Great question! I wish this had a straight forward answer, but ultimately, it depends. There are however, a few things that you need to take into consideration before trying better technology.
1. How often do you find yourself in challenging environments? If you answer all the time, then you would likely get better benefit from a premium level name brand aid. If not, you may not need the higher level of technology.
2. How well will they be programmed? Is your hearing care professional using Real Ear Measurements to program them? If not, you may not see much difference in the better technology.
3. Do you require additional accessories? Do you need better hearing on the phone, TV, do you need a remote microphone to cut through background noise? If not, then name brand technology might not give you much additional benefit.
I personally don't believe that better technology is always worth the money if you don't have heavy listening demands. However, if you find yourself in complex environments, have someone programming them well and giving you access to all the features of the device, and you want to use other accessories that enhance the performance of the hearing aid, then I recommend you try higher level technology. One thing to keep in mind is that I believe a better hearing aid will never underperform a cheaper hearing aid if it is fit properly.
At the end of the day, you are more likely to achieve higher levels of success with hearing by having a great hearing care professional who follows best practices than having the greatest hearing aid from a professional that doesn't.
When we as hearing care professionals use QuickSin (a hearing test which indicates how well you process speech in noise) it gives guidance as to how sophisticated a device you require & wether hearing aids on there own will be enough or if further assistive devices might be necessary.
So the results of this test will indicate what might be necessary.
Yes, the latest technology has features to make you successful. Technology has never been better. Not everyone needs the highest level of technology. What is most important is finding a provider who understands your needs and guides you to a solution that is appropriate for your lifestyle and listening needs..
It truly depends on your lifestyle and listening needs. If you are an individual who leads a somewhat quiet lifestyle and do not need a lot of listening support (i.e. management of background noise), then you could do just fine with a lower level of technology. If you are an individual with an active lifestyle, who tends to be in listening situations that are more variable (i.e. quiet, noise, multiple speakers, music, etc.) then you would likely benefit from a higher level of technology. All major manufacturers offer products at around 4 different price points, and the lower priced devices are going to offer less listening support. In my opinion, the major brands are going to have the better, more reliable technology, but brand will also be determined by type and degree of hearing loss, as some manufacturers have different fitting ranges, and different types of signal processing that would be more appropriate based on hearing loss.
My best advice is to find a hearing healthcare professional who will help guide you through the process. If you are worried that someone is over-charging you or not being honest, find a different provider, but make sure you are working with a trained professional, who understands not only about hearing loss, but also how various technologies will work.
As a hearing aid provider, I often let my patients try more than one level of technology. The happiest hearing aid wearers are the ones who purchase the premium products. Not only do they have the ability to connect wirelessly to their iPhone but they can also connect to other wireless devices such as: mini-microphones and tv devices. There are several main brands that are franchised brands. They often cost more than those purchased from Independent Providers.
The hearing aid ads can be very overwhelming! In my opinion, the focus is on the hearing aid, but the focus is misdirected. The important question should not be about the right device, the question is finding the right person to select the device! A hearing aid is a medical device but is frequently viewed similarly to purchasing a car or other electronic gadget. In fact, you are purchasing a prescribed medical device, so the approach needs to be different. The success is partly based on having the right device, but even more important is having a professional who understands your hearing loss and hearing needs, who can select the appropriate device, who can appropriately program the device, who uses appropriate measures to evaluate the success of the fitting and who makes those decisions based on time spent talking with you and understanding your situation.
The short answer is "Maybe". Big name brands spend millions of dollars a year on research and development to improve their technology. This cost gets passed along to the consumer in the form of higher prices. The old adage is mostly true, "You get what you pay for." Even the big name brands offer several levels of technology. Signia (Siemens) and Starkey each offer five levels for instance. The bigger question is how much technology you need for your lifestyle. In general higher technology performs better as background noise levels increase. The more expensive aids are much better and filtering and managing noise. There is some difference in speech clarity due to the increased number of channels (independently adjustable frequency range) in higher level aids. And perhaps most important, at least to some patients, is the hearing aid's ability to adapt itself to different listening environments as you go about your daily activities. Signia's Primax 7 technology has six different sound environments that are sensed automatically with four possible microphone settings in each one. So when you go from a quiet room to a car the hearing aid will automatically make some adjustments to reduce road noise while still allowing you to hear speech. From the car to the restaurant the hearing aid will again make some changes to accommodate the difference in the sound environment. Signia's fitting software allow me, as a dispenser, to fine tune each of those six different environments to better customize the hearing aids to a patient's needs. If you have a more quiet lifestyle and rarely get in situations with much background noise or commotion you can get by very well with a lower level of technology. In these cases some of the lesser known brands may perform adequately with a cost savings. Many of the lesser know brands are actually owned by one of the big brands and operate as a semi-independent subsidy but do get to share technology with their "big brother" in a limited fashion. The bottom line is that you get better performance with higher technology but it may not be completely necessary for you to be able to function relatively well especially if you have a much quieter lifestyle. For people with very active lifestyles the difference is significant and well worth the additional expense. I worked for a large sign company as an outside account rep when I got my first pair of hearing aids. I bought the best pair I could get and have never regretted spending more money for the best pair.
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