professional will create an ear mold, so your hearing aids will match every nook and cranny. This not only makes them more comfortable but it improves sound quality.
The best hearing aids are the ones you’ll wear—and that means they need to be comfortable. When you must constantly fidget and fuss with your devices, it makes for a bad experience and a greater likelihood of giving up on hearing aids altogether.
Because hearing aids need to be worn regularly (all day, every day) to be effective, finding the most comfortable hearing aid is a top priority. Custom-molded models offer a seamless fit inside your ears, but there is another comfort-forward option; RIC (receiver-in-canal) models.
RICs are the most popular models on the market, and many users prefer them because they allow air to pass more freely through the ear. This gives them a more natural feel, like what people were accustomed to before getting hearing aids.
As you dig into the task of finding the best hearing aids for seniors, there’s some baseline information that you should start with—and that’s knowing the three hearing aid types you’ll be choosing from. Each is commonly known by an acronym that describes where they sit on or in the ear. They are:
Yes, behind-the ear-hearing aids are the largest models, though “largest” is relative—they’re still incredibly small compared to the hearing aids of the past. A case containing the mechanical parts sits behind the ear, while a clear tube wraps around the front of the ear and delivers sound into the canal.
BTEs can benefit seniors who have dexterity issues, as they’re a little less delicate to handle. What’s more, they’re often an affordable option for those who are on a more limited budget.
One thing to consider is that BTEs can be a bit more of a challenge for people who wear glasses and take them on and off frequently. With the arm of the glasses and the hearing aid both needing to sit behind the ear, they can become tangled or feel uncomfortable when worn together.
Generally custom-molded so that they fit comfortably inside the ear canal, in-the-ear hearing aid models pack cutting-edge technology (like telecoils and Bluetooth™ technology) into a tiny package. They’re often the first choice of people seeking the most discreet hearing aids.
For people who wear glasses or participate in lots of physical activities, ITEs can make life a little easier. Because they sit securely inside the ear, there’s no risk of bumping them out of place when you’re taking off your sunglasses or going for a wild shot return on the pickleball court.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’re considering ITEs. One is that they’re not the best option for people with severe hearing loss. While they capably serve those with mild-to-moderate loss, more powerful options should be used for severe presbycusis. Because they are custom, ITEs are also a bit more expensive than other options—something to consider for your budget.
A RIC, or receiver-in-canal hearing aid, isn’t just a halfway point between BTEs and ITEs—it’s far and away the most popular pick among hearing aid wearers. A small case that sits behind the ear houses most of the technology in the device, while the receiver sits directly in the ear. This construction helps to deliver what wearers describe as the most “natural” sound and feel, as the receiver still allows airflow into the ear.
RICs have benefitted from the ongoing push to minimize the size of hearing aids, and as a result, most models are incredibly discreet. The thin wire that connects the case to the receiver is tiny and often blends with people’s hair or skin.
While RICs are an option with lots of upsides, it’s worth noting that they’re not ideal for people with profound hearing loss. Glasses-wearers should also be conscious of the interaction that will inevitably happen between the hearing aids and the stems of their glasses. However, many people who wear glasses all the time find that RICs are small enough to be comfortable.
The process of buying a hearing aid can feel like a big deal. First, it’s a health issue, which is always stressful, and getting hearing aids can stir up emotions about getting older. But finding and connecting with an empathetic hearing care professional can make the process easier. Here are some hearing aid considerations to keep in mind as you take those first steps to improve your hearing:
Getting started with the hearing aid process is as easy as setting an appointment with a hearing care specialist, which you can do online, by phone or by dropping into one of Miracle-Ear’s 1,500 neighborhood locations. You’ll start with a free hearing evaluation that includes a full range of testing and our one-of-a-kind lifestyle assessment. Based on your results, you’ll be given a range of choices that you can try on and test to see what’s most comfortable and adaptable to your life.
There are many hearing aid options—as you’ve probably gathered, and making heads or tails of them is easier with a professional on your side. Miracle-Ear hearing care professionals not only do the testing and evaluation to get you into your hearing aids, they stay with you throughout your hearing journey. Clients often say that their HCPs know their ears better than they themselves do—and that makes it easy to ensure that you’re getting the care you need to keep at optimal levels for a long time to come.
To meet with a Miracle-Ear hearing care professional and get started on the path to a richer life and better hearing, make your appointment today.