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  • Writer's pictureDavid Engelman

Which Hearing Aid is Best? Considering the Manufacturer

Updated: Jan 22

People working for a company, such as a hearing aid manufacturer.

In our previous two articles in our "Which Hearing Aid is Best?" series, we looked at hearing aid style, as well as the technology level of hearing aids. The final option to consider before being fitted with hearing aids is the manufacturer, which is the company or “brand” that makes the hearing aid. If you’ve been searching hearing aids online, you’ll probably come across many different brand names. Some of the manufacturers that you may encounter are (in alphabetical order): Bernafon, Oticon, Phonak, Resound, Signia, Starkey, Unitron, and Widex. And that’s by no means an exhaustive list. The question that begs to be asked is: Which one is best? Who makes the best hearing aids?

This is, dare I say, probably the least important factor to consider for hearing aids, at least from the patient’s perspective. The truth is, there isn’t really one hearing aid manufacturer that is objectively better than another. The major hearing aid manufacturers all produce excellent, high-quality devices. They are constantly researching and developing new technologies to improve outcomes and benefit to the patient. Sometimes a certain combination of features and styles will only be available with a specific brand, and that may lead an audiologist to recommend one manufacturer over another for their patient. However, the manufacturers are all in fierce competition with each other. So, if one brand releases a certain new feature or style of hearing aid, the other brands will probably follow suit soon enough.

Where the manufacturers do often differ is their philosophy and approach to how a hearing aid should work. Hearing aids are very advanced, high-tech instruments. Contrary to popular belief, they do not simply make sounds "louder". Hearing aids have computer chips built into them and make use of complex signal processing algorithms to analyse all the sound that enters the hearing aid. This can allow the hearing aid, for example, to focus more on a conversation, rather than background noise. Just exactly how these algorithms work will vary by manufacturer, with some manufacturers, for example, aiming to keep the soundscape as “natural” as possible, while other manufacturers may be aiming to provide more listening support to the patient, and thus “manipulating” the soundscape to the patient’s benefit. These differences in approach can sometimes lead to a perceived difference in sound quality to the patient, where some people may prefer one over the other. These preferences can be highly individual and are usually more relevant when someone has already been wearing hearing aids with a specific manufacturer for a long time. That is because that person’s brain will have adapted to the sound quality of that brand’s hearing aids, and they may have a harder time adjusting to a different brand’s sound quality.

Most audiologists will have two or three manufacturers (usually based on their own familiarity with those products and previous positive experiences) that they consistently offer, with perhaps one or two other manufacturers that they occasionally offer as required. This will usually allow for more than enough choice to cover all possible bases and hearing needs. Working with only a few select manufacturers allows the audiologist to focus on, and be experts in, those manufacturers’ key products and features, while not spreading themselves too thin. They’ll usually be aware of what else is available with other manufacturers too, so, if necessary, these could be considered if necessary. This would particularly be the case if you are seeing an independent audiologist, as that means they are not locked into a contract to work almost exclusively with one brand.

I would argue that most patients can probably do very well with just about any hearing aid manufacturer, provided the hearing aids have been prescribed and fitted appropriately by a qualified professional. You may have heard of a friend or family member that has done well with a specific brand, and there’s nothing wrong with seeking that manufacturer out when looking for hearing aids. But I would advise my patients to keep an open mind to other manufacturers as well if this is recommended for them.

If you'd like to learn more about the kind of hearing care we provide for our patients at Finchley Hearing, please explore our website and feel free to get in touch with any questions.

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