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Truly independent…

We can prescribe from all major brands. Here’s why our independence benefits you.

Truly independent…

We can prescribe from all major brands.
Here’s why our independence benefits you.

Much as one might try to remain objective, I’m going to take the Hunter S Thompson approach and accept that it’s not possible to achieve that, because personal bias based on experience will always influence a writer. For that reason, I’ve decided to avoid diplomacy, because if you’re going to invest the money that hearing aids cost, then it’s only right that you know exactly what the audiologist fitting those hearing aids to you thinks about them. What follows is therefore only my opinion, with which others may disagree. It is an honest, experienced based opinion though and if you wish to question me on it then I’ll be happy to explain further.

The main thing to remember is that a good audiologist will recommend different manufacturers not just different models from the same supplier. They will also consider your lifestyle too. If your hearing maybe isn’t as bad as your partner’s but you are a social butterfly whereas they are a home bird, it’s likely that you will encounter more challenging listening environments, therefore you may actually require more sophisticated technology. As the saying goes: ‘horses for courses.’

Here’s the main ones we recommend from in alphabetical order…

Bernafon

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. A lot for your money at entry level.

Cons: Not the best at delivering power, so avoid if the hearing loss is severe across the full frequency range.

GN Hearing

An innovative Danish firm who have a number of ‘firsts’ to their name e.g. first to produce ‘open’ fit hearing aids; first ever ‘made for iPhone’ hearing aids.

Pros: Their technology is available across all different styles of hearing aids. Can now stream directly from Android devices too. Extremely good app for smartphones gives the user a lot of control and even includes a geotagging system to automatically remember the settings you prefer in your favourite café. Also produce exceptionally good power instruments.

Cons: Few, though they often don’t seem to have a Scottish representative on staff and their flagship rechargeable product doesn’t have a telecoil (for using with ‘loop systems’), so if you want that then you have to stick with the battery powered version.

Oticon

Danish firm who 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.

Pros: If hearing in background noise is your biggest problem then it’s hard to beat the Oticon OpnS1; the rechargeable version is also one of the fastest charging and easiest to use. 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.

Phonak

Another Swiss firm which is exceptionally good at marketing and were first to produce made for Android hearing aids. If you go to Boots Hearing they will probably recommend Phonak, because Boots Hearing is only half-owned by Boots, the other half 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: Research & Development in recent years has focused more on Bluetooth connectivity so haven’t actually upgraded the core processing chip for 5 years; therefore, not as good in background noise as many others.

Sivantos

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 suitable for outdoor pursuits.

Cons – Not the most attractive looking instruments. Traded too long on the fact that they used to be Siemens hearing aids. That part of the business was sold by Siemens to a Venture Capital (VC) firm in 2015 though, and 5 years on they have merged with Widex… which is what VC firms do – buy, asset strip, sell! It’s time to start proving their own technology.

Starkey

An American brand which has a pedigree in making exceptionally good power instruments that don’t cause feedback (whistle).

Pros: Have produced the world’s first hearing aid with motion sensors and the worlds first rechargeable ‘in the ear’ hearing aids. The market for these remains small though.

Cons: While the American HQ develops ground-breaking technology, my experience has been that the Stockport facility in the UK is beset with manufacturing problems. Whilst the technological innovation is good, until I am confident that the issues are resolved fully, I’m not prepared to recommend Starkey unless patients are aware of the potential issues they could face.

Unitron

A Canadian manufacturer that has a real eye for design and has won awards for it.

Pros: Several – produce great rechargeable technology that will also stream to Android and iPhones; has a unique trial instrument which captures your listening environment; very good options 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: Occasional manufacturing issues, which in fairness they always address, but it would be better for patients (and us!) if they just didn’t arise.

Widex

Another Danish firm 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. That was all before Covid19 though.

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), which really shouldn’t have happened. Have they resolved this with most recent products? Only time will tell.

*Please note that these can be subject to change over time due to mergers, takeovers etc. so please check out our blog for the latest industry and product news.