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Despite how new over-the-counter hearing aids are, there are already plenty of options to choose from. I was able to get my hands on some of the top options for testing. I had a mix of over-the-ear, in-ear and in-canal hearing aids to get a full picture of the market and the performance of each style.
To get the best representation of three varying degrees of hearing loss, I enlisted the help of my dad and grandfather for testing. My grandfather is a hearing aid expert who’s worn them for decades. To balance out his obvious preference for traditional hearing aids, my dad’s thirst for new technology helps gauge the standard consumer experience. And then there was me, for the technical side of device information that you should know.
While testing, we considered how easy they were to set up, the fit and app performance. Below you’ll find our testing experience with the best over-the-counter hearing aids, and the pros and cons of each device.
What is the best hearing aid overall?
Over-the-counter hearing aids from Audicus currently top our list because they are a great balance of advanced features and accessibility. I reviewed the Omni, the premium rechargeable hearing aid option with directional microphones, remote adjustments and Bluetooth. That sounds like a lot, though it looks and functions exactly how you expect from traditional hearing aids.
The Omni is $2,998 for a pair, which is definitely not the most affordable option; however, the customer support and quality make it worth it. Not to mention the fact that you can finance your devices. There are also other models from Audicus that you can choose from. You might sacrifice some of the bells and whistles, though you’ll still get excellent support from the company.
Our picks for the best over-the-counter hearing aids
One of the main concerns people have regarding OTC hearing aids is setting up the devices on their own. Without a doctor, it can feel daunting to solve your communication needs, and that’s a primary barrier to the over-the-counter hearing aid market.
I was impressed with the Omni hearing aid because of how it performed and the support that Audicus offers its customers. That’s why the Omni OTC hearing aid from Audicus is my pick for the best overall OTC hearing aid.
When you unpack the Omni OTC hearing aid, you’ll notice you get more than other brands offer: a charging case, carrying case, dry capsule, earwax guard disc and a ton of ear domes. An extensive manual details what the products do and how it all works. You’ll also have access to Audicus support staff to help you set up your hearing aids and walk you through the process. They were borderline relentless in offering support, which is often what people need.
The Omni OTC hearing aid is one of the sleekest over-the-ear devices I tested. It has an updated feel with same-color buttons that are easy to press but blend into the silhouette. The Audicus hearing aids are so comfortable and lightweight that you won’t even notice you’re wearing them.
Audicus hearing aids best features:
- Audicus includes features that other brands don’t, particularly the dry capsule and earwax guards. The dry capsule is a spongy orange block inside the charging case, which wicks moisture away from the devices while in the case. The earwax guard replacement comes in a wheel that easily allows you to replace the guard under the silicone dome of the earpiece. Neither feature was available in other products.
- The app, called Hearing Remote, is easy to use. However, like other brands, the app took a few times to recognize my devices, something the Audicus representative warned me about.
- The Hearing Remote has four “environments” that determine how the devices amplify and filter sounds: Automatic, Conversation, Auditorium and Car/Plane.
- Audicus offers monthly care packages that include cleaning materials and other essentials.
Things to consider:
- The Omni over-the-counter hearing aid from Audicus is expensive. However, Audicus offers financing, as well as more affordable devices.
- The charging case is much bigger than the other OTC hearing aids on the list. However, Audicus offers a smaller carrying case that’s much more reasonable for carrying around.
- If you adjust your hearing aids on the device or in the app, they reset each time you put them into the charging case. You can call Audicus to have them return to your base setting.
Battery: Rechargeable battery that lasts 16 hours on one charge.
Price: $2,998. Financing plans are available.
Warranty: Two-year warranty. 45-day money-back guarantee.
Style: Behind the ear
The Eargo 7 OTC hearing aids may be the smallest hearing aids I’ve ever seen. One hearing aid is barely longer than the length of my fingernail and half as wide. I would consider them a “micro” hearing aid that sits fully in the ear canal. You can’t see them from the side, so they are my pick for the best invisible-fit OTC hearing aids. They’re great for people who want a discreet hearing-aid experience or whose hearing devices are susceptible to being bumped or brushed. They’re also good for people who wear glasses.
