5 Headphones That Can Make Day-to-Day Life Easier for the Hard of Hearing
Living with a hearing impairment can be difficult, to say the least. Sound plays such an important role in our society and life in general, that being even slightly numb to it can leave us feeling dislocated and lonely.
Hearing aids can, of course, help a great deal, but they’re not cheap, and some of us simply can’t afford them.
The only thing worse than having no help is there being help available that, for whatever reason, we can’t access, and that’s exactly what hearing aids are for some.
But here’s something you may not know...headphones can help a great deal too, and they’re much cheaper. You just have to find the right ones, which is where we come in.
We spent the last few weeks researching headphones, trying our hardest to find the best designs on the market for people with hearing impairments, and we’re happy to share our shortlist with you here today.
OUR TOP PICK
The Aeropex from AfterShokz are bone conduction headphones, meaning they transmit audio through your bone structure, circumnavigating the eardrum and canal, a lifesaver for those dealing with conductive hearing loss.
Thanks to their integrated microphones, they’re also a smart choice for those suffering from sensorineural hearing loss, as, paired with certain hearing aid apps, they’re capable of amplifying ambient noise.
Those same microphones imbue the Aeropex with noise-canceling capacities, ensuring any calls you take or songs you listen to remain crystal clear.
Resting just in front of the ears, they’re a sleek, fatigueless design suitable for the home, office, gym...you name it. They’re also incredibly lightweight, which makes them a comfortable prospect, although they’re not adjustable, so they won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.
They have an 8-hour battery life, so they’ll serve you well for a full workday, and the multi-control situated on the “earbud” makes for a truly streamlined listening experience.
- Bone Conduction - Audio bypasses conductive hearing issues.
- Integrated Microphones - Can either cancel or amplify ambient noise.
- 0.92oz - You’ll forget you’re wearing them.
- 8-Hour Battery Life - Full-day hearing helper.
- Non-Adjustable - Not comfortable for everyone.
BeHear designed their NOW headphones specifically as a hearing enhancer that can be used in place of pricey hearing aids, but that’s not to say they can’t be used as regular earbuds.
Boasting a gain control that boosts ambient noise by as much as 42dBA, they’re perfect for those enduring mild to moderate hearing loss.
Their self-tuning functionality utilizes the results of a hearing test to create a personalized profile, enabling them to tailor an audio output to your ears, so you get precisely the auditory assistance you require.
The EasyListen feature is a godsend when taking calls, slowing down speech to give you the best possible chance of hearing everything, a mode that works wonderfully in conjunction with NOW’s noise-canceling abilities.
We’d also like to shine a light on the ListenThrough feature that allows you to blend ambient noise with the music you’re listening to, so you can enjoy some tunes while remaining aware of your environment.
If we’re being picky, the Bluetooth connectivity is a little dicey, but we’re willing to let it slide considering the 12-hour battery life and comfortable in-ear fit.
- PSAP - Amplifies ambient noise.
- Advanced Hearing Assistance - EasyListen and ListenThrough modes are great.
- Noise Cancelling - Helps to keep volume at a safe level.
- Self Tuning - Tailors audio output to your ears.
- 12-Hour Battery Life - All-day assistance.
- Bluetooth - Inconsistent connection.
- Price - More affordable than hearing aids, but not cheap.
These Nuraphone headphones one-up the NOW’s self-tuning abilities by providing an automatic reading of your hearing in a minute flat, crafting a custom audio output to suit your needs.
An ingenious hybrid design, the Nurphone is a pair of over-ear and in-ear headphones rolled into one, providing ultimate noise isolation. Combine that with their active noise-canceling properties, and you get pristine audio clarity without cranking the volume to dangerous levels.
The easy-to-use on-ear controls offer full access to a wealth of features, including Social Mode that pipes in ambient audio, keeping you informed of your surroundings.
Lasting a whopping 20 hours, the battery is a piece of art. It’s just ironic that they’re one of the least comfortable pairs of headphones on the list, but we guess that’s the price you pay for unparalleled noise isolation and pure bass frequency power.
- 20-Hour Battery Life - True all-day support.
- Audio Quality - Best on the list.
- Auto Tuning - Creates a personalized hearing profile in 60 seconds.
- Noise Cancellation - Unbeatable.
