The latest insider opinion on 2018/2019 hearing aid systems:
If you have decided to do something about your hearing problem… and maybe you’ve already had a consultation and quote, then read this now before you decide…
This Blog expresses the latest opinion of a senior Audiologist, R J Donnan, and of 3 of his patients, who kindly offer to test out new hearing aids. The idea is to critique the hearing aids themselves, and not the provider or the service.
The Best Advice we can offer you:
The No.1 item on any hearing-impaired person’s shopping list should be a FREE TRIAL.
Are you curious about whether modern hearing aid advances will allow you to hear better?
and ‘I am waiting for an NHS appointment and thought I’d explore my options…’
You may be better to give the NHS aids a fair try first. Wearing hearing aids for the first time is often not as straight-forward as you’d think. So as the NHS aids are free, see how you get on with those first. And give yourself a few months at least to practise / adapt.
‘I have never worn aids before and my hearing loss is fairly recent…’
Do your research first. If you do decide you want to explore the possibility of private hearing aids, book a minimum two consultations. Maybe a large retailer (Boots are the No.1 retailer in the UK), an established small or medium Independent Audiologist (maybe a bit more expensive than elsewhere). You could check prices online through an internet company who lists exact models with prices on their website.
‘I want the latest technology’
Then try the PHONAK AUDEO B90 10, the OTICON OPN 1 or the RESOUND LiNX QUATTRO, the first is very small, the other two are ‘made for iPhone’ hearing systems (The Apple device can stream audio to both ears, and you’ll have an app to work as a clever remote control and interactive tool). The three aids are RIC type and very light and neat.
‘I love gadgets / Bluetooth connections to my media devices sounds appealing’
The RESOUND LiNX QUATTRO, the first ‘made for iPhone’ hearing system is the obvious one if you own an iPad / iPhone.
OTHERS to consider:
PHONAK AUDEO B90 DIRECT allowing the user to take hands-free calls straight to the hearing aid.
OTICON OPN 1 Made for iPhone.
‘I want the best and smallest’
The leading top-of-the-range hearing aid right now is the PHONAK AUDEO B90 10. You should try this first. It has a slightly sharp / ‘hi-fi’ sound quality that will suit most wearers. Phonak’s market share in the UK is the largest.
if money is no object (circa £17,000 per 5 years), consider the LYRIC 3.
‘I want what I actually need’
Then try the PHONAK AUDEO V50 10. It is less pricey than the higher spec. and newer models.
If you are working to a tight budget, try these:
Oticon Opn 3
Resound Linx Quattro 5
‘I want to spend as little as possible’
There are many really good hearing aids out there that are still of exceptionally good quality, technology and specification (think of a iPhone 6 compared to a 8). Phonak’s 2015 Chipset (Quest range) is still offered – the PHONAK Q30 is inexpensive but highly effective in the CIC and ITC shells AND it comes in a high power version too.
‘I am completely open-minded about this, so long as I end up hearing better’
Be careful, you may end up being ‘too grateful’ as soon as you can hear better. You may end up spending far more than you should.
‘I’d like no-one to see my aids’
Be aware that tiny hearing aids fitted into the ear canal will often cause some occlusion, which is the side-effect of hearing your own voice too much. Always ask for a demo or a FREE trial first!
An easy choice here, the PHONAK VIRTO B IIC (in 50, 70 or 90 version). Most manufacturers claim to build invisible hearing aids, but in reality, they seldom are able to. Phonak’s track record and success with invisible aids is convincing.
New / recent hearing aid wearers:
‘I have NHS aids and I want something smaller / neater’
This is a fairly common scenario these days. Be aware that different CCGs have differing types of hearing aid and that things are changing all the time.
Sometimes it pays to complain a little.
Don’t think that just because your friend (who lives in another area, or who got his / her hearing aids at a different time) has smaller hearing aids, that you will be able to walk in to your NHS audiology department and ask for the same (but you CAN request you are given a hearing appointment at a hospital that is NOT in your immediate area).
Most people wanting smaller (or easier to handle) hearing aids will end up going private. However, most hearing aid wearers have had 1 or 2 negative experiences before they get a satisfactory outcome.
SPECSAVERS offer low cost in-the-ear aids, as do a few independents. If you heard really well with your NHS aids, maybe this will be adequate for you?
‘I have NHS aids and I need something easier to handle’
Again, assuming you heard very well with your NHS aids, go for the PHONAK Q30 ITC or CIC, available in standard and high-power strengths. its inexpensive and you’ll love the feel, look and weight of it compared to your NHS aids. There are reliability issues with in-the-ear aids so make sure you enquire about ongoing after care with your chosen provider. Some will give a 4 or even 5 year warranty with the Q30.
‘I have Danalogic iFit aids and I doubt there is anything better’
This hearing aid was designed to be sold by mail-order, hence the name (iFit, ‘I fit it myself’), so on one level, you have responded very well to an inexpensive hearing aid. That means you are likely to get on well with any hearing aid.
If you want an RIC aid, the Phonak V30 10 will perform superbly in background noise for most wearers. Or an in the ear smaller option; try the PHONAK Q30.
If you want to see a difference that technology alone can make, why not try the RESOUND LiNX Quattro 9 (made by the same Company that owns the Danalogic brand) on a FREE TRIAL?
‘My hearing loss is severe and I want in-the-ear’
The great news is that in the last 4 years it has become relatively straight-forward to manage a severe hearing loss with virtually any hearing aid configuration ~ that’s because the feedback control (prevention of whistling by the computer chip in the hearing aid) has become so good on some models.
Try the PHONAK B Series
Budget: PHONAK DALIA POWER CIC
‘My hearing loss is profound’
You need to be extremely cautious when looking at private hearing aids. Your expectation level will often outstrip the potential benefits. Assuming you have fairly new NHS aids already, then the main benefits of ‘going private’ should be ~ the availability of service and fine tuning visits, the increased frequency of mould and tubing replacements and one-to-one advice about assistive devices in the home, at church, etc.
However, it is fair enough to seek a technological improvement, but I’d say ONLY if your provider is willing to give you a lengthy FREE TRIAL.
High Power aids we recommend:
OTICON Sumo (1st choice)
OTICON Dynamo 4
‘My relative doesn’t accept they have a hearing loss’
Private hearing practices are ideal places to take relatives with low motivation. Private Hearing Care Professionals tend to be highly motivated, professional and persuasive ~ that being the requirements of the job!
So long as you don’t buy on impulse or force your relative into something they don’t want, then they’ll end up in a better place. Your point will have been proven and reinforced by an audiologist. From then on, it should be easier to get your relative to take positive action, either by going to their GP and asking for a ENT / Audiology referral or by returning to a private audiologist.
‘I’m not sure I have a hearing loss or not’
Private hearing practices are ideal places to ‘pop in’ for a hearing check (after all, the UK is a highly regulated country in terms of how hearing tests must be performed).
And there are now excellent apps available online where you can test your hearing in the privacy of your own home without even visiting a practice…