The charging case for the Eargo 7 OTC hearing aids is uniquely designed to match the modernity of the product. It’s a circle, with the top third coming off to reveal the hearing aids. It’s about the width of a soda can and can easily fit in your back pocket.
You start the setup for the product by scanning a QR code and calling the company to register your device. Then you install the app, which is compatible with iOS 12 or Android 7 or later. The app is one of the simplest to use, with sound profiles and buttons to increase or decrease for volume. However, the app does not show you the current volume of your hearing aids, which all others do. While you can navigate up or down, you have no way of knowing if you are at low, middle or high volume.
Eargo offers lifetime support from its team of licensed professionals. Overall, I was impressed with the quality and simplicity of the Eargo 7 OTC hearing aids. This was one of the favorites of my dad, who appreciated how small the device is.
Eargo OTC hearing aids best features:
- You can’t even feel you’re wearing them.
- They are functionally invisible to others.
- You get three dome options.
- Eargo 7 OTC hearing aids have an easy-to-use app that is very straightforward. There are four specialized listening environments.
- Eargo audiologists and specialists can help you set up and adjust your devices.
Things to consider:
- The Eargo OTC hearing aids are completely dependent on the app. Since they are in-canal style hearing aids, there are no buttons to adjust them. You can tap them to filter through the sound settings but can’t turn them up or down from the device. This may be an issue for people who do not have smartphones or want to be able to change the sound from the device.
- They are the most expensive hearing aids on the list, and for a good reason: The small size requires specialized hardware that costs more. Not to mention the dedicated support available to users. There are financing options available, but they are still out of the price range for many people.
Battery: Rechargeable with a 16-hour single charge. The charging case provides two additional days of power without being plugged in.
Price: $2,650. 12 to 24 months financing options available.
Warranty: Two-year warranty. 45-day return policy.
Style: Completely in canal
The Jabra Enhance Plus OTC hearing aids have a classic earbud look. So much so that the average person likely would mistake them for Bluetooth headphones. The fit is similar to a headphone and visible while wearing it, but really lightweight and comfortable. At no point did I feel they would fall out of my ears, though I could see how after a full day of wear, you would look forward to taking them out.
Unlike other OTC hearing aids, the Jabra Enhance Plus devices completely block out natural external noises from getting into the ear. The devices rely on directional microphones to reproduce natural sounds. This is great for streaming music and phone calls. However, it didn’t stack up as well as the other options for functioning as a hearing aid. It does amplify sounds, and they sound louder, but so did my voice while wearing them. They are great if you mainly hope to amplify sound and use them for music. But they wouldn’t be my pick if you are looking for an everyday hearing aid.
The setup was similar to other OTC hearing aids: You install the app, take a hearing test, connect your hearing aids and adjust as needed. However, one significant drawback of this product is that it is made for iPhones and is not compatible with Android, which I have. However, Jabra has stated that it plans to release it to Android, but there is no date as of yet.
The Jabra Enhance Plus OTC hearing aids are great for iPhone users who, in addition to wanting to enhance hearing, are also looking to play music and answer calls from their devices.
Jabra OTC hearing aids best features:
- The Jabra Enhance Plus OTC hearing aids can stream your calls and music directly to your ears.
- Like the other options on the list, Jabra Enhance Plus have three listening modes that you can change depending on your environment — Adaptive, Focus and Listening mode.
- They only cost $800, which is less than many of the hearing aids on the market that have features like directional microphones and Bluetooth.
Things to consider before buying:
- Jabra is another brand that requires you to use the app to set up and adjust the device, so the hearing aids are inaccessible to people without smartphones.
- Jabra Enhance Plus OTC hearing aids are only compatible with iPhones.
- When testing, I found that Jabra OTC hearing aids amplify everything, including my voice.
- They have a 12-hour battery life, which is less than other hearing aids on the list.
- No financing options on the website.
Battery: Rechargeable with a 12-hour single charge. The charging case provides an additional 35 hours of power without being plugged in.
Price: $ 799
Warranty: One-year warranty. 45-day refund period.
