(Last updated Oct 6, 2018)

Best Hearing Aids for Severe Hearing Loss

Think you may have a severe hearing loss? If you haven’t had your hearing tested, you may want to do that first before you look into the best hearing aids for severe hearing loss, and here’s why. Out of the thousands of people that I have fit with hearing aids, probably 30% of them would categorize their loss as severe. However, in reality, I would bet that less than 10% of those individuals actually had a severe hearing loss. You see, the perception of one’s hearing loss, can be very different than the actual technical classification of a hearing loss. For instance, John Doe may consider his loss severe, but he may only have a moderate loss. So if John Doe were to get a hearing aid for a “severe” loss, he may not do as well as if he wore a hearing aid for a moderate loss. This is why it’s important to know the true extent of your hearing loss before you begin doing too much research.

audiogram picture

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What a severe hearing loss looks like
If you’ve had a hearing test done, chances are you’ve had the audiogram explained to you. The audiogram is the chart that visually represents your hearing loss, and a severe hearing loss is shown to the left. As you can see, a severe hearing loss is almost as bad as it can get. If you actually have a severe hearing loss, you will understand very little speech in almost all settings. You’ll be able to hear loud noises like a car backfiring or an airplane taking off, but the vast majority of sounds will not be audible. Unfortunately, it’s important to understand that if you do have a severe hearing loss, a hearing aid will probably not bring back your “normal” hearing, (though everyone responds differently), but they should make a big enough difference that you really enjoy wearing them. The outcome of your hearing test will give you a great idea of whether or not you will do well with hearing aids, and your hearing provider will go over your scores with you to help you learn if this is the case. If you are reading this for a friend or loved one, you can see just how hard it is to have a severe hearing loss by using Starkey’s hearing loss simulator tool. Note: You have to adjust your computer speakers in order for it to work right.

What is the best hearing aid for a severe hearing loss?

Opinions vary on the answer to this question, and the answer depends on a couple factors which I’ll do my best to describe. First, there is no doubt that an in-the-ear hearing aid just isn’t going to suffice in this case, so you’ll want something behind the ear. Behind the ear aids are much more powerful, and almost all severe hearing losses require this style of hearing aid. You’re going to want to wear either a standard BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aid, or a RIC (receiver-in-canal) hearing aid, both of which I will describe below.

picture of ric hearing aid

RIC hearing aid

RIC hearing aid with custom earmold
RIC hearing aids are some of the most popular hearing aids around today. They are discreet, yet very powerful. I almost always fit people with severe hearing losses with RIC devices. They are visually more appealing (which a lot of people like), more discreet, smaller, and considered more “up-to-date” by a lot of people. Before you jump in and say you’ve got to have this style, you’ll want to consider a few factors. First, how is your hearing loss progressing? If you feel like your loss is slowly getting worse, you may not want to get a RIC, because it would be terrible if you bought this hearing aid and then a few years later it wasn’t strong enough, and you then had to shell out several thousand more dollars to buy a standard BTE hearing aid. Next, you have to take into account your lifestyle. If you work outdoors or sweat a lot, a RIC hearing aid is probably not a good option for you. The tubing is known to get brittle and crack, and that is an expensive repair. So in short, if you do have a severe loss (which is stable and not progressing), lead a moderately-active lifestyle, and don’t work outdoors a whole lot, the RIC hearing aid with a custom ear mold could be great for you.

picture of bte hearing aid

Standard BTE hearing aid

Standard BTE hearing aid
Standard BTE hearing aids are the most powerful hearing aids on the market. These hearing aids are characterized by their larger than average body, and the rubber tubing which leads into the ear canal and runs through a custom ear mold (as shown to the left). You’ve probably noticed right away that these hearing aids are bigger and more noticeable, but you really shouldn’t let that be a major factor when treating your hearing loss. You want a hearing aid that is going to provide you with all the power you will need (with no feedback), and that is what a BTE hearing aid will do. All manufacturers built BTE hearing aids, and the most powerful BTEs in their respective product families will usually have be called something along the lines of “Super Power BTE” or “Power Plus BTE”- you get the point.

In short, the best hearing aid for your severe hearing loss will vary depending on the factors listed above, and all of these issues and more should be discussed with your hearing health care provider after a thorough hearing test is conducted.

If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.

Jeff Hall Jeff Hall Jeff is a California licensed hearing aid dispenser and the President of ZipHearing- one of the largest discount hearing aid suppliers in the United States. Jeff lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and young daughter. You can learn more about hearing aids and watch Jeff on ZipHearing's Youtube channel.

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