There is a common misconception that hearing loss, and in turn, hearing aids, are restricted to an elderly population and are a sign of aging. Not true! While the prevalence of hearing loss does increase with aging, there are many adults who lose their hearing earlier in life, and certainly children with congenital hearing loss who age into teenagers and young adults in need of hearing aids. 

Today we will cover hearing aids for young adults and the best hearing aid options to purchase. For the purposes of this article, we’ll classify “young adults” as anywhere from 18 to 40 years old. While there are no different hearing aids designed for this age group, young adults may be more likely to be drawn to specific designs and features based on their lifestyle, hearing needs, and aesthetic preferences.

hearing aids for young adults

Hearing aids are largely split into pediatric and adult categories. Pediatric hearing aids need to have additional features such as tamper-proof battery doors, indicator lights, and simple connectivity to FM systems for school. Pediatric hearing aids are also typically available in lots of bright and fun colors with different accessories to help with retention.

Children with hearing loss are almost always fit with behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids with custom earmolds because this tends to be the most durable style, and the earmolds can be continually re-fit as the child ages and grow without purchasing new hearing aids.

Hearing Aids for Young Adults by Styles

types of hearing aids

In clinical practice, I saw the full spectrum of aesthetic preferences for this young adult age group. I had some patients who wanted to be loud and proud with their hearing aids or cochlear implants, even asking to order pediatric devices to have access to the bright color options. I also had patients who were very concerned about drawing attention to their hearing aids and wanted to be as discrete as possible. Fortunately, there are hearing aid options for all young adults, style-wise, regardless of your preference.

1. Receiver-in-canal (RIC) or receiver-in-the-ear (RITE)

These styles/acronyms are synonymous, and this style is probably the most popular and recommended for many reasons. First, it is the most discrete and most comfortable style of hearing aid. While many assume that hearing aids that fit in the ear rather than behind would be less noticeable, the only part of a RIC/RITE hearing aid that is typically visible is a very thin receiver wire that extends down the ear.

Starkey

Starkey Hearing Aids

This is barely noticeable, particularly if you have more hair than the gentleman pictured above, and leaves the ear feeling relatively open. I once put on a set of demo RIC devices to show a patient and left them on for the remainder of the workday because I forgot they were there. Aside from being discrete, RIC/RITE hearing aids are able to make use of directional microphone technology because of their position behind the ear.

This is critical for hearing performance in noisy situations, which young adults find themselves in quite frequently! All of the hearing aid manufacturers have great options in this category, for example, the Starkey Genesis AI, Phonak Audeo Lumity, and Oticon Real. Oticon offers theirs in a couple of fun colors if you fall into the category of wanting a RIC/RITE device for the functionality but still want to show it off!

Oticon

Oticon hearing aids

2. Behind-the-ear (BTE)

Because BTE hearing aids are typically fitted with an earmold that is more occluding than a dome or shell that would be used on a RIC device, this style is normally used for more severe hearing losses. The Naida Paradise from Phonak and the Omnia from GN ReSound both offer a suite of connectivity and streaming options while remaining rechargeable, which certainly helps with being on the go.

Phonak

Phonak hearing aids

3. In-the-ear (ITE)

For patients who prefer not to wear anything over the ear, an ITE device can come in a range of different sizes, from “full shell” (filling up the entire concha bowl) to tiny devices that sit in the ear canal and require a little retention wire to be removed.

This style of hearing aid is more occluding than a RIC/RITE device simply because it is inside the ear canal, so some users may find that it inhibits natural sound quality. That said, the technology for occlusion control and noise reduction in this style has come a long way, and many users prefer this size and style. The Widex Moment, ReSound Omnia, and Starkey Genesis AI are all available in all styles.

Widex

widex hearing aids

Technology Features

As stated earlier, there are no hearing aids specifically designed for young adults. That said, there are a lot of technology features that this population may be particularly keen to take advantage of. 

1. Streaming Capabilities

All of the manufacturers offer some degree of Bluetooth connectivity, but be sure to take note of the specifics. Some devices are specifically Made-for-iPhone with some ability to stream to certain Android devices, while others are more generically Bluetooth compatible. Depending on what kind of smartphone or other streaming devices you plan to use, there might be specific options that will offer the most seamless streaming without the need for any intermediary devices or applications.

It seems everyone these days is walking around with AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones in their ears to listen to their favorite music or podcasts or talk on the phone, so you’ll be ahead of the game with the ability to simply do this through your hearing aids!

2. Rechargeability

Hearing aids have traditionally used disposable lithium-ion batteries in a variety of sizes depending on the size of the device. Now, most come with rechargeable options. Note the amount of time that the charge lasts, as well as options for “quick charge,” i.e., a 15-minute charge will give you another three hours of wear time, as well as portable and car charger options.

Another question to consider is the warranty length of both the rechargeable battery in the hearing aid and the charger(s), as these may differ by manufacturer and technology level. Finally, certain hearing aid features such as telecoil are often incompatible or unavailable with rechargeability. If this is something you might make use of, talk with your hearing care professional about these features and what makes me the most sense for your daily life.

3. Telehealth Availability

Many manufacturers are offering some degree of virtual support via proprietary apps. This varies by manufacturer but also by audiology practice. Some professionals are choosing to opt-in to this type of service, and the hearing aid programming can even be modified (to some extent) remotely.

If you are a young adult with a busy work schedule who struggles to take time for doctor’s appointments, this might be an ideal option to consider and would assist in your decision-making for both where to purchase your hearing aids and what type. 

Other Considerations – Over The Counter (OTC) Devices

If you have a newly diagnosed mild-moderate hearing loss, you might be interested in trying an OTC device before committing to a more expensive set of prescription hearing aids. There are several options for OTC hearing aids in RIC/RITE and ITE styles, and most of these use a self-fitting model where you would perform your own hearing test and walk through the programming algorithm.

While OTC hearing aids lack some of the customization and professional service of prescription devices, they are a way to test your benefit from amplification with lower financial risk. The Jabra Enhance Plus and Lexie B2 by Bose are great choices in this category.

02/19/2024 06:51 am GMT

Insurance coverage

On the topic of finances, it is important to look at your health insurance plan to determine whether you have a hearing aid benefit. Increasingly, this is something offered by commercial insurers and, while it may not cover the entire cost of hearing aids, it can certainly contribute. You can also use an HSA account to help cover the cost of hearing aids. If you are transitioning into adulthood, many insurance plans that did cover pediatric hearing aids through age 18 no longer cover them into adulthood, so this is something to look into before turning 18, if possible. 

Employee assistance 

If you are working, some employers will offer coverage or assistance with the cost of hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices if they are deemed essential for your job performance. You can consult your HR department, vocational rehabilitation, and/or the rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You may also connect with your local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to find out about your rights in the workplace as a person with hearing loss, and to meet other members of your community with hearing loss.

Hearing Aids For Young Adults Conclusion

If you are a young adult struggling with hearing loss, hearing aids are the first step to maintaining an active work/life balance. There are several superb options at a variety of price points, and more than likely your friends and family will be jealous of your Bluetooth streaming and ability to hear in crowded bars or restaurants. Consult your local audiologist for a full diagnostic hearing test as a first step, and they can help you walk through the best options based on your lifestyle and hearing needs. 

erin edwards aud
Clinical Audiologist at Towson University | + posts

Erin Edwards received her Doctor of Audiology degree from Towson University in 2015 and her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership from Pacific University in 2022. She has worked with patients of all ages in a variety of settings and has a specific interest in cochlear implants, the relationship of hearing loss and dementia, and interdisciplinary healthcare.

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