No one manufacturer has it all and they are leapfrogging each other with new technology all the time. Particularly with regard to water resistance, rechargeability, size, ergonomics (e.g., how easy to feel and press the buttons and open & close the battery compartment), battery life, SmartPhone compatibility, SmartPhone apps, Streaming of audio from TV or phone without cumbersome intermediary devices. Also alternative earbud designs that may seal and feel better in your ear canal and alternative package designs with shapes that may feel better behind your ear.
I read all the responses so far and though I find some valid points, not all are necessarily true. I am a franchise dispenser owner and I carry one brand. However, as my years of experience has taught me, the differences between brands of comparable aids is neglegible. Not only do the "big 6" piggyback off one another's advancements in hearing aid technology, they actually share such information within the industry. A recent Hearing Journal recently published results of a study wherein participants were all fit with both "lesser technology" and "more advanced technology". Results indicated most all test subjects did as well or better with the lesser technology. Yhis was due to the fitting protocols and procedures of both technologies. The point being made is too often our industry relies solely on technology and "firt-fitting software" to do the work. In this industry we all see the reports of high percentages of audiologists and specialists reported not using real ear measurements and other objective validation tools on every fitting. As it stands, I chose one brand because it is more cost effective for my business. Yet, I can fit such a wide array of losses within my brand choices that going outside of my manufacturer is just not necessary. I will admit to finding some very high fidelity sounding hearing aids through the years that rivaled the company's I then worked for but it was rare. In conclusion, the difference is the practitioner's ability to truly listen to what the essence of your hearing loss has taken from your quality of life and - keeping within the boundaries of real expectations - then using that subjective information as the basis for returning to you what you yearn for better hearing. By the way, my return rate has consistently been below 2% for the past 13 years. Follow your instincts, not the hype. Happy hunting!
I feel that it is IMPORTANT to carry multiple brands of hearing aids. Different manufacturers have different features for their type of technology plus it gives the patients the opportunity to try another brand if the current one does not work for his type of loss. So basically, your hearing provider should carry different brands so that you can have the BEST hearing experience.
I carry most every brand available. Some companies specialize in products that other companies do not. It is important to know all of your options and if you limited to only one brand of hearing aid then you are limiting your choices. It is also helpful if you are not doing well with one brand to be able to try out a different brand if needed.
I think the consumer asks a good question. There are 2 main goals in hearing aid fitting excellence: 1. It has to fit well 2. It has to restore audiblity for speech.
Not all hearing aids fit the ear similarly and they do have different features, depending upon the needs of the listener. You are well served to have a variety to choose from with an audiologist that has experience with the different brands.
It is very important that a clinic work with a variety of manufacturers and devices. Every patient has a unique combination of hearing loss, sound perception, and lifestyle. Different manufacturers make different products with different algorithms. If a clinic only works with one brand, it may be owned by that brand. No one single brand can provide everything a wide range of patients needs. Your provider should have your best interests at heart. Our clinic, for example, is always open to trying a different manufacturer or device when the need arises, because we want our patients to have the very best products and hearing experience.
Yes, you need to carry more than one brand. Presently, all the major manufacturers make good hearing aids, but manufacturers produce their hearing aids based on their interpretation of how best a hearing aid will work with a patient's hearing loss. There were many features already mentioned here but, in addition to features, you should know how they make their aids. Some manufacturers focus on noise reduction, some on compression issues, others on volume issues. These things also need to be considered in your recommendations.
I would ditto Charles and Lee's answers. I pride myself as being a muti-line dispenser. In addition, although there may not be a direct cause and effect, one has to wonder about the financial relationship between that individual dispenser and the manufacturer, if only that one manufacturer is carried.
All major manufacturers in today's market make very good, high quality products. However, some have technologically more advanced units than others. My clinic carries a number of major brands with varying feature sets and price. I personally don't feel that a single brand can offer all models to properly fit all types of hearing losses and all pocketbooks. Be comfortable with your provider as a first step. And make sure that you understand the differences between the care you'll receive after the purchase. Ask questions about different brands and models within those brands. Know why one costs more or less than another and what you gain or lose with each. It's complex and confusing but the correct purchase will reward you with the best hearing and care to match your expectations.
