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Healthline describes the differences between prescription and over-the-counter heading aids by sharing features of each, benefits, drawbacks, and more.

For many years, the only kind of hearing aids you could get were prescription hearing aids from a hearing specialist, such as an audiologist.

That all changed when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a new rule that allows customers to buy over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids directly in stores and online — no prescription required.

Now, those with hearing loss have two options: prescription or OTC hearing aids.

This article will help you decide by comparing the two types of hearing aids and looking at well-reviewed products.

Prescription hearing aids can help with any amount of hearing loss (mild to profound), but they are especially helpful for those with severe to profound hearing loss.

Prescription hearing aids are generally more expensive than OTC hearing aids because they come with the expertise of a hearing professional.

A hearing specialist or an audiologist will test your hearing using advanced tools, fit the hearing aid to your ear’s unique shape, and help you adjust to them with follow-up appointments.

OTC hearing aids are an alternative to prospection hearing aids. They are meant to treat mild to moderate hearing loss in adults 18 and older.

As of October 2022, you can now buy OTC hearing aids directly in stores and online. This rule was called on by President Joe Biden to reduce health care costs for people living in the United States.

Although OTC hearing aids are less expensive than prescription hearing aids, they don’t provide the same custom fit or quality.

Although their concept is the same, there are many differences between prescription hearing aids and OTC hearing aids. This includes:


Only those with mild to moderate hearing loss can use an OTC hearing aid.

Prescription hearing aids, on the other hand, help hearing loss that is mild, moderate, severe, and profound. If you’re under 18, you must visit a specialist for a prescription.


OTC hearing aids cost significantly less than prescription hearing aids.

President Biden estimated that adults living in the U.S. will save around $3,000 a pair, on average, for OTC hearing aids.

It’s important to note that most, if not all this money, is out of pocket since most insurance companies don’t cover the cost.

For this roundup, we researched both prescription hearing aids and OTC. Factors to consider included the difference in price, quality, and customer reviews.

We read through online customer reviews and chose hearing aids from reputable companies.

Since price and accessibility are important for these medical devices, we chose hearing aids that come with risk-free trials, financing options, and a manufacturer’s warranty.

Style of fit for hearing aids is generally broken down into 4 types.

  • behind-the-ear (BTE)
  • in-the-canal (ITC)
  • in-the-ear (ITE)
  • receiver-in-canal (RIC)

All hearing aids can be expensive. Unless you have an insurance policy that specifically covers hearing aids, they may not be covered by your provider. We recommend shopping around to get the best price.

The hearing aids on this list are all priced as a pair. We’ve indicated cost as follows:

  • $ = under $1,000
  • $$ = $1,000–$2,000
  • $$$ = over $2,000

These costs may vary by provider. In some instances, you may be able to pay for your hearing aids over time. You may also be able to pay for hearing aids with funds from a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA).

Best overall

Jabra Enhance Plus

  • Price: $
  • Style of fit: in-the-canal
  • Battery life: up to 12 hours on a single charge; up to 35 hours with a charging case

Jabra, the company formerly known as Lively, is behind these advanced medical-grade hearing aids.

Equipped with four microphones to reduce background noise, you’re able to hear the sounds that matter. Just be sure to keep them charged since the battery life isn’t sufficient for a full day.

Jabra Enhance Plus is revered for having one of the best Bluetooth capabilities on the market.

Whether you take calls or stream music, the sound quality is excellent since the earpiece seals off your ear canal.

While this produces good bass sound, it does mean that you may miss out on sounds around you. There’s also a Jabra Enhance app, but it’s also only available for iOS users. Finally, they’re IP52-rated to resist dust and water, so you don’t have to worry about getting them wet.

Best for long battery life

Sony CRE-C10

  • Price: $
  • Style of fit: in-the-canal
  • Battery life: up to 70 hours

Sony is a trusted brand, known for creating reliable music devices and headphones. Now, the company has something to offer for your hearing needs.

The CRE-C10 provides up to 70 hours of battery life and four different sleeve sizes, so you should be able to secure a good fit. They’re designed to fit inside your ear canal in a sleek and discreet way.

