What to Consider When Comparing Hearing Aid Brands
October 17, 2017
First of all, there is no “best” hearing aid brand. There are many excellent companies from which to choose, though. I will briefly cover these manufacturers: Siemens, Phonak, ReSound, Sonic Innovations, Starkey, Widex, and Oticon. All manufacturers have numerous models, several levels of technology, and variable price points. Some are slightly less expensive than others, but overall, these seven manufacturers make the highest quality instruments available today.
Siemens is one of the world’s largest companies, headquartered in Germany, with US operations based in New Jersey. Siemens Hearing offers durable, high-quality hearing aids with cutting edge bluetooth and binaural (“wireless ear-to-ear system”) technology. A battery recharging system and tinnitus management options are also part of their offerings. Siemens also owns Rexton and provides the technology for Miracle Ear hearing aids, which are sold at franchises.
Phonak is a hearing aid manufacturer based in Zurich, Switzerland with US operations based in Illinois. This company is known for cutting-edge technology and style. Phonak has set a high standard for innovation, performance, and miniaturization. It is owned by Sonova Holding AG who also owns Unitron Hearing. Unitron generally offers the same core technologies as Phonak but with fewer features and at slightly lower prices.
ReSound is based in Denmark and has been making hearing aids for nearly 70 years. US operations are based in Minnesota. ReSound has been responsible for a number of hearing industry firsts, including innovations in digital technology, compression, feedback suppression, and the first open-ear hearing aids, which all other companies eventually adopted. They offer a variety of accessories which make connections to other electronic devices much more convenient.
Sonic Innovations is a relative newcomer, in business since 1997. They offer very small and discreet products with some original approaches to technology. Sonic hasn’t developed any really new technology recently, but continues to be a favorite among audiologists. Their US operations are based in New Jersey.
Starkey was a bit of a late entrant into the more advanced digital technologies, but now offers state-of-the-art feedback cancellation and noise management. Starkey is a US company based in Minneapolis and also owns Audibel, Nu-Ear, and Micro-Tech. Starkey is also affiliated with the world’s largest hearing aid charity, the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
Widex is a family owned company, founded in 1956 in Denmark. US operations are headquartered in New York. Widex claims to be the inventor of digital hearing aid technology, but many companies came out with digital hearing aids around the same time, in the late 1990s. Widex continues to be cutting edge with design, aesthetics, and research and development.
Oticon is based in Denmark, with US headquarters in New Jersey. Oticon was influential in the advancement of receiver-in-canal instruments. They continue to offer high-quality, yet quite expensive, hearing aids. Their philosophy is based on preserving the natural characteristics of speech while keeping power consumption and battery size to a minimum.
When you start shopping for hearing aids, remember that one of the most important choices will be which professional assists you. The knowledge and experience of the audiologist will affect how easily you transition and adjust to amplification. Also, you must be an active participant in the adjustment process by clearly defining your motivation, hearing needs, lifestyle, and priorities. Any one of these manufacturers is a good choice, but one may offer the type of bluetooth connectivity you need better than another. If discreet design is a priority for you, a manufacturer providing the smallest instruments may be the right choice. If convenience is important, you might want to consider a manufacturer that offers rechargeable instruments or extended battery life. In the end, success with hearing aids is less based on manufacturer than on the motivation and diligence of both the patient and the audiologist.