Open Fit Hearing Aids Explained: Styles, Pros and Cons

January 6, 2024
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Written by
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Sarow is a practicing clinical audiologist and serves as Audiology Lead for Soundly. Her expertise and experience span topics including tinnitus, cochlear implants, hearing aid technology, and hearing testing. She holds a doctoral degree in audiology from the University of Iowa. During her residency at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sarow was inspired by the three-tiered, patient-centered approach, incorporating clinical work, teaching and research.

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As an audiologist with experience fitting a wide range of hearing aids, open fit hearing aids are one tool in the toolbox. These hearing aids are very popular among patients with normal low frequency hearing and patients on the lower end of the hearing loss spectrum. 

However, they're not the right option for everyone and come with their own list of pros and cons. In this article, I will explain what open-fit hearing aids are, their pros and cons, and the different styles that exist.

What is an Open Fit Hearing Aid?

An open-fit hearing aid is a type of receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) or behind-the-ear hearing aid that is fit with an open-style dome tip. 

The difference is in where the speaker (or receiver) is located. A RIC hearing aid places the receiver directly in the ear, while a BTE attaches to the hearing aid and funnels the sound through a slim tube and dome tip. What sets it apart is its unique design that permits a certain amount of low-frequency sound to leak out. This feature minimizes the occlusion effect, a common problem associated with more closed-fit hearing aids where users with normal low-frequency hearing may hear their own voice as overly loud or distorted. Primarily, this style of hearing aid caters to individuals with normal low-frequency hearing but require some degree of amplification in the high frequencies. Thus, open-fit hearing aids offer a more natural listening experience, especially for those whose hearing loss is predominantly in the higher frequency range.

Open dome tips will look slightly different depending on the manufacturer but have vents or holds in the dome that allow sound through. Read more about earmolds and domes here.

Pros of Open Fit Hearing Aids

  • Natural sound quality: As mentioned before, open-fit hearing aids allow for a more natural listening experience by reducing the occlusion effect.
  • Discreet design: Open-fit hearing aids are usually small in size and have a sleek design that makes them less noticeable when worn.
  • Comfortable fit: The open dome tip provides good ventilation and prevents the feeling of fullness in the ear, making it more comfortable for extended wear.
  • Immediate fit: There is no need to wait for a custom earmold to come back, as dome tips offer an immediate fit and come in a range of sizes.
  • Cost savings: some clinics may charge an additional fee for an earmold.

Cons of Open Fit Hearing Aids

Despite their many advantages, open-fit hearing aids are not suitable for everyone. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Insufficient Amplification: Patients with a steep sloping loss, flat hearing loss, or more than a mild hearing loss may find that open-fit hearing aids do not provide enough amplification. This means that they might struggle to hear clearly, especially in environments with a lot of background noise.
  • Limited Directional Microphone Control: Open fit hearing aids naturally allow more outside sound into your ear canal which gives the device less control over what you hear. 
  • Less Comfort and Retention: An earmold will always provide a more customized fit than a dome tip. An earmold has the best retention options and can be comfortably fit to the shape of your ear. While the different size dome tips work for most ears, they aren't the right fit for everyone.

Consult a Hearing Care Professional

If you're unsure whether open-fit hearing aids are the right solution for your hearing loss, consulting with a hearing care professional can be of immense help. They have the expertise to assess your hearing condition and lifestyle, and can provide more detailed information on the suitability of open-fit hearing aids based on your specific needs. 

They can also guide you through other potential hearing aid options and assist in making an informed decision about your hearing care. Always remember, the best hearing aid for you is the one that meets your hearing needs, fits your lifestyle, and is comfortable to wear.

Best Hearing Aids With Open Fit Options 

Open-fit hearing aids are available in different styles to suit the aesthetic preferences of the wearer. Let's look at some of the most popular options today:

1) ReSound Nexia: Provides a sleek, modern design with wireless connectivity to Smartphones and other devices. ReSound's Auracast-compatible device offers the latest technology and can be set up with an open fit.

