When I buy premium-priced hearing aids, am I getting better hardware or is it only the software features I'm paying for?

Lynda Clark, AuD

Audiologist in Simpsonville

07 December 2018 - 691 Views

The physical device is the same. The software is what determines the technology level, but it's not "only software." Software is everything about how a hearing aid functions and preforms. Software determines the quality of sound and the signal processing. In other words, how much comfort and ease of listening can be achieved in more difficult listening environments. So yes the difference is the software, but this is true for a lot of computer driven devices. And once again, "Software is everything."
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Christopher S. Frink, AuD

Audiologist in Salem

08 December 2018 - 592 Views

Generally there's very little difference in the hardware between technology levels; any entry-level product is just as sturdy as a top-tier model if they come from the same brand.  Manufacturers don't like repairing hearing aids as they lose money via the labor necessary to do so.  Therefore it's incumbent on them that they build a sturdier hearing aid, regardless of what level of technology you're purchasing.

When you get higher technology, you're primarily paying for the research and development to build the software that runs the hearing aid.  It's very comparable to regular computers, where you're often paying for the software you need.  This is why it's important to determine how much technology you need based on your lifestyle demands.  The more socially active you are, the more likely you will need higher technology.  If you spend most of your time at home, don't go out very much, hardly in background noise, etc., then entry-level technology is not only adequate but more appropriate since you won't be spending money on features you won't use.  By contrast, if you have a very active, dynamic lifestyle, you'll  need more features to keep up with that lifestyle.  So under most circumstances when you're purchasing premium technology, you're primarily paying for the software, not the hardware.

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Sheri Gostomelsky, AuD

Doctor of Audiology in Deerfield

07 December 2018 - 690 Views

It is my understanding that if you compare technology levels within the same product line for a single manufacturer, it is the software.  If you compare products between different manufacturers,  it may be both the hardware and the software. 
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Chris Hoffmann, AuD

Audiologist in Irvine

07 December 2018 - 693 Views

From my understanding, you are generally paying for a more advanced chip with more sound processing power.  Therefore, you are paying for better hardware.  In most cases, you cannot upgrade the chip you select.  The Unitron FLEX is the only hearing aid that I know of where the chip can be "reburned" from a lower performance level to a higher one but not the other way around.   Hope that helps.
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Jeffrey Cline

Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist in Hickory

17 December 2018 - 480 Views

Based on different manufactures sometimes there are changes in the hardware, like better microphones directional or non directional. Also casing sometimes changes from one level to the next. Mostly you are paying for software changes inside the hearing instruments that you can't see unless your specialist shows you while working through the software with you. We try extremely hard to show our patient the benefits visually but wrapping your brain around the differences is sometimes like painting a portrait. I like to express to our patient that if i gave you three crayons and had you draw a famous painting verse us giving you 30 crayons to draw with that would be the difference between a basic hearing instrument and an advanced hearing aid.  It would be much easier but the specialist has to know how to use the 30 crayons/features in order to make you hear the best.

Jeffrey C. Cline NBC-HIS

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Daniel Pearce

Hearing Healthcare Provider in Cornelius

07 December 2018 - 635 Views

That's a great question! The hearing aids are generally the same. What you are paying for is more noise reduction, more adjustment for your frequencies, and sometimes you're getting Bluetooth connection to your phone. More adjustment for your frequencies tends to make the sound quality more clear natural.
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Chris Harmon

Professional Member

07 December 2018 - 646 Views

I am a dispenser but I don't think it's ever the hardware.  I think the premium devices offer more advanced features that can definitely help some of the more advanced hearing losses or give connectivity capabilities to other devices that normally wouldn't be available with lesser devices.  I am not here to promote one manufacturer over another but there is a great one in particular that allow a dispenser to move to more advanced technology levels with upgraded costs.
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Asima Rafeeq

Professional Member

07 December 2018 - 715 Views

You are paying for the technology level 

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Sean  O
Sean O 07 December 2018
Hardware is all the same. Unitron Flex Trial proved that once and for all. You are paying to unlock features in the software.
Bruce E
Bruce E 09 December 2018

Lets assume that you do not mean the $16 TV enhancer from the dollar store, while they work, the sound quality is poor. You mean the hardware on device from the Big Six (Starkey, Siemens, Phonak, Widex, Oticon, Resound) then the hardware is generally of the same quality. They spend millions on products from ON/Genium, Knowles, Sonion and others. Digikey and On/Genium will sell small quantities. Prices are inline with electronic components because these are used in other applications.

Price differences between models are from turning on software features (when using the same chip platform), ie. it is more efficient to upgrade your computer from Win XP to WinX rather than to buy a new computer.

Everything else pays for some very clever software, product promotion and most importantly the dispenser knowledge and follow up care. A correctly fit hearing aid is a modern miracle and poorly fit one can damage your hearing.

Earwax or moisture is the #1 cause of hearing aid failure. Regular cleanings will prolong your devices. Most hearing aids can be repaired for less than $150.00 but always consult your hearing professional to find out if your hearing needs are being met.

Disclosure, 38+ years in the HA industry

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