In addition to being FDA-registered, these hearing aids were made in partnership with WS Audiology. They analyze sound based on your environment and adjust automatically. You can also access settings in the Hearing control app.

One main downside is that they don’t have music capabilities, which is something you’d expect from Sony.

Best discreet hearing aid

Eargo 6

  • Price: $$$
  • Style of fit: in-the-canal
  • Battery life: up to 16 hours on a single charge

The thought of wearing a hearing aid can be embarrassing for some people. Enter: the Eargo 6, which goes discreetly inside the ear canal instead of over the ear. As a bonus, it shouldn’t get in the way of glasses.

They are made to be extremely waterproof with an IPX7 rating and the sound quality should be crystal clear. You can still enjoy moments of silence since the Sound Adjust feature identifies the background noise and automatically adjusts it.

One downside is that these are more expensive than other hearing aids. However, there is a 2-year warranty and financing options available.

Best for seniors

Lexie B2 Powered by Bose

  • Price: $
  • Style of fit: receiver-in-the-canal
  • Battery life: up to 18 hours

Lexie partnered with Bose to create two models, B1 and B2, that are designed with a senior’s needs in mind.

The B2 is rechargeable, discreet, and is self-fitting. This means that you can use the app to adjust the settings and personalize it to your needs without the help of a hearing professional.

These are basic when it comes to technological features. For example, it doesn’t stream music or allow you to take calls. But, most seniors don’t require these features.

Best budget

Hearing Assist ReCharge! Plus

  • Price: $
  • Style of fit: over-the-ear
  • Battery life: up to 24 hours

If price is a factor, consider the Hearing Assistant ReCharge! Plus. You have the option of paying the $599.99 in monthly installments and there’s a 60-day money-back guarantee that gives you time to see if they’re right for you.

The magnetic charging dock provides a full day’s worth of battery to the rechargeable aids. Although the hearing aids don’t self-adjust, they do come with four hearing modes: all-around, restaurant, traffic, and outdoor. You can also self-optimize the sound in the app with a Hearing Check.

Best overall

Jabra Enhance Select 200

  • Price: $$
  • Style of fit: in-the-canal
  • Battery life: up to 12 hours on a single charge; up to 35 hours with a charging case

Once again, Jabra nabs the top spot.

With these hearing aids comes full access to the Jabra Enhance audiology team. They’ll program the settings for you so it’s tailored to you specifically (or adjust it yourself via the app).

You don’t even have to leave your home to get the hearing aids set up. There is an online hearing test and a video consultation with an audiology care member before you even purchase. After you buy, you’ll have consultations for up to 3 years.

All of this is covered under a generous warranty and return policy. You have a 3-year manufacturer warranty, in addition to a 100-day trial to try things out.

Best for tinnitus relief

Phonak Lyric

  • Price: $$$
  • Style of fit: in-the-canal
  • Battery life: no battery changes/replacement required

When you have tinnitus — ringing in one or both of your ears — what could be better than 24/7 relief? Phonak Lyric aims to provide that, and claims to be the world’s only 100% invisible hearing device.

The device takes sound enhancement up a notch by using the natural anatomy of your ear to provide an amplified version of your natural listening experience.

One major downside is that they must be placed by a professional.

Best high-tech

Starkey Livio Edge AI

  • Price: $$$
  • Style of fit: in-the-canal, in-the-ear, behind-the-ear, receiver-in-canal
  • Battery life: rechargeable (17-20 hours); disposable (3-7 days)

These tech-forward hearing aids utilize the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the best sound quality possible.

This means you should be able to hear people who are wearing face masks, take calls, and stream music. The AI technology adapts your hearing aids to your environment automatically.

There are many options on how to wear them, as they come in various styles.

Best for seniors

Phonak Naída Paradise

  • Price: $$$
  • Style of fit: behind-the-ear
  • Battery life: rechargeable (17-20 hours); disposable (3-7 days)

The unfortunate part of hearing loss is that it tends to get worse as you age, not better. That’s why seniors depend on hearing aids with powerful sound.

Phonak Naída Paradise fits the bill for this. It comes from a well-known brand and was specifically designed to handle severe to profound hearing loss.