Soundly team reviewing NEXIA hearing aids
ReSound NEXIA
First Hearing Aid With Auracast

ReSound NEXIA

ReSound NEXIA

As Low As $3,198 / pair
Listen to a demo
pause
Behind the Ear
Bluetooth
Professional Fitting
Rechargeable

ReSound unveiled NEXIA in October 2023. If you’ve read our past reviews, you might know that ReSound is a regular innovator in the hearing category.

The brand was the first to partner with Apple for Bluetooth streaming back in 2013. In 2022, ReSound released an impressive algorithm update with improved beam-forming tech that boasted a 150% improvement in background noise.

ReSound is also the only manufacturer that places a microphone inside the ear to use the natural shape of the pinna to sort out background noise. Those popular features will remain with ReSound NEXIA with some exciting additions.

The first is a visible reduction in size. Impressively, NEXIA maintains a 30-hour battery life while cutting 25% off the overall size—big thumbs up from us.

The second big announcement is that NEXIA has an updated Bluetooth capability that allows Auracast streaming in public places. If you aren’t familiar with Auracast, check out our guide to the topic here.

ReSound is among the best in the industry at separating speech and noise in a background situation. Our lead audiologist recently put NEXIA in a test box and found the hearing aids could consistently provide up to 8-10 dB of background noise reduction.

ReSound NEXIA is on most of our shortlists for the best premium, receiver-in-canal hearing aids on the market.

  • Overall notes: ReSound NEXIA is an all around excellent product with an innovative approach to microphones and one of the smallest form factors in the industry. ReSound NEXIA has strong Bluetooth connection that now boasts Auracast compatibility.
  • Price: The national average price for ReSound NEXIA is $7,410 per pair. In our price research we've found some national providers with prices as low as $3,198/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth with hands-free calling for iPhone and iPad, Small behind the ear style
  • What audiologists say: “ReSound offers elegant design and good (if not elite) sound quality. These hearing aids are high quality and reliable.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
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Pros

Great for background noise management

Auracast compatible

Small form factor and an optional 3rd microphone in the ear

Cons

More expensive compared to direct to consumer and OTC options


NEXIA's in-ear M&RIE microphone is a bit larger and can be uncomfortable for some

Get the full ReSound NEXIA breakdown 👉
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2) Phonak Audeo Lumity: Offers improved speech understanding in noise and allows for hands-free phone calls through Bluetooth technology.

Phonak Audéo Lumity
Best Bluetooth Connection

Phonak Audéo Lumity

Phonak Audéo Lumity

As low as $3,198 / pair
Behind the Ear
Professional Fitting
Bluetooth
Rechargeable

Phonak Lumity hearing aids are new in August 2022 and replace the world's most popular hearing aid (Audéo Paradise).

Lumity get’s top marks from audiologists for stable Bluetooth connection, precise customization and impressive accessories like the Phonak Roger Pen.

Think of this hearing aid as the Mercedes level. High-end, built by the world's largest hearing company and packed with all the tech you could want.

  • Overall Notes: Audéo Lumity is the #1 hearing aid on the market by sales volume. It offers best-in-class Bluetooth streaming, powerful sound algorithms, remote care, and an innovative ear vent. If you can swing the cost for this premium device, chances are that you'll be very happy.
  • Price: The national average price for Phonak Lumity is $6,213 per pair. In my price research I found two larger providers who offer lower prices starting at $3,195/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth and hands-free calling, behind the ear style, motion sensors
  • What audiologists say: “Our patients say that the sound is clear and crisp, while maintaining natural sound quality. Patients also love the unique ability to pair with almost any cell phone and take calls hands-free.” - Garrett Thompson, AuD
Pros

Top of the line customization, Bluetooth connection and rechargeable batteries

Enhanced background noise reduction

Highly water-resistant option available for active lifestyles

Cons

Audeo Lumity is a premium product with an average price of $3,198 - $7,000 per pair

Phonak manages sound quality in a way that can lead to a "closed off" feeling compared to Oticon or ReSound's more open sound quality

Get the full Phonak Lumity breakdown 👉
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3) Widex Moment SHEER:  Utilizes AI and machine learning to provide a personalized listening experience in real-time. It also offers the option for wireless streaming and hands-free calling.

