Hearing Aid Reviews Lack Objective Data?

I would like to see comparative reviews of hearing aids