Style: In the ear
Lucid Hearing’s Engage Rechargeable OTC hearing aid reminds me of a classic over-the-ear hearing aid. It has a battery flap at the bottom, which is also rechargeable thanks to the relatively chunky case. (I wouldn’t say it’s something you want to carry in your pocket.)
Our testers found this OTC hearing aid one of the most comfortable and easy to put on. It’s small and lightweight, easily tucked behind the ear. The domes (both open and closed style) that are included give you the most flexibility to find one that fits the size of your ear canal. The device has directional microphones and Bluetooth capabilities.
I did have a few struggles with the app, which I couldn’t get to work on my phone, but when I got it to connect successfully from another phone, I found the app pretty standard. You can adjust the volume of your devices together or independently if you have more hearing loss in one ear. It’s worth noting that the reviews for the app are only 2.4 stars on Google Play and 3.0 on App Store and that users complain about the app being frustrated and the devices being disconnected from Bluetooth. Since you can adjust the volume from the devices, you could probably enjoy them if you don’t care about Bluetooth.
Lucid Engage best features:
- Lucid Hearing offers several different OTC hearing aids you can choose from.
- The Rechargeable Engage hearing aid is an extremely comfortable and lightweight over-the-ear hearing aid.
- The rechargeable Engage hearing aid offers Bluetooth streaming from your smartphone.
- The Engage hearing aids also have four set programs that adapt performance to your environment. They include Lucid (its general setting), Noisy, Music and Wind noise.
Things to consider:
- Using the app was a struggle. User reviews also express frustrations.
- The charging case is bulky, not something you can comfortably carry in your pocket.
- You can’t create custom settings with the equalizers. You have to adjust it each time.
Battery: 20-hour single charge.
Price: $799. 12-month financing option available.
Warranty: One-year warranty. 90-day return window.
Style: Behind the ear
If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward OTC hearing aid, consider the Sontro Hearing Aids from Soundwave Hearing. They were one of the favorite picks of my grandfather for comfort and use. He was able to get them into his ear the easiest. They resemble traditional hearing aids with their over-the-ear design and battery flap on the bottom. These hearing aids are completely battery dependent, with no rechargeable case. Soundwave Hearing includes four batteries with their devices.
As with other OTC hearing aids, Sontro devices have different sound environments — Automatic (the devices adjust to your surroundings using the directional microphones), Quiet, Noisy and Entertainment. I did notice some traditional feedback while we were handling the devices and pairing them to a phone.
When you start the otoTune app, you start by connecting your hearing aids and then taking a hearing test that helps the devices customize to your needs. The hearing test is simple and only takes 3 minutes, and wasn’t available with the other device apps. Just hit the left or right button on your smartphone when you hear the tone played through the device. A tab displays your “report card” or results for low, middle and high frequency in each ear.
Sontro hearing aid’s best features:
- This over-the-ear hearing aid is one of the most basic on the list in terms of the product. They’re not rechargeable and they come with a small carrying case.
- The app is really easy to use, and you take a hearing test to tailor your devices to your hearing. There is a page in the app that shows the results of your test.
- You can raise or lower the volume from the app.
Things to consider:
- Sontro OTC hearing aids are not rechargeable, so you have to rely on 312 batteries.
- There was feedback during testing while pairing and putting the devices on. It’s relatively common for hearing aids, but other devices did it far less.
Battery: 312 batteries.
Price: $849. Financing available.
Warranty: One-year warranty. 45-day money-back guarantee.
Style: Behind the ear
All the OTC hearing aids I tested included manuals that walk you through how to use the devices. In addition to the packaging, several online videos are available on the Hearing Assist website and YouTube if you have questions. They are particularly helpful if you learn best when seeing someone walk through the device and app. Since most OTC hearing support is through email or phone, I thought this was a nice attempt to bridge the gap. Hearing Assist also offers appointments with its hearing specialists for additional help.
The case of Hearing Assist Control 2.0 OTC hearing aids offer 70 hours of listening time, which is significantly longer than any other case on the list. I was also impressed by the simple addition of magnets on the charging slots that ensure the devices are charging.