Dispensers who carry only one brand of hearing aid are typically a franchised office restricted to carrying just the franchise brand hearing aids. Most independent providers will carry several brands. As has been mentioned many times already, no every brand has every feature and the physical fit as well as the nature of the sound produced is different from one brand to the next. You may not get the best product for your specific situation if you only have one brand choice.
The flip side of the coin is that it does require a considerable amount of time and training to keep up with all the changes and advancements in multiple brands. It is much easier to learn one brand extremely well. The quality of the fitting provided by the dispenser is more important than the hearing aid itself. Dispensers who regularly deal with numerous brands may not be as well versed in adjusting some of those brands they don't use as often although I'm sure most of my fellow dispensers work hard to insure they are knowledgeable in all brands.
I know that I personally have favorite brands that I prefer to sell over the others. Those favorites are chosen with several factors in mind including pricing, performance, reliability, customer service from the manufacturer, and patient satisfaction. We have a sixty day window in which a new patient can switch brands at no cost if they are not completely satisfied with the new hearing aids. They can also upgrade technology levels for just the difference in price during that 60 days. If they switch we restart the 60 day window. That insures that each patient has the opportunity to try two or more different brands or levels to make sure they are the right hearing aid for that patient.
In addition to the points already made, I would add that in an age where receiver-in-canal RIC instruments dominate the market, getting a perfect match for physical fit is a huge plus. No matter how precise an office fitting is, if the receiver is shifting position during the day due to the earbud or wire not having a consistent placement as the wearer puts on and takes off glasses, talks, chews etc, the quality of hearing correction will suffer. We find being single line equivalent to being a shoe store that only has even sized shoes. There are 50% or more patients who express a preference for one labs instruments over another if given the opportunity to compare. We have a "house rule" that first time wearers try a loaner pair for three days from at least two companies. This yields a much higher likelihood that we are selecting the right product not just based on the hearing evaluation and discovery, but also based on what the patients experience actually wearing the devices. It's been a significant investment of time and money as we have to invest in a large inventory as well as accepting that we spend three times as much time on fittings before the sale, but the reduction in follow up visits neccesay has justified this. An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
One final point. The training required to fit so many lines is something some practices find impractical, devoting 50+ hours to product training alone. That doesn't include travel time and follow up sessions with a lab audiologist in our office. For a single line practice with many practitioners, verifying that each practitioner really got benefit from each training session is difficult if not impossible.
Personally, I would wonder why a particular practice only works with ONE brand of hearing aids. Is it simply a comfort level of the provider? Is the practice beholden to that manufacturer for some reason? Is there a financial incentive to only sell that brand? As a patient, you want to make sure that the provider is working with your best interest and your budget in mind, and not driven by their sales needs. As a provider, I work with ALL of the major manufacturers because I recognize that there might be limitations within only one or two brands. While most manufacturers have several products within their portfolio that will help address most individual hearing needs, but there are many cases in which the fitting range of one brand might not be able to accommodate someone's hearing needs, but another brand might (I see this most often between different brands), or the signal processing used by one manufacturer is going to be different than another, resulting in a sound quality that is different for the patient. I like being able to provide my patients with the opportunity to try a different manufacturer if after fine tuning adjustments are made, the sound quality or performance of an initial product is not satisfactory. There are also cases in which one manufacturer might not have a product that can best accommodate someone's needs, in which case, you would want the ability to look to other product portfolios to find the best products that would be suitable, at that patient's price point. If you feel 100% confident that this provider will be able to fully address your needs through only one brand, then by all means you should be fine, Just make sure you ask about the trial period should you decide it's not right and you want to return what you purchased. If you are feeling limited, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. There is no reason to ever be limited to just one brand.
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