- Social Mode - Pipes in ambient audio.
- Fit - Not as comfortable as we’d like.
- Price - You may have to smash your piggy bank.
Have you and a significant other ever fallen out over TV volume? You need it louder, while they’re covering their ears and giving you daggers. Well, with the RS 175 RF, that’s no longer an issue.
These headphones connect wirelessly to a transmitter from up to 100 feet away, which in turn links the headphones to your TV, giving you a customized audio feed without affecting the loudspeakers of your set. The sound quality is impeccable, too.
The transmitter also doubles as a charging station which is a nice touch, and it looks quite sleek and neutral, so you don't have to worry about it jarring with the aesthetics of your room.
In terms of design, they’re over-ear-style headphones decked with plush leatherette cup cushions, isolating the audio output and keeping them feeling cozy at all times.
Oh, and did we mention that they have an 18-hour battery life? That’s one heck of a Netflix binge you’ve got coming your way!
- 18-Hour Battery Life - Won’t die on you during a pivotal moment in your show.
- Noise Isolating - Prevents noise bleed for maximum clarity.
- Compatible with TV - Set custom volumes without aggravating co-watchers.
- Plush Ear Cup Padding - Very comfortable
- No Self Tuning - You can adjust the mix manually, though.
The Pathfinder isn’t exactly a luxurious headphone, but it’s budget-friendly, and it might be just the ticket for a music lover with one out-of-action ear.
Using stereo-to-mono isolation technology, the Pathfinder converts panned audio into a true mono signal, so you never miss a beat of your favorite records when you’re throwing shapes around your living room and down the street.
The single driver conveys all the audio information without any perceivable dip in quality, and the nylon-reinforced TPU cable is as tough as they come, so you can expect a long service life out of this diminutive dynamo.
As a bog-standard earbud design, it’s not the most comfortable headphone in the world, but as long as you’re only using it to listen to a record or two at a time, it’s a non-issue.
- Mono Conversion - Mixes stereo channels together, so you get the full audio picture.
- Reinforced Cable - Can roll with the punches.
- Price - Great value for money.
- Fit - Causes fatigue after an hour or so.
- Features - No advanced features for the hearing impaired.
Best Headphones for the Hearing Impaired Buying Guide
The problem we’re faced with when shopping around for headphones is figuring out what it is that makes a pair good for the hearing impaired.
Well, not to worry. We’ve done the legwork, and compiled all our key findings into this brief yet informative buyer’s guide. Below you’ll find all the information you need to find the perfect pair of headphones for hearing assistance.
Types of Headphones for Hearing Impairments
There are two main types of headphones that can be instrumental in helping the hard of hearing engage with their surroundings or simply enjoy their favorite music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
PSAP stands for Personal Sound Amplification Products. PSAP headphones are built with little amplifiers inside. The amplifiers have a gain control that allows you to raise the volume of noise traveling through them from a media device or from your surroundings.
One thing to bear in mind, though, is that the amps in these headphones can pump out some serious volume, so it’s important you keep tabs on the gain control in order to prevent further deterioration of your hearing. 85dBA should be your limit for long scale use, but sticking at 60dBA is a much safer option.
Bone Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction headphones transmit audio through your skull using vibrations. These vibrations dance their way directly into your inner ear.
These kinds of headphones are fantastic for sufferers of conductive hearing loss, as affected areas of the middle and inner ear are completely bypassed.
Features to Look Out For in Headphones for the Hearing Impaired
When it comes to headphones for the hearing impaired, feature sets are everything, so let’s discuss exactly what you should be keeping an eye out for.
Mono audio means that all audio comes through both headphones, as opposed to stereo, which splits audio into two channels.
As someone might be deaf in only one ear, the panning from right to left headphones can be a little irritating and disorienting, which is why a mono setup is a much better option.
Most modern headphones are stereo, but there are mono designs out there. Alternatively, choose a pair of stereo headphones that give you the option of mono playback.
Advanced Mixing and Sound Profiles
Some headphones offer flexible mixing, usually via an app or some sort of desktop software. This allows you to adjust the sound profile of the audio output to suit your particular wants and needs.
Say your perception of bass frequencies has faded, but you hear mids and trebles quite clearly, you can bring the bass up in the mix, creating a much more balanced sound to your ear.