The sound is automatically adjusted based on the environment you’re in. The features are extremely user-friendly. All it takes is one tap to answer calls and a double tap to pause and resume what you’re streaming via Bluetooth. If you want a discreet hearing aid, this might not be the one for you: the style goes behind the ear.


  • less expensive
  • available online and in stores
  • don’t require an exam or prescription


  • not typically covered by insurance
  • skipping an exam could mean missing a serious medical condition or underlying reason for hearing loss
  • one-size-fits-all approach may not work for all users


  • the device is tailored to your unique ear shape and individual needs
  • exam gets to the root cause of hearing loss
  • hands-on support by a hearing professional
  • better possibility of insurance coverage


  • you may have to wait for insurance reimbursement
  • expensive
  • hearing professionals offer a limited choice of brands

Now that OTC hearing aids don’t require a prescription, shopping for them is easier than ever. You can find them at pharmacies and in-store and online retailers, such as:

  • Walgreens
  • Best Buy
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • CVS

Prescription hearing aids can be purchased through a hearing professional, such as an audiologist. But you will have to have an exam or consultation first.

It’s important to learn the proper way to insert and remove your hearing aids.

Ultimately, this depends on the style of hearing aids you have. Common styles include behind the ear, in the ear, in the canal, and receiver in the canal.

All hearing aids have three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. After you put them on, these parts work together in a three-part system to amplify sound.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hearing aids. However, it’s important to check out customer reviews.

If you see a lot of negative reviews, this can be a red flag that a company isn’t worth buying from.

This is especially the case if the reviews highlight poor customer service, lost or slow delivery, short return windows, or damaged products.

A good return and warranty policy is a must for hearing aids.

Since there’s an acclimation period to wearing them, it may take up to a few weeks to get used to how they feel and the difference in sounds.

Be sure to use the return window wisely and chose a company that offers a trial period.

Most hearing aids come with a 30-day return policy. Try to choose companies that offer more time, such as 60 or 90 days.

A good warranty policy, ideally 1 to 2 years, also ensures that you’re covered for parts and labor if your hearing aids stop working.

Although features vary per device, some you see often include:

  • noise reduction
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • auto adjust
  • rechargeable batteries
  • water resistance
  • remote controls
  • apps

  • noise reduction
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • apps
  • water resistance
  • rechargeable batteries
  • fall detection
  • language translation
  • access to hearing professionals in app

While hearing aids are normally safe, there are some safety considerations to be aware of. This includes:

Earwax buildup

Hearing aid users are prone to excess earwax. Earwax is fine to an extent. It moisturizes the ear canal and prevents dirt and dust from getting in your ear.

However, excess earwax can cause a whole range of issues, such as hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and dizziness. If you’re prone to this, you may need to see a professional for regular ear cleaning.

Skin irritation

Since the ear canal is sensitive, it’s important to ensure that your hearing aids fit well.

Poorly fitted hearing aids have been known to cause skin problems, such as dermatitis and general irritation. If the problem persists, be sure to visit your doctor.

Additional potential side effects from hearing aids include headaches, fungal infections, and discomfort.

Can I use insurance to help pay for OTC or prescription hearing aids?

This depends on your insurance company and plan.

While some pay toward the cost of the prescription or OTC hearing aids, most insurance companies don’t. For example, Medicare offers zero coverage.

It’s important to note that insurance companies are more likely to pay toward prescription hearing aids than OTC. If you have a flexible savings account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) you may be able to purchase or be reimbursed by your insurance carrier for hearing aids.

Who should use prescription hearing aids vs. OTC hearing aids?

OTC hearing aids are meant for adults 18 and older with mild to moderate hearing loss. This is part of the official guidelines written by the FDA.

If you have severe hearing loss and/or are under 18, you should use prescription hearing aids, as OTC hearing aids may not be able to amplify sounds enough.

If you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can help. This is a medical device that amplifies sound. For this, you have the option of either a prescription hearing aid or an OTC hearing aid.

Prescription hearing aids are more expensive because they are custom fitted to your ear’s unique shape. You also have the help of a hearing professional. They provide hands-on service by fitting them professionally and offering support.

OTC hearing aids are much more affordable and accessible. However, they usually come in one to two sizes and may be more uncomfortable.

The choice is ultimately yours, depending on your preference, style, budget, and hearing needs.