Widex Moment Sheer Review
Widex Moment Sheer
Fastest Sound Processing

Widex Moment Sheer

Widex Moment Sheer

$2,798 - $4,598 / pair
Behind the Ear
Bluetooth
Professional Fitting
Rechargeable

Widex Moment Sheer was introduced in September 2022. The new line of hearing aids is focused less on extra features like fitness tracking or transcription and more on sound quality. Customers who try Widex often stay with the brand for decades. Widex Moment Sheer has the fastest sound processing among all hearing aids in the industry. The reduction in delay gives the brand a leg up when it comes to sound quality and music fidelity.


Widex Moment Sheer is also often considered the leader among receiver-in-canal hearing aids for tinnitus. The brand's SoundRelax program streams fractal sounds into your hearing aids to reduce buzzing and ringing.

  • Overall notes: Widex Moment Sheer goes toe-to-toe with prescription leaders in the category. The perfect candidate for Widex wants care through a local hearing professional, natural external music quality and natural sound.
  • Price: The national average price for Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids is around $7,200 per pair. We've found some national providers with prices as low as $3,198/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth, Behind The Ear Style
Pros

Focused on sound quality, delivering clear sound with the lowest delay in the industry.

Includes industry leading tinnitus features.

Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids come with rechargeable batteries and Bluetooth streaming capabilities.

One of The Smallest RIC products on the market.

Cons

Only sold through local clinics.

Remote adjustments require an additional accessory.

Widex offers a premium product at a premium price that may be out of budget for some.

Get Widex Moment Sheer Details Here 👉
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4) Oticon Real: Uses a deep neural network algorithm to constantly monitor and adapt to the environment, providing natural sound quality and speech understanding.

Man wearing Oticon hearing aids
Oticon Real
Best for Natural Sound

Oticon Real

Oticon Real

As low as $3,198 / pair
Behind the Ear
Bluetooth
Professional Fitting
Rechargeable

Oticon Real was released in February 2023 and is positioned to become one of the most popular hearing aids in the world.

This hearing aid is rechargeable offers hands-free calling via iPhone and audio streaming via Android.

What makes the Oticon special is the way the hearing aids handle sound. While most hearing aids suppress background noises and prioritize only voice, Oticon Real gives the brain a more natural, full sound landscape.

Oticon used a 360 spherical microphone to capture sounds from 12 million real-life situations to achieve this new approach. Their new Oticon Real model also has some built-in features to increase listening comfort in the presence of intrusive sounds like dog barking or doorbells ringing.

  • Overall notes: Oticon Real is an undisputed leader among top-tier hearing aids. If you are attracted to the idea of hearing more of the sounds around you vs. solely focusing on voices, this product is a great choice.
  • Price: The national average price for Oticon Real is $6,330 per pair. In my price research I found some national providers with prices as low as $3,198/pair. Click here for more on prices.
  • Features: Rechargeable, Bluetooth (not hands-free), Behind The Ear Style
  • What audiologists say: “Oticon is among the best. If you are looking for all-around, top-of-the-line technology, this is an excellent choice.” - Ramsay Poindexter, AuD
Pros

Open sound quality that many users prefer

Bluetooth streaming from Android and Apple devices

Offered with both rechargeable and disposable batteries

Cons

Oticon Real hearing aids start at $3,198 and can cost as much as $7,000 with walk in care

Oticon Real hearing aids require a visit to an in person audiologist and are not sold online

Get the full Oticon Real breakdown 👉
Learn More
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Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, finding the right hearing aid can feel like navigating a labyrinth, especially with the array of options available. Open-fit hearing aids stand out for their unique design and the natural sound quality they offer, making them a popular choice among individuals with normal low-frequency hearing but require some degree of amplification in the high frequencies. However, these devices are certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

They come with their limitations, making them unsuitable for some people. Hence, it's crucial to consult with a hearing care professional who can provide expert advice tailored to your specific hearing situation and lifestyle needs. Remember, the goal is to find a hearing aid that not only enhances your hearing but also aligns with your lifestyle and comfort. 

Various styles of open fit hearing aids are available in the market, each with their unique features catering to different preferences. Whether you need an immediate fit, a discreet design, or a device capable of connecting to your Smartphone, there is something for everyone.

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