The hearing aids are slightly larger than the other over-the-ear devices on this list, but they are still sleek and lightweight. They have the traditional hearing aid look with two buttons on the side that allow you to turn the volume up or down. Overall, this was one of the favorite choices of our testers — they are comfortable, easy to put in and simple to adjust.
Hearing Assist hearing aids best features:
- The app is easy to use and allows you to program and control your hearing aids from your phone.
- The Hearing Assist Control OTC hearing aids have directional microphones and advanced digital feedback suppression.
- The Control 2.0 OTC hearing aids are rechargeable, with a 12-hour single charge and a case that offers 70 hours of additional hearing without being plugged in.
Things to consider:
- While there is an app that allows you to adjust your hearing aids, buttons on the side allow you to bypass the app.
- Bluetooth is not supported on the Control 2.0 model.
- This OTC hearing aid is slightly larger than other over-the-ear options, which may be an adjustment if you wear glasses.
Battery: 16-hour single charge. 70 hours with the rechargeable carrying case.
Price: $699.99. Financing available.
Warranty: One-year warranty. 60-day money-back guarantee.
Style: Behind the ear
How we tested the best OTC hearing aids
OTC hearing aids are intended to make hearing assistance accessible to everyone. They are generally more affordable and do not require a doctor’s appointment for purchase. Because of this, we approached testing the best OTC hearing aids with a holistic mindset. Our goal was to gauge the entire experience of ordering, setting up and using the devices.
We considered several factors during the testing process.
- Battery life and charging cases
- Pricing and financing options
- Special features like directional microphones, Bluetooth, app connectivity and feedback suppression
- Comfort and ease of wearing
- Customer support
In addition to our hands-on testing, we looked through user reviews for the product and the apps to fully understand long-term performance.
What are over-the-counter hearing aids?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are a new class of hearing assistance devices you can buy without visiting a doctor. The FDA has established regulations that OTC manufacturers must follow to ensure the devices are safe and effective. They are available for adults ages 18 and over with perceived mild or moderate hearing loss. They are not suitable for those with severe hearing loss or children.
“These devices are available for purchase without the involvement of a licensed healthcare professional; they are subject to regulatory criteria such as output (e.g., loudness) limits and design requirements to ensure that they work well and are safe for consumers,” says Lindsay S. Creed, associate director of audiology practices at American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
On the surface, OTC hearing aids don’t seem all that different from prescription options. They look and operate similarly. According to Creed, the main differences between the two types are “how they are sold, the regulatory criteria they must comply with and who they are intended for.”
How do I know if I should get over-the-counter hearing aids?
OTC hearing aids are only approved for adults with mild or moderate hearing loss. Children with hearing loss or those with severe hearing loss should seek professional assessments to determine their hearing needs.
So, how do you know if you should buy OTC hearing aids? Generally, hearing loss happens gradually over time. You may not even know it’s happening.
Common signs you have hearing loss include, but are not limited to:
- Mishearing words or asking people to repeat themselves
- Having a difficult time following conversations when you’re in a noisy environment
- Things sounding muffled
- Having to turn up the volume to hear music or TV
While you aren’t required to have a hearing assessment before buying OTC hearing aids, Creed still recommends it, especially since most health insurance plans cover the cost of a hearing evaluation.
“The best way to know if you need hearing aids is to see a certified audiologist for a comprehensive audiological evaluation. This will tell you if you have hearing loss and, if so, what type and how severe. This information, taken together with your lifestyle needs and goals, will help you decide whether an OTC hearing aid is your best choice or if your needs would be better addressed by a prescription hearing aid,” says Creed.
What are the different types of hearing aids?
All hearing aids enhance how you hear and communicate in your environment. But they do it in different ways and with varying features. They also look different. One of the most important choices you must make while shopping for hearing aids is the style you want to wear. There are three main hearing aid styles — behind-the-ear, in-the-ear and in-the-canal.
- Behind-the-ear hearing aids: Most people think of this style when they picture hearing aids. The device sits behind the outer ear with a wire that wraps around the front and ends in a dome that fits in the canal. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are generally the most affordable option and are so light you can’t feel them. However, they aren’t as discreet as other options and can be hard to put on if you have dexterity issues.
