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CROS hearing aid guide: Are they right for you?

If you’re facing single-sided deafness, this is the hearing aid for you

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ruth Reisman

Writtenm by

Dr. Ruth Reisman

Updated:

May 10, 2024

Man having his ear examined by a doctor. Man having his ear examined by a doctor.

The 3 key takeaways

  • CROS hearing aids are built for unilateral hearing loss — This type of hearing loss occurs when one ear is mostly perfect while the other is almost deaf.
  • Always opt for prescription hearing aids — While over-the-counter options may be cheaper, custom prescription hearing aids are more likely to help since they’re tailored to your needs. Regardless of the type you choose, you should always visit the audiologist to get them adjusted before use.
  • Phonak and Signia have the best reputation — These two major prescription hearing aid manufacturers provide the most reliable options for CROS hearing aids.

What are CROS hearing aids?

CROS hearing aids compensate for unilateral hearing loss. In this instance, one ear can hear normally while the other ear is almost deaf. This type of hearing loss differs from most aging-related causes and may happen as a result of injury or illness such as Meniere’s disease.

How do CROS hearing aids work?

CROS hearing aids use different technology than the most commonly used hearing aids that are created to assist both ears.

Even though assistance is only needed for one ear, a CROS system works with two devices—one in each ear. CROS stands for “contralateral routing of off-side signal,” which describes the process in technical terms. A microphone picks up sound from the ear with the poor hearing and sends it wirelessly to a receiver in the better ear. This allows you to hear sounds from all directions.

Benefits of CROS hearing aids for unilateral hearing loss

Directional hearing is the biggest challenge for unilateral hearing loss. If you can’t hear well out of your right ear, for instance, you might hear a conversation to your left, but miss a car coming in the street to the right. CROS hearing aids counteract this challenge by amplifying sounds in the direction of the ear with poor hearing and projecting it wirelessly to the ear that functions normally.

CROS hearing aids from reputable brands

Oticon CROS hearing aids

  • Model: Oticon CROS PX
  • Style: BTE
  • Battery: Rechargeable or disposable
  • Bluetooth: Yes

Oticon CROS PX allows you to multi-task by supporting external audio streaming while also amplifying conversations around you. These features make movie night more accessible since you can hear the TV and your friends and family at the same time. This technology, known as TwinLink, uses 2.4 gHz. Bluetooth.

The Oticon CROS PX is available in two models, the CROS PX miniRITE R (rechargeable) or Oticon CROS miniRITE T (non-rechargeable). While the rechargeable CROS PX miniRITE R lasts for 85-105 hours, the non rechargeable miniRITE T only lasts for about 26 hours.

Pros: 

  • Bluetooth functionality
  • Rechargeable and disposable options

Cons:

  • Relatively low battery life for non-rechargeable option

 

Phonak CROS Lumity

  • Model: Phonak CROS Lumity L-R
  • Style: BTE
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Bluetooth: Yes

The Phonak CROS Lumity pairs a microphone on your poor ear with a Audéo L-R/RT, Naída L-PR or Sky L-PR hearing aid on your better ear. This pairing gives you access to all of the technology features found in Phonak’s traditional hearing aids, including compatibility with the myPhonak app. This BTE style device also supports universal Bluetooth functionality, hands-free calling, and is compatible with Roger, a directional microphone sold separately.

However, all of these features do take a toll on the battery, which only lasts for about 12 hours before it’s time for a charge.

Pros: 

  • Compatible with myPhonak app
  • Universal Bluetooth functionality
  • Compatible with Roger microphone

Cons: 

  • Rechargeable battery only lasts for about 12 hours

 

Signia CROS hearing aids

  • Model:  Signia CROS Silk
  • Style: ITE
  • Battery:  Non-rechargeable
  • Bluetooth:  No

While Signia offers an impressive line of CROS in many different styles, the Signia CROS Silk model stands out as one of the only ITE style CROS hearing aids on the market. This device pairs with a Silk X hearing aid to be worn on your good ear. It’s so tiny it’s almost invisible, starkly contrasting with some of the bulky RIC and BTE models. The Silk X arrives practically ready-to-wear with four click sleeves, with one size almost guaranteed to fit your ears.

The small size may be a large price to pay, however; unlike the CROS Pure Charge&Go models, the CROS Silk doesn’t have Bluetooth functionality and relies on disposable batteries.

Pros: 

  •  One of the only ITE CROS hearing aids available
  • Comes with click sleeves for a ready-made custom fit

Cons: 

  • No Bluetooth
  • No rechargeable options

How do I know if CROS hearing aids are right for me?

Visiting an audiologist for a professional assessment is the best way to know if CROS hearing aids are right for you. If you have unilateral hearing loss with a clear “better” ear, a CROS system might be the best. Otherwise, if you have significant hearing loss on both sides, a BiCROS or regular hearing aid may be a better help.

CROS vs BiCROS hearing aids

While they function the same way, CROS hearing aids differ from BiCROS hearing aids in their intended purpose. BiCROS hearing aids are also meant for unilateral hearing loss. However, in these instances, the better ear is still affected by hearing loss at some level.

Frequently asked questions

What are the disadvantages of CROS hearing aids? 

CROS devices are the best hearing aid devices for unilateral hearing loss. However, they’re not perfect.  Since they project all sound into one ear, they can exacerbate directional problems. For instance, if someone is talking in your bad ear on the right, you’ll hear them, but only on your left.

How much do CROS hearing aids cost? 

While the exact price depends on the device, CROS hearing aids cost between $3,000 and $5,000 on average. The price range is about the same as regular hearing aids.

How well do CROS hearing aids work? 

When someone has unilateral hearing loss, they often can’t hear sounds coming from the side with their bad ear. CROS hearing aids help detect sounds that otherwise might be missed, but they unfortunately do not help distinguish where the noise came from since all sound is projected into one ear. This is the biggest drawback and probably the top reason CROS hearing aids don’t have higher success rates.

How is a CROS hearing aid different from other types of hearing aids? 

Most hearing aids are created to counteract hearing loss in both ears. CROS devices are specifically designed for unilateral hearing loss. Even though they function like BiCROS systems, the difference is that CROS devices are built to handle profound hearing loss in one ear by transmitting sounds to the good ear. BiCROS systems do the same thing, but are meant for individuals who have a mostly deaf ear and mild to moderate hearing loss on the other side as well.

Who is the ideal candidate for a CROS hearing aid? 

Someone who suffers from substantial one-sided hearing loss would benefit from a CROS hearing aid. This system uses a microphone to pick up sounds on the side of the poorly functioning ear and transmits the sounds to a receiver in the good ear.  Unilateral hearing loss may be caused by accidents, such as eardrum perforations, or illnesses such as Meniere’s disease.