Best Hearing Aids in 2021

A Review of Top Brands and Models

Abram Bailey, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

A lot happened in the world of hearing aids last year, with all major manufacturers releasing new innovative products. The class of 2021 offers superior sound processing, excellent wireless connectivity, and pandemic-friendly telehealth capabilities. But each product has it’s strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve waded through the options to find the very best hearing aids on the market for 2021.

Best Hearing Aids 2021

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Award Categories

Best rechargeable hearing aids

To find the best rechargeable hearing aids on the market, I considered the following four criteria:

  • Longest lasting battery - When fully-charged, which hearing aid provides the highest number of hours of continuous use?
  • Fastest charging - Which hearing aids charge the fastest?
  • Battery replacement - How often do batteries need to be replaced? And, what is the process like?
  • Charging case options - Are the chargers well designed? Are they portable? Do they provide additional charges on the go?

My Pick: ReSound One

Released in August 2020, the ReSound One offers the best rechargeability solution on the market. On a full charge One provides 30 hours of operating time (24 hours with heavy wireless streaming). That’s a full 6 hours more of their closest competition!

In terms of fast charging, ReSound really isn’t ahead of the pack. One takes about 3 hours to fully recharge from a flat battery, and this is more or less in line with every other rechargeable lithium-ion hearing aid on the market. But, considering you get an extra 6 hours of battery life with the same amount of charge time, it seems like ReSound wins on fast charging too.

In addition, I love ReSound’s Premium Charger. It’s a well-designed, and rugged, charging case that offers 3 on-the-go charges. It’s also easy to slot the hearing aids into the charger, which is a huge win for anyone with dexterity issues.

In terms of battery replacement, it’s hard to find a winner here. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are relatively new in the world of hearing aids, and manufacturers are saying to expect anywhere from 4-6 years from the rechargeable cells. We’ll be reporting back as soon as we get reports of batteries needing replacing!

Replacing a rechargeable battery will require your audiologist to send your hearing aids to the manufacturer for an off-site servicing. This will mean some hearing down time unless you can secure a hearing aid loaner. Oticon is currently the only brand that allows rechargeable battery replacement at the audiologists office, so if that’s an important consideration for you, check out the Opn S or More families from Oticon.

Product Highlights

Great battery life and robust portable charging case
Wireless audio streaming for iOS and Android*
Unique design improves wind noise and spatial hearing
Hyperdirectional beamforming microphones
IP68 moisture rating
Robust telecare support

Drawbacks

Accessory required for hands-free calling
Rechargeable model does not have a telecoil
Off site service needed to replace rechargeable battery
Accessory required for non-smartphone Bluetooth

*Via Made For iPhone and Android ASHA protocols on select smartphones.

Runner Up: Oticon More

More is the latest hearing aid from Danish company Oticon. More is in the second tier of rechargeable hearing aids when it comes to battery life, matched with brands like Phonak and Starkey which offer 24 hours on a full charge. While Oticon does not offer a portable charger (Phonak and Starkey both do), Oticon does provide something unique — your hearing aids won’t need to be sent back to the manufacturer when its time to replace the built-in lithium-ion batteries. We want to encourage more manufacturers to follow suit!

Product Highlights

Good battery life
No offsite service for battery replacement
Wireless audio streaming for iOS and Android*
Better hearing in background noise through onboard AI**
Interact with internet-of-things devices
IP68 moisture rating

Drawbacks

Accessory required for hands-free calling
Accessory required for non-smartphone Bluetooth

*Via Made For iPhone and Android ASHA protocols on select smartphones.
**According to research from Oticon

Best Bluetooth connectivity

To find the best Bluetooth connectivity on the market, I considered the following five criteria:

  • iPhone streaming - Can the hearing aids stream audio from iOS devices?
  • Android streaming - Can the hearing aids stream audio from Android phones?
  • Laptop streaming - Are the hearing aids able to stream audio from laptops and other Bluetooth-enabled devices?
  • Accessory requirement - Is an accessory required to stream audio from certain devices, or to enable hands-free calling?
  • General connectivity - Do the hearing aids offer stable multi-device connectivity? How easy is the pairing process?

My Pick: Phonak Paradise

While most hearing aid companies went down the path of providing “Made For iPhone” hearing aids (starting with the ReSound LiNX back in 2013), Phonak lagged behind, not launching their first Bluetooth-connected hearing aid until early 2018. For many, the wait was worth it. Because it was the first hearing aid to offer universal Bluetooth connectivity, Phonak Marvel was a raging success.

The early days for Marvel were rocky, with only one Bluetooth connection supported at a time, and lacking support for Phonak’s popular Roger wireless accessories. All of that was fixed with the Marvel 2.0 firmware upgrade, which added support for Roger and 2 simultaneous Bluetooth connections.

Phonak Audéo Paradise Hearing Aid Detailed Review | The Marvel Only BETTER!