As well as a flexible mixing interface, some headphones allow you to adjust the balance of volume in the left and right cup or earbud, which is, of course, a godsend for those with one ear stronger than the other. It means you don’t have to absolutely blast your better ear in order to hear normally with your other.
Personalized tuning can be taken a step further with hearing tests, or even hypersensitive microphones that measure the way your ears react to volumes and frequencies, automatically creating a listener profile tailored to each ear.
When you’re kicking back and listening to a few of your favorite records, your impairment has already forced you to crank the volume, yet noise traveling through the headphones from your surroundings can still make it hard to hear.
Turning the volume up even further can be risky. It makes much more sense to block those extraneous noises from entering your headphones, and that’s exactly what noise cancellation does.
There are two forms of noise-canceling tech to choose from…
Passive Noise Isolation
Passive noise isolation relies on the design and materials of a pair of headphones. The idea is that the ear cups physically prevent noise from your surroundings from reaching your ears, while simultaneously preventing audio from leaking out.
Passive noise-isolating headphones are generally considered the healthier option, as they don't use combative soundwaves to snuff out ambient noises.
Active Noise Cancellation
Active noise-canceling is a sort of soundwave warfare. These kinds of headphones contain tiny microphones that detect ambient audio interruptions, then emit their own soundwave in order to overwhelm them.
This soundwave war can cause build-ups of pressure within the ear cup that can feel like you’re in an ascending airplane or driving through a long tunnel. In light of this, they can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, which brings us to our next point.
Comfort and Design
If you plan on using headphones to improve your ambient hearing, it stands to reason that you’re going to be wearing them longer than the average audiophile, which means comfort is king!
Over-ear headphones surround your ears. Any ear cups need to be nice and roomy — contact with your ear will cause fatigue. What’s more, if you plan on wearing behind-ear hearing aids beneath your headphones, you’ll need to supersize those ear cups.
An uber-soft cup lining is non-negotiable, and an adjustable headband wouldn’t go amiss either. It’s also a good idea to choose a lightweight product, as a heavy pair of headphones will take their toll on your head and neck.
On-ear headphones sit on top of the ears, so if the padding isn’t soft enough, you’ll fatigue quite quickly. As they make direct contact with the ear, they’re only suitable for pairing with in-canal hearing aids.
As long as you don’t wear hearing aids, earbuds are a viable option, but cheaper variants can feel intrusive and uncomfortable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Got time for a quick FAQ section before we go our separate ways? Excellent!
Are noise-canceling headphones good for the hearing impaired?
Noise-canceling headphones are a fantastic way for the hearing impaired to enjoy music, podcasts, or TV shows without having to crank the volume to dangerous levels. Having said that, the pressure from the sound pulse of ANC technology can make these headphones quite uncomfortable for long-scale wearing.
Are there headphones that enhance hearing?
Yes, every single pair of headphones on this list can enhance someone’s ability to hear ambient or media sounds.
Can hard of hearing people use headphones?
People that are hard of hearing can absolutely wear headphones. In fact, they can be hugely beneficial to someone with a hearing impairment, which is why we wrote this article. As long as headphones don’t make contact with hearing aids, it’s all good.
Do bone conduction headphones damage your hearing?
A: While there are a number of reasons that bone conduction headphones are much safer than their typical air conduction counterparts, playing music at high volumes can still damage your hearing.
What happens when headphones touch hearing aids?
If a pair of headphones is too close to, or comes into contact with, a hearing aid, it can create a shrill feedback pitch similar to the noise created when a guitarist walks too close to their cranked amplifier. The rubbing of headphones against a hearing aid will also cause physical as well as auditory discomfort, so it’s best to keep them separate.
What is Live Listen?
A: Live Listen is a wonderful accessibility feature on iOS devices that utilizes the speaker on an iPhone to transmit ambient noise through headphones. It gives the hard of hearing more of an idea of what’s going on around them, helping to increase comfort, confidence, and safety.
Best Headphones for the Hearing Impaired — Summing Up
We know there’s no substitute for a finely tuned hearing aid, but these headphones do a damn good job of filling in for them in their absence.
Headphones are kind of like the porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You may have to try a few out before you find the ones that are just right for you, but, as they stand to make your life much easier, they’re absolutely worth the effort!