Which hearing aid manufacturer makes the right kind of hearing aids for me? It’s true, the options for hearing aids are seemingly endless. Hearing aids vary in price, size, special features, and the way they are placed in your ear. From the smallest and least visible completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid to in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids that are custom-molded and fit partly in the ear canal, the type you choose will depend on your type of hearing loss and lifestyle.
Acronyms for hearing aid types include full-shell and half-shell in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that hook over the top of and rest behind the ear, similar receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids, and open-fit hearing aids that are a hybrid of BTE hearing aids with a thin tube. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages and each has distinct feature sets depending on your type of hearing loss.
Once you narrow down which type of hearing aid is best for you, you’ll want to research different hearing aid companies. There’s a wide range of them, from large manufacturers with brick-and-mortar locations to American-made hearing aids. Hearing aid manufacturers that sell hearing aids online can make purchasing hearing aids much more convenient than visiting an audiologist.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Who are the biggest hearing aid manufacturers by volume?
- Do all hearing aids work the same way?
- Is a bigger hearing aid manufacturer better?
- What are the major hearing aid features?
- How to start with a free online hearing test
- American-made hearing aids
Who are the biggest hearing aid manufacturers by volume?
According to Hearing Health Matters, the “Big Six” hearing aid manufacturers own 98% of the market share. In order of percentage, they include Sonova/Phonak, William Demant/Oticon, Siemens/Signia, ReSound, Starkey, and Widex. Reliability, overall cost, and uncertainty are the biggest factors when evaluating brands. However, when it comes to the “Big Six,” the names are often synonymous with a higher price tag.
Of the “Big Six,” Phonak is the best-reviewed hearing aid, but they also come with the highest price tag at $2,900 per hearing aid for its Audéo Marvel 90. Under the Sonova umbrella, Phonak has been around since 1947 and also offers numerous types of models, including the Lyric that is implanted into the ear canal rather than worn on the outside. While the battery does have a long life, it can only be installed by a professional. Alternatively, the Audéo Marvel 90 has a short rechargeable battery life, but includes a lot of features, such as Bluetooth capabilities.
In business since 1878, Signia is the longest-running hearing aid manufacturer. Once owned by tech company Seimens, Signia is now under the guise of Sivantos. Its small behind-the-ear Motion Charge&Go Nx hearing aid comes at a price tag of $2,500 per hearing aid with “Own Voice Processing” that provides the user with a natural-sounding voice for others but can distort the sound of their own voice. Its Styletto hearing aid comes with myHearing App compatibility that allows professionals to adjust remotely, though they do have spotty Bluetooth connectivity and shorter-than-average battery life according to reviews.
Although Widex has been in the hearing aid market since 1956, it is one of the younger of the “Big Six” manufacturers. Headquartered out of a CO2-neutral location in Denmark, Widex comes with the most features available of all the options but also on the higher side of costs at $2,800 per UNIQUE hearing aid, dubbed the “world’s first smart hearing aid.” It’s SoundSense Technology evolves the more you and other users use them, and its Fluid Sound Analyzer is supposed to react to your environment and respond accordingly with its noise-reduction analyzer.
While still on the high end, Oticon OPN 1 hearing aids ring in at $2,600 each. Another Danish company, Oticon has been in business since 1904. Oticon only has two signature models in its catalog, including the flagship Opn S with BrainHearing technology that lets the hearing aid scan your 360-degree environment rather than directionally, plus the ConnectClip attachment that turns the hearing aid into a headset. Users have reported the hearing aids often cut out and require multiple trips to the audiologist to perfect the tuning.
American-made Starkey hearing aids come equipped with standard features, such as a variety of channels and frequencies for different environments, plus smartphone connectivity and a battery life that can last as long as two weeks. Starkey Livio AI 2400 also costs $2,600 per hearing aid.
Considered the “most affordable” of the “Big Six,” ReSound LiNX 3D 9 hearing aids come in at $2,350 apiece. This is more than seven times more expensive than ZVOX’s affordable Voicebud hearing aids.
Also out of Denmark, ReSound hearing aids are limited in terms of features, most of which come at an additional cost, such as rechargeable batteries. The Enya 4 is the most affordable option at $1,500 with minimal features for someone starting out on their hearing aid journey.
Do all hearing aids work the same way?
While styles of hearing aids can vary in battery life, fit, special features, sound clarity, and — most especially — price, all hearing aids generally use the same basic parts to carry and amplify sounds: a microphone to pick up sound around you, sound processing components, an amplifier to make the sound louder, and a receiver that sends these amplified sounds into your ear.
Many hearing aids are digital and powered with a traditional hearing aid battery or rechargeable battery. Small microphones collect sounds from the environment, then a computer chip plus an amplifier convert this sound into digital code. Processing components analyze and process the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs, and the environment around you. The processed and re-amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through the receivers.
Hearing aids: Is a bigger manufacturer better?
As previously mentioned, when it comes to the “Big Six,” the names are often synonymous with a higher price tag. Consumer Reports estimates hearing aid wearers typically spend $2,588 out-of-pocket for devices, since insurance companies don’t offer much assistance. Costs can be bundled to include testing, fitting, counseling, and following up with the patient about their new hearing aids. Other hearing aids come unbundled from services, so pricing is available a la carte. Costs can also include the price of one hearing aid or a pair, so it’s important to read between the lines with each manufacturer.
Most other manufacturers from the “Big Six” received average ratings in terms of fit and comfort, while ratings varied on ease of changing battery and battery life. Standing out from these reviews in terms of quality, fit, and consumer satisfaction are affordable online solutions, like ZVOX VoiceBuds, that come equipped with similar features as big-brand manufacturers but at a fraction of the cost.
What are the major hearing aid features?
Rechargeable batteries top the list of most frequently chosen features, according to Consumer Reports. Rechargeable batteries make maintenance and everyday use easier since some big-brand manufacturers require hearing aids to be taken to a specialist to have the batteries changed. A bonus with hearing aids like ZVOX VoiceBud VB25 hearing aids is the built-in lithium ion battery to provide quick, rechargeable power wherever you.
Wireless connectivity allows newer hearing aids to interface with Bluetooth-compatible devices, such as cellphones, computers, and televisions. There are even applications that turn your cellphone into a remote control for your hearing aids. Direct audio input is also available to plug directly in to audio from a television, computer, or music device with a cord. Many consumers see these features as unnecessary, creating more complexity at the expense of utility for their main problem - hearing loss.
Hearing aid technology has come a long way with the addition of telecoils that reduce environmental sounds when talking on a compatible telephone. Telecoils also pick up signals from public induction loop systems used in churches and theaters. Similarly, some hearing aids now can store several pre-programmed settings for various listening needs and environments, as well as synchronization to adjust volume control or program changes between two hearing aids.
Additionally, directional microphones are aligned on most hearing aids to improve sounds in front of you, while reducing sounds coming from behind or beside you. This feature can help to minimize background noise.
Start with a free online hearing test
Whether due to age or other irreversible factors, it can be hard for even those with good hearing to differentiate voices in noisy environments. Online hearing tests, such as this one through ZVOX, are developed by leading audiologists to help determine your level of hearing loss.
American-made hearing aids
ZVOX VoiceBud hearing aids use modern digital hearing technology made with American components. They are designed to be placed and adjusted without the help of an audiologist. Customer service centers in Massachusetts and New Mexico can provide one-on-one guidance at no extra charge.