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Phonak was slow to jump into the world of Bluetooth connectivity, but ended up stealing the crown this year with Phonak Paradise, which provides significant upgrades to Marvel’s connectivity by adding support for up to 8 Bluetooth devices and 2 active Bluetooth connections. This means going back and forth between a phone and laptop, etc, is now as seamless as any other modern true wireless earbud. Connection stability and ease of pairing is as you’d expect too.

Other than good universal Bluetooth connectivity, Phonak is also the only brand to offer true hands-free calling—and in stereo. There have been some reports of sound quality issues related to the hearing aid user’s own voice on the other end of the call, but for the most part, it seems that the convenience outweighs this limitation for most. I’ve personally made hands-free calls with Paradise, and it worked well enough for my needs.

Product Highlights

Universal Bluetooth connectivity with stereo streaming
Tap controls and motion sensing
Hands-free calling in stereo
Rechargeable models available
Robust telecare support
IP68 moisture rating
Best wireless accessories on the market
Sound audiology from market leader

Drawbacks

Own voice may sound degraded to conversation partners on hands-free calls
Will not support Bluetooth LE Audio if and when others receive support

*Via Made For iPhone and Android ASHA protocols on select smartphones.
**According to research from Oticon

Runner Up: ReSound One

ReSound was the first hearing aid company to offer support for both Made For iPhone and Android ASHA Bluetooth protocols, and Resound promises One will support the upcoming Bluetooth LE Audio protocol through a future firmware upgrade. While the Oticon More provides the same support (and promise of future LE Audio support), the product is still new, and has an unproven track record on ASHA support.

You can get high-quality hands-free calling for the ReSound One by purchasing the ReSound Phone Clip+ and pairing it to your phone. The microphone on the Phone Clip+ — which can be worn on a lapel — is used to pick up your voice and send it to the caller. For those looking at Oticon More, you’ll need the ConnectClip to accomplish hands-free calling.

Best discreet hearing aids

To find the best discreet hearing on the market, I considered the following two criteria:

  • Visibility - Is the hearing aid visible to those around you?
  • Reliability - Does wax and moisture cause performance issues?
  • Comfort - Is the hearing aid comfortable in your ear?

My Pick: Phonak Virto M Titanium IIC

Phonak started manufacturing 3D-printed titanium hearing aids back in 2017 with Virto B. My mind was blown at the time, because I didn’t even know it was possible to “print” metal. Apparently printed metal is a thing, and Phonak saw an opportunity to bring the technology into the hearing aid manufacturing process.

In a press release, Phonak stated that their titanium shells were “15x stronger and 50% thinner” than traditional acrylic hearing aid shells. This meant “deeper placement in the ear canal” and a “more discreet fit.” In 2021, Phonak is still ahead of the pack when it comes to hearing aid visibility — no other manufacturer is producing printed-titanium shells that compete on size or “invisibility.”

In terms of comfort, the new Virto M is about as comfortable as any other “invisible in canal” (IIC) hearing aid on the market — which is to say pretty comfortable for most people. Most people prefer open-fitting hearing aids over custom-fitted in-canal style hearing aids.

In terms of reliability, the Virto M Titanium is as reliable any IIC can be. It’s the only one that I’m aware of that has an IP68 for moisture and dust protection. Having said that, ear canals are a hostile (warm, damp, waxy) environment for even the most robust of hearing aids, so if you are someone who perspires a lot or produces a lot of wax, you might want to consider going with a thin-tube style hearing aid that doesn’t put any electronic components deep in your ear.

Product Highlights

Virtually invisible
IP68 moisture rating
Volume and program control available
Phonak's AutoSense OS™ 3.0

Drawbacks

No directional microphones
No Bluetooth or wireless functionality
No AutoSense OS features that rely on ear-to-ear communication

Runner Up: Phonak Lyric

The absolute most invisible hearing aid in the world is the Phonak Lyric 4. It’s so small, and goes so deep into the ear canal, that it has to be surgically-inserted by an ENT specialist or specially-trained audiologist. And while it would probably win on both visibility and comfort, there have been reports about poor reliability for some people. While many people have absolutely no problems, those with heavy wax production (or who sweat a lot) can experience issues. And this can be a real nuisance if a dead hearing aid means a trip back to the specialist for extraction and re-insertion!

Product Highlights

Invisible
Comfortable
Long-term wear device with no batteries to change
No taking out at bed or for showers
Natural own voice sound
Improved reliability and comfort vs Lyric 3

Drawbacks

Reliability can suffer if you have much earwax
Many people do not fit candidacy criteria
No underwater swimming or diving
No wireless connectivity
Annual subscription pricing may be higher than other products

Best hearing aids for frequent travelers

To find the best hearing aids for frequent travelers (North America), I looked at the following factors:

  • Number of clinics - How many clinics support the product?
  • Ease of access - How quickly can you get an appointment while traveling?
  • Reliability of hearing aids - Can you rely on the hearing aids while traveling?

