What Are the Best Hearing Aids? (Updated for 2017)
Last November I wrote a blog about 'What are the best hearing aids?' where I talked about the 'Big Six' hearing aid manufacturers. Well, it has come to my attention that Unitron (like Phonak, it is also owned by the Sonova Group), has market shares that are on par with Widex (another major hearing aid manufacturer). For this reason I believe that Unitron should be considered one of the premier hearing aid manufacturers as well. Listed below is a re-posting of the same blog but it now adjusted to include Unitron as one of the major hearing aid manufacturers.
What are the best hearing aids?
Seems like a simple enough question but in reality it is a little more complicated than that. Most of today's hearing aids are digital and so that is what I will be discussing today.
I think the best place to start off is by describing how hearing aids work. Hearing aids use the same 3 basic parts; A microphone, amplifier and receiver (also commonly referred to as a speaker). The microphone picks up sounds from the environment. A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. Sound is then analyzed and adjusted based on your hearing loss, listening preferences as well as the level of sounds around you. The amplified signal is then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through the receiver.
This would be a good time to mention hearing aid styles as far as selecting a behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid or an in the ear (ITE) hearing aid. If you have questions regarding hearing aid styles I recommend you take a look at our hearing aids page before continuing to read on. A hearing aid style is not used to define what the best hearing aid is, rather it is selected based on your hearing loss, dexterity concerns, and your personal preference when permitted by the degree of your hearing loss.
Ok then, you ask, what are the best hearing aids? Well, there are seven major hearing aid manufacturers. The following is a list of the seven major hearing aid manufacturers in no particular order:
Each one of the manufacturers mentioned above carry hearing aids with 3 to 4 technology levels, ranging from their entry level technology being the most inexpensive, to their advanced technology being the most expensive. So just to go back to hearing aid styles for a second, you as a consumer are not paying for the style of a hearing aid, but rather, the technology level computer chip that is placed into the hearing aid (irregardless of style).
Ok then, simple enough, the best technology level from one of the above manufacturers are the best hearing aids, right? Well, yes and no. Technically yes, but typically hearing aid technology levels are selected based on a patient's lifestyle. So a patient who has a very active lifestyle (for example works in an environment where he/she needs to hear well and/or attends many social gatherings), would be recommended to purchase the top technology level to meet their active lifestyle needs. Someone with a more laid back less active lifestyle would not want to purchase a top level technology hearing instrument, as many of the additional features of that instrument would not be necessary (or utilized).
As you climb up the technology levels from entry to advanced you are getting faster sound processing, better speech management in noisy environments, a more aggressive microphone technology, improvement of listening ability in reverberant environments, etc. Each case is different so be sure to talk to your Audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist before deciding to purchase a hearing aid. As a general rule of thumb any hearing aid purchased from any of the manufacturers mentioned above would be a good choice as far as 'best hearing aids' are concerned. The reason being, that they are a major manufacturer for a reason, people are buying their products and they spend enormous amounts of resources on research and competition with each other in order to put out the best products on the market.
So my short answer to the question of 'what are the best hearing aids,' would be a hearing aid made by one of the top manufacturers that best suits your lifestyle.
Thank you for reading our blog,
Till next time,
Kostas (Gus) Neoclis, Sc.D., CCC-A, Audiologist