- In-the-ear hearing aids: As the name suggests, this style of hearing aid fills the ear. The ones I tested looks like any other Bluetooth headphone on the market. In-the-ear hearing aids are light and easier to insert than over-the-ear options. However, this style is slightly more expensive, and some people complain of hearing an echo when they speak.
- In-the-canal: There are two types of in-the-canal hearing aids — in-the-canal and completely-in-canal. The Eargo 7 hearing aids are examples of a completely-in-canal style because they are invisible from the side. These are great for people who want a discreet look. However, they are generally more expensive and are the most susceptible to ear wax build-up.
What to consider before buying over-the-counter hearing aids
OTC hearing aids vary by their capabilities and technology. Some devices have directional microphones, while others can use Bluetooth to stream music and phone calls directly to your hearing aids. Thinking about your lifestyle and what features you value most before purchasing is important.
Keep these factors in mind when shopping for the best over-the-counter hearing aids:
- Hearing aid style: Several styles are available on the OTC market. Traditional over-the-ear options sit behind the ear with a wire that wraps around the front and into the canal. There are also in-ear and in-canal options available. Depending on your lifestyle and needs, some may be more comfortable for you.
- App connectivity: Given OTC hearing aids don’t require a doctor’s visit, they are extremely accessible. However, one thing to consider is how dependent a device is on an app to function. Many people value remotely adjusting their hearing devices from their phones. Though if you don’t have a smartphone or prefer to adjust with buttons on the device, you should not buy one that depends on the app to change settings.
- Price: OTC hearing aids are generally more affordable than prescription hearing aids. However, because they are new to the market, insurance companies have yet to cover them. There is a wide range of prices, many with financing options that make them even more affordable.
- Customer support: One potential downside of OTC hearing aids is virtual customer support. In most cases, you won’t be able to meet in person with company specialists for help. To replace this, OTC companies offer robust manuals, online videos and phone calls to support customers with setting up and maintaining their devices.
- Trial period: Like with any product you buy online without holding it beforehand, it’s important to ensure a trial period. This will allow you to try and return the product if it’s not the right fit for you. All the products on our list offer trial periods.
Creed advises people to pay close attention to the labeling of OTC products. “Ensure the words ‘OTC’ and ‘Hearing Aid’ are on the packaging. Be wary of devices labeled as ‘hearing aid-like devices’ or ‘hearing assistive technology’ or those that are advertised as appropriate for children or greater than a moderate degree of hearing loss.”
“Amazon has already had to crack down on so-called ‘rouge’ sellers, so it’s really important to be aware of suspicious or too-good-to-be-true claims,” Creed says.
Over-the-counter hearing aid FAQ
How does insurance work with over-the-counter hearing aids?
Your coverage will depend on your plan, though many plans do not cover the cost of OTC hearing aids. The OTC market is still young, and it is unclear if insurers may cover them in the future is still being determined.
Even without insurance, many companies offer monthly financing options that make OTC hearing aids much more budget-friendly.
Do I need to go to the doctor to get an OTC hearing aid?
You do not have to visit a doctor’s office for a hearing assessment to purchase an OTC hearing aid. However, if you have the means, it’s still a good idea to visit an audiologist to assess your needs, determine your level of hearing loss and the potential cause.
How do I clean hearing aids?
Hearing aids are susceptible to wax and debris buildup, which can compromise the performance of the devices. Most OTC hearing aid manufacturers include cleaning tools like brushes and hooks to clean through the crevices under and around the ear molds.
Where can I buy over-the-counter hearing aids?
Are over-the-counter hearing aids as good as prescription hearing aids?
A study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found no significant differences between the performance of OTC and prescription hearing aids. This suggests that visiting a doctor for a fitting isn’t strictly necessary. However, OTC hearing aids are still new, and more research is needed to fully investigate how performance matters by type and technology.
When you get prescription hearing aids, they are set to exactly your preferences because you work with an audiologist to find them. With OTC, you are largely on your own, even though many companies have great online support. But depending on your needs, they aren’t a full replacement for in-person help.