Hearing aids are life-changing devices that amplify sounds for people with hearing loss. Although most people with severe hearing loss are older, even young people can benefit from the technology of hearing aids. Today's top-rated hearing aids - produced by brands such as Starkey, Phonak, Unitron and Oticon - are much more refined than the hearing aids of yesteryear. Before, hearing aids reproduced all sounds, which could make wearing these instruments somewhat unpleasant. Now, though, hearing aids amplify voices and other important sounds while minimizing white noise. If you know someone who wears a hearing aid, then you're probably aware of the differences they can make. Read on to learn more about the various types of hearing aids on today's market.

The different styles of hearing aids are named based on how each device is worn in the ear. The most popular hearing aids are completely-in-the-canal hearing aids; these sit completely in the ear canal, making them incredibly difficult to see. In addition, these devices are molded to the shape of the ear, which means they're very comfortable and almost unnoticeable to wearers. The open-fit style is another small hearing aid, and this style fits behind the ear and mostly out of site. An in-the-canal hearing aid also sits mostly in the canal, making it harder to see. People tend to like these options because they're seamless and appear almost natural from a distance.

The larger styles of hearing aids are half-shell, in-the-ear-full-shell and behind-the-ear models. These hearing aids sit either in the bowl of the ear, or they hook over the top of the ear, or they wrap around behind the ear. While these models aren't as visually pleasing as smaller hearing aids, they are significantly more powerful and helpful for people who have suffered severe hearing loss. The larger case can be easier for wearers with dexterity considerations.

So, which brands of hearing aids are the best? The top three brands according to many reviewers are Phonak, Unitron and Oticon. Phonak has been in the acoustics business for more than 60 years, and this brand includes several styles of high-performance hearing aids that provide clarity even in cluttered noise environments. Then there's Unitron, which has been designing listening aids for the past 50 years and has roughly 300 hearing centers nationwide. Oticon has been around the longest - 110 years, making it the world's oldest hearing aid producer - yet this company remains a leader in hearing aid innovations and technology. Each of these top three hearing aid brands offers free trails with its devices, so people can attempt trial-and-error to find the devices that best fit their needs.

Talk to an audiologist if you feel you may be in need of a hearing aid. Only with a comprehensive listening test can you be sure whether you've suffered sufficient hearing loss. If you do need a hearing aid, chances are you can find a style that allows you to enjoy all the sounds of living.