When thinking of hearing aid brands, we commonly think of “The Big Six.” This refers to the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world: Widex, Phonak, Signia, Oticon, Starkey, and ReSound.
Beyond The Big Six, there are several other major hearing aid brands, such as Unitron, Sonic, and Rexton. These are slightly less popular, but still produce high quality hearing aids. Sometimes we get asked about other hearing aid brands, usually startups, that advertise directly to patients online. We caution our patients about these products for several reasons:
- They may be hearing amplifiers, rather than hearing aids.
- The major hearing aid brands have a long history of quality products and excellent customer service. If you purchase from a startup company, the quality and customer service may be subpar compared to the bigger brands.
- If you purchase from a smaller company, you may have difficulty finding anyone local who can assist you with these products.
At Merit Hearing, we service all Big Six brands and Unitron hearing aids. Therefore, in this post we will focus on those.
Widex’s newest products are called Widex Moment. They are available in three in-the-ear (ITE) and three behind the ear (BTE) styles. One of the behind-the-ear styles is called a micro-RIC, which is the smallest rechargeable lithium-ion receiver-in-canal device on the market. Widex Moment hearing aids boast that they process sound faster than ever, which results in less delay-based sound distortion. They call this technology PureSound.
Widex Moment hearing aids also offer more customization options to your audiologist. This allows them to be fine-tuned based on your specific ear anatomy. This additional customization makes the wearer’s voice sound more natural. Widex has a reputation for producing some of the best hearing aids based on sound quality.
Phonak is a part of the larger company, Sonova. They have the largest share of the hearing aid market worldwide. Their newest product line is called Audeo Paradise and is currently only available in RIC options. These hearing aids have true hands-free calling capability, so wearers can complete entire phone calls without touching their smartphones. Our patients have reported high satisfaction with sound quality from their Audeo Paradise hearing aids.
Phonak’s Sky Marvel hearing aid line is very popular with children with hearing loss. The Sky Marvel line comes with a 5-year warranty since children are more likely to break and lose hearing aids, and it comes in a wide array of color options. Phonak also offers numerous accessories, such as Roger products, which are great tools during challenging listening environments and within classrooms.
Signia, formerly known as Siemens, is part of the Sivantos company. Their newest product line is called the Xperience platform. Signia seems to offer the widest variety of hearing aids on each technology platform. For example, the Xperience line includes: Pure Charge & Go, Styletto, Pure 312, and Silk. Within each type, there are 5 technology levels to choose from. The 1X products are entry-level, and come at a very reasonable price point. Signia is the only company that offers entry-level products in the same design and technology platform as their newest premium products.
Styletto hearing aids are unique in that they have a long, slender shape. Most RIC hearing aids have the same general shape, but if you’re looking for something a little different, take a look at the Stylettos. Their slender shape allows their charging case to be significantly smaller than most other rechargeable hearing aid charging cases. It also has an on-board battery which provides up to 4 days of charge.
Signia Silk hearing aids are non-custom ITE hearing aids — most brands only offer custom ITE’s. This means the Silks are compatible with standard Signia dome tips, and are smaller than most other ITE options. If you’re searching for something that fits completely inside your ear and is nearly invisible, the Silk’s are an excellent option. Unfortunately, they aren’t appropriate for all types of hearing losses.
Oticon’s newest hearing aid line is called OPN S and consists of RIC hearing aids. Their Xceed line offers some of the most powerful hearing aids on the market which makes them excellent options for patients with the most severe hearing losses. They are expected to release new technology early in 2021.
We like the OPN line’s compatibility with IFTTT (if this, then that) services. Using the Oticon On smartphone app, you can connect your Oticon hearing aids with a wide range of products and appliances. For example, your hearing aids can notify you if your doorbell rings, or if your home alarm goes off, or they can notify a caregiver if the hearing aid batteries are running low.
ReSound’s latest product line is called ReSound ONE and is available in a rechargeable or standard battery version. This new product line is technically a M&RIE style, which stands for microphone-and-receiver-in-ear. They have a second microphone built into the receiver compared to traditional RIC hearing aids. The M&RIE design provides more depth and direction to sounds by using your unique ear shape to collect sound. This results in more natural sound quality.
For patients who are interested in custom in-the-ear hearing aids, ReSound is the only brand that offers microphone-in-helix (MIH) hearing aids. These hearing aids have a microphone that sits under the small rim of your ear called the helix. It is connected to the hearing aid inside your ear by an invisible tube. These are are appropriate for all types of hearing loss and provide more natural sound quality compared to standard in-the-ear hearing aids.
Starkey is the only American-owned hearing aid company in this list. Their flagship hearing aid is the Livio Edge AI device. It’s available as a BTE, several RIC varieties, or as a custom rechargeable ITE hearing aid. This hearing aid boasts advanced features utilizing artificial intelligence and tons of features. This is the hearing aid for your tech-savviest friend. It has an activity tracker, brain tracker, translator, fall detection, and more.
For patients that prefer custom in-the-ear hearing aids, Starkey is the only company that offers these in a rechargeable version. While Starkey hearing aids offer the most advanced add-on features, they also come with the highest price point. If you choose Starkey, expect to spend about $5,000 for a pair of top of the line hearing aids at Merit Hearing. This is about 25% higher than top of the line hearing aids from other major manufacturers. Keep in mind, our prices tend to be significantly lower than other clinics due to our unbundled pricing model, so if you purchase Starkey elsewhere, they will likely cost even more.
Unitron is not included in “The Big Six,” but they deserve to be mentioned in this list since we offer them at Merit Hearing. Like Phonak, Unitron is part of the larger Sonova company. The technology within the hearing aids is identical to Phonak products, but often comes at a lower price point. This means that all of the Phonak accessories, like filters, dome tips, TV connectors, etc, are compatible with Unitron hearing aids.
Their newest products are the Discover Next hearing aids. They are available in 3 RIC options (Moxi Fit, Jump, and Move) and 1 BTE option (Stride). One feature that is unique to Sonova hearing aids is true hands-free calling capabilities. These hearing aids can stream phone calls directly into the hearing aids, and the microphone on the hearing aids can pick up the wearer’s voice and transmit it back to the phone. Phone calls can be completed without taking your phone out of your pocket.
A unique feature of Unitron hearing aids is their upgrade ability. If you choose to purchase entry-level technology, you can later upgrade your devices to a more advanced technology level. Your audiologist is able to complete the upgrade entirely in their office. You do have to pay for the more advanced technology, and usually you will also have to pay a processing fee, but no other brands currently offer this. For any other brand, you would have to purchase a new set of hearing aids if you want to upgrade the technology level.
All seven of these hearing aid brands offer a wide variety of products and technology levels beyond what was described above. All of them have products that can meet the needs of virtually any patient with hearing loss. The choice between brands ultimately comes down to patient preferences, audiologist preferences, and cost. Not one of these brands is consistently “better” than the others, but an individual patient may find that one brand is best for them.