Trying to find the best hearing aid for your needs can be more difficult than you might think. There are hundreds of different models to choose from and the technical jargon is usually beyond the understanding of the lay person. So which is the best hearing aid? Do I really need the best technology or would something less high tech be more suitable? How much is a fair price to pay? These are the questions we aim to answer
There are around 8 major hearing aid manufacturers:
Phonak, Unitron, Resound, Widex, Oticon, Bernafon, Siemens and Starkey. There are some other smaller companies but they are relatively insignificant. It is important to understand that these companies are the manufacturers of the hearing aids, not the retailers. They create the technology but the products themselves are provided to the general public by retail organisations.
It would be unfair to say categorically that any individual hearing aid manufacturer is better than another. However, the audiological community certainly seems to favour some companies over others. As an analogy, many people believe that BMW cars are better than Skoda cars. This is relatively widely accepted as knowledge of cars and car manufacturers is commonplace. If, on the other hand, you are looking to purchase hearing aids, most people have no knowledge of hearing aid manufacturers. Are you being offered an Aston Martin or a Ford Fiesta? Perhaps you are very happy with your “Ford Fiesta” or have never tried an “Aston Martin”?
In the UK, many hearing aid retailers are owned totally or in part by a hearing aid manufacturer. This can make it pretty difficult to ascertain a true preference for a particular brand of hearing instruments if one were to ask the hearing aid audiologists themselves. The hearing aid audiologist may feel obligated to recommend certain makes of hearing aids or simply may not have that brand of hearing aids on his or her price list. Perhaps the most reliable indicator as to which are the “hearing instruments of choice” for the hearing care professional is to ask truly independent hearing aid dispensers. These are hearing aid audiologists that have no allegiance to any manufacturer and can provide any brand or model without prejudice.
Without taking an opinion poll on this, we can report that the majority of independent hearing aid audiologists in the UK would recommend Phonak hearing aids more often than any other hearing aid manufacturer. Phonak are the only Swiss manufacturer and are owned by the holding company Sonova. Sonova also own the hearing aid manufacturer Unitron. So what is it that makes Phonak so popular within the private hearing aid market? Basically their products seem to tick every box – here’s a few of them:
- Excellent sound quality – clients remark that they hear clearly and sound natural.
- Technical innovation – they are usually amongst the first to bring new innovations to market.
- Choice – Phonak offer a huge range of hearing instruments to suit all budgets and requirements.
- Reliability – they simply don’t seem to suffer the technical hitches that other companies do.
Prices for phonak hearing aids start at around £500 per hearing aid and go up to around £1500. Most people require 2 hearing aids so these prices should be doubled where necessary. If you’re paying any more than this then you’re probably paying over the odds. The difference between the different models across the price spectrum relates to the technology contained within each hearing aid. Cosmetic appearance and severity of hearing loss generally bears little or no relation to the price. Bearing this in mind, the rule of thumb as to what level of technology you need is generally dictated by the client’s needs and expectations. If you really need them to provide the maximum benefit in a difficult situation like a restaurant then you should be looking at the higher levels of technology like the Phonak Ambra or Audeo S9 (sometime written in Roman numerals IX) .If you only need hearing improvement in relatively quiet situations then lower technology such as the Phonak Cassia or Audeo S 3 (S III) should be fine.
Other hearing aid manufacturers still offer good hearing aids and we believe that every manufacturer brings something different to the table. There are specific technologies and features that even the mighty Phonak do not produce so it is important that as a prospective client, you are presented with the widest choice possible. There are indeed no “bad” hearing aid manufacturers. Close behind Phonak are the American company Starkey who have, in recent years, produced some outstanding and very innovative hearing instruments. One should also mention the Danish companies GN Resound, Widex and Oticon who are also snapping at Phonak’s heels. You may be surprised to learn that Siemens are perhaps the least popular choice for the discerning independent hearing aid audiologist. This may be down to the fact that they are the only hearing aid manufacturer that is not actually dedicated to just the audiological field.
Hearing Aid UK provides free, impartial advice on all aspects of hearing aids. We are not owned wholly or partially by any manufacturer and can offer the whole range of commercially available hearing instruments. We operate a free advice line 0800 5677621 which is open 12 hours a day – 7 days a week.