My Pick: Beltone Imagine

If you’ve read this far, you already know that ReSound One is my top pick for rechargeability, and my runner up for Bluetooth connectivity. But did you know ReSound One is also available to purchase at over 1,500 Beltone retail outlets, rebranded as the Beltone Imagine? Aside from the name, everything else is the same. Same technology. Same reliability. Same great rechargeability and connectivity. But, with the added benefit of lifetime support from any of the 1,500 North American Beltone locations.

I reached out directly to Beltone to find out what it would be like to travel as a Beltone hearing aid owner. The first reassurance owners have: Every new Beltone hearing aid comes with Remote Care Live telecare services. This means your home-clinic hearing care provider can help you via video chat on the HearMax app anywhere you’re able to connect to the internet. And should you need help in person, in-clinic service (in most cases same-day) is provided through the Belcare Guarantee.

Product Highlights

Robust telecare support
BelCare Guarantee for in-clinic support
Great battery life and robust portable charging case
Wireless audio streaming for iOS and Android*
Unique design improves wind noise and spatial hearing
Beamforming microphones
IP68 moisture rating

Drawbacks

Accessory required for hands-free calling
Rechargeable model does not have a telecoil
Accessory required for non-smartphone Bluetooth

*Via Made For iPhone and Android ASHA protocols on select smartphones.

Runner Up: Costco’s KS9

Coming up in second place is Costco with their latest Kirkland Signature hearing aid, the KS9, which is manufactured by Phonak’s parent company Sonova. The KS9 is considered by many to be functionally the same as the Phonak Marvel, offering many of the same features and compatibility with Phonak’s Roger wireless accessories.

A quick look through the state-by-state warehouse listings reveals that most of Costco’s 558 US warehouses offer “Hearing Aid Center” services. In terms of access to in-clinic support, that’s about 1000 less clinics than what Beltone has on the map, and word on the street is that wait times to get into any Costco Hearing Aid Center can be lengthy due to the popularity of their cheaper-than-average hearing aid offerings. As an example, a pair of Marvel’s might cost you 3x what you’d pay for a pair of KS9’s.

Product Highlights

Affordable pricing
Support from hundreds of Costco locations
Universal Bluetooth audio streaming
Hands-free phone calls
Telecoil option
Similar to Phonak Marvel

Drawbacks

Getting an appointment while traveling may be difficult due to frequently busy clinics
No rechargeable option
Does not have the same robust Bluetooth connectivity as the newer Phonak Paradise

Dr Cliff’s top hearing aids for 2021

I’ve listed some of my top picks, but my opinion isn’t the only one that matters! My friend and colleague Dr Cliff Olson has a list of his own, so if you can spare a few minutes, grab a coffee, and hear all about Dr Cliff’s favorite as we start out the new year.

BEST Hearing Aids of 2021 | Receiver-in-Canal Edition

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Top hearing aid brands, rated by 500 audiologists

We surveyed five hundred audiologists in Q4 2020 to find out which hearing aid brands are the best on the following metrics:

Disclaimer

Survey results reflect the attitudes of audiologists, who may or may not be familiar with all hearing aid brands. For better or worse, each audiologist has their brand preferences, and our survey results reflect those preferences. Take the results with a grain of salt. Infrequently selected brands not included in the charts below.

How do I choose the best hearing aid?

Before trying to pick your own hearing aid, watch this video from our partner Doctor Cliff, AuD. You might be surprised by how complicated the process is.

How to Select The Best Hearing Aid? | 6 Key Considerations

Don’t have time to watch the video?

Here are Cliff’s notes 😉 on what to consider when purchasing a hearing aid. Keep in mind that your hearing professional should be helping you understand the options:

  1. Your hearing loss severity - You need a hearing aid that is capable of providing adequate amplification. If you have a severe or profound hearing loss, you’ll need a device that can produce higher sound levels.
  2. Your ability to hear speech in noise - Speech in noise testing should be performed at every hearing evaluation. If you perform well on the test with amplification, hearing aids are likely to help you in noisy environments.
  3. Brand accessibility - Certain brands may not be accessible in your area. This may limit your options.
  4. Important features - Your hearing professional should get to know your listening needs and goals and suggest hearing aid features that can give you the most satisfaction and benefit.
  5. Your lifestyle - More advanced hearing aids are geared towards meeting the needs of those with the most active lifestyles. If you find yourself in more complex listening environments you should consider purchasing higher technology.
  6. Best practices - Does your hearing care provider follow best practices? If you aren’t receiving real ear measurement testing, you probably won’t get the most out of your hearing aids, even if they are top-of-the-line!

Looking to understand the available hearing aid features? Check out Hearing Tracker’s hearing aid matching engine.

How much do hearing aids cost?

We recently conducted a survey – with the help of the Hearing Loss Association of America – to learn more about the cost of hearing aids in the United States. Our survey showed that the overall average price paid for a single hearing aid was $2372. For a breakdown of hearing aid prices by brand, please read more on our page about the cost of hearing aids.

Looking to pay for hearing aids with healthcare insurance? Medical insurance coverage is available for some consumers.