Best Hearing Aid Manufacturer?

I must get asked at least once a day, “What manufacturer is best?” by patients looking to purchase hearing aids, looking to get “the best” for their money.  After all my clinical experiences, I will tell you something: they’re really pretty close to all being about the same.  Pretty much all of the manufacturers out there have a premium aid, a middle of the road aid, and a more entry level aid…and they all pretty much have the same features per category.
What you will find in our industry is that different practices will recommend different brands, and each place you go will tell you that their brand is the best, that the other brands are the worst, and that you should buy “their” brand because it is superior in quality and technology and so on and so forth.  I know it is very difficult to argue with them when our industry is so confusing; there is much information out there and it seems nearly impossible to compare makes and models and features.  When researching hearing aids, you will want to know the following: how many channels it has, how many programs it has, whether it will “grow” with your hearing loss should it get worse, and what “features” it has (ie directional microphones, Bluetooth technology, remote control, wireless ear to ear, that sort of thing).
Then why does one hearing healthcare recommend one manufacturer over another, especially if the hearing aids are nearly identical?  Well, many offices are “owned” either directly or indirectly by a manufacturer.  What do I mean by that?  Let’s talk about direct ownership first.  Many Mom and Pop/privately owned/small hearing aid offices have been purchased or bought out by manufacturers, largely due to the difficulty of running a small business in the past 10 years or so.  So if your favorite local place is now owned by a corporation, guess what?  That means they will likely not be offering a large variety of manufacturers for you to choose from; they will be required to sell the hearing aids made by the company who purchased them.  Indirect ownership is a little bit different; like I said before, it has been difficult for smaller shops to remain open during this time of economic hardship, so manufacturers have been offering financial “help”.  This means that a manufacturer gives a sum of money (or equipment, etc) to the office.  In exchange, the office agrees to sell a certain number of their hearing aids per month, usually at a specified ASP (average selling price).  Not all manufacturer-owned or sponsored offices are bad; many are just trying to stay open!  It only is problematic if they disparage another manufacturer’s products or prices, especially if they are not necessarily familiar with them!
So, back to you and talking about what manufacturer you should buy…there is no right or wrong answer.  The most important thing to do is to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges…make sure what Business A quoted you is comparable to what Business B quoted you.  A very helpful reference for you is the Consumer’s Guide to Hearing Aids.  It is an impartial guide put out by a third party (someone who is not committed to one particular manufacturer and therefore can be objective).  Here is a link:  http://www.hearingloss.org/content/consumers-guide-hearing-aids.  This guide gives all the specifics about the instruments on the market currently, it tells of features, channels, programs, and more.  Knowledge is power.

 

Until next time,

 

Dr. Kristin

Mike