Technology has advanced so much in recent years that there is barely such a thing as a bad digital hearing aid, providing it is programmed effectively and accurately, to best suit your hearing loss. Common-sense however, should tell you that wild promises in magazines or on the internet about ‘wonder’ hearing aids for low prices are to be taken with a pinch of salt.
What is best for you will depend on a number of factors:
The type and degree of your hearing loss is only one factor. Another is inevitably cost. All manufacturers produce hearing aids for different budgets - some give more than others at different price points and we are happy to help you choose the most appropriate for you.
For most people, it’s the wearer’s lifestyle that will influence what technology will be the most effective, including what other media you wish to interact with via your hearing aids, e.g. television, mobile telephone, tablets etc. It will also depend on where you want to hear – at home, in meetings, in church, theatre and so on.
This is why the social butterfly with a mild hearing loss may actually require more technology than someone who spends a lot of time at home with a more severe hearing loss.
Overview: A technologically advanced Swiss company that processes sound in a genuinely different way from every other company.
Pros: Produce a very natural listening experience that is often most appropriate for first time hearing aids wearers, especially where low frequency hearing remains relatively unaffected. Stylish design, with a lot of technology for your money at entry level.
Cons: Not the best at delivering power; if the hearing loss requires this, there are better option available with other manufacturers.
Overview: This Danish firm is probably the most innovative of all, with a number of ‘firsts’ to their name e.g. first to produce ‘open fit’ hearing aids; first ever ‘made for iPhone’ hearing aids; and now, the first ever hearing aid to place a microphone in the ear canal itself: ‘Resound One’
Pros: Extremely good app for smartphones. Gives the wearer a lot of control and even includes a geo-tagging system to automatically remember the settings you prefer in your favourite café. Also produce exceptionally good power instruments for severe hearing loss.
Cons: Few, although the flagship rechargeable product doesn’t have a telecoil (for use in public buildings with ‘loop systems’), so if you want that then you have to stick with the battery powered version.
Overview: Another Danish firm which stole a march on the competition three years ago by producing what is arguably the best hearing aid on the market at dealing with the dreaded ‘background noise’, the Opn1, now upgraded to the OpnS1 which is available with Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.
Pros: If hearing in background noise is your biggest problem then it’s hard to beat the OpnS1; UK manufacturing plant is based in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, so usually capable of a quick turnaround.
Cons: Premium product so premium price (worth it if you can afford it though). Wax guards need more frequent changing than most, so not necessarily the best option if dexterity is an issue. The ‘telecoil’ option not available with ‘in the ear’ models – an oversight in my humble opinion.
Overview: Another Swiss manufacturer which is exceptionally good at marketing. First to produce made for Android hearing aids.
If you go to Boots Hearing they will probably recommend Phonak, because Boots Hearing is only part-owned by Boots, the other part is owned by the parent company of… you guessed it, Phonak. Buyer beware!
Pros: Robust and very clear connection when streaming from smart phones.
Cons: Rechargeable technology uses a physical connection that can be difficult to insert/remove for those with dexterity issues (most others use the induction charging method that avoids this).
Overview: A Singapore company recently merged with Widex (see below) to create a major player, so future R&D budget should be very healthy.
Pros Very physically robust hearing aids that will stand up to more abuse than most, so a good option if you’re the clumsy type! Great wind noise suppression makes them a great option for outdoor pursuits.
Cons Not the most attractive looking instruments. Traded too long on the fact that they used to be Siemens hearing aids. Perhaps the merger with Widex will bring fresh design.
Overview: An American brand with a more natural, less ‘processed’ sound than ever before. Revolutionary technology available across the full range of styles, and world class service, Starkey is fast becoming the provider of choice for the majority of hearing losses.
Pros: Starkey produced the world’s first hearing aid with motion sensors; and the first rechargeable ‘in the ear’ hearing aids.
Also, the smartphone app for controlling the hearing aids (using Bluetooth) is the most comprehensive on the market - it can even translate languages!
Didn’t always have the best reliability or service, however the last year or two has seen a lot of new faces and a definite change of culture at their UK office in Stockport. So much so, that it’s actually difficult to think of any obvious ‘cons’ these days.
Overview: A Canadian manufacturer that has a real eye for design and has won awards for their styling.
Pros: Several, produce rechargeable technology that will also stream to Android and iPhones and rechargeable Behind The Ear (BTE) options for severe hearing losses.
Very good option for first time wearers with hearing loss across the frequency range, since initial settings can start lower than most to assist the rehabilitation process.
Cons: Others offer more at top and bottom of the price range than some competitors.
Overview: Another Danish company with a claim on the first hearing aids with ‘machine learning’ i.e. the embedded Artificial Intelligence will learn your listening environments and adjust accordingly. Recently ‘merged’ (really a Widex takeover) with Sivantos to become WS audiology, though parent company claims brands will share R&D yet remain distinct.
Pros: If you’ve worn Widex before you’ll know the Widex sound is ‘warmer’ than most, and you might reckon everything else sounds too ‘processed’ or ‘tinny’.
Cons: More expensive than most and not always obvious why, especially when previous generation of instruments had problems with feedback (whistling). Have they resolved this with most recent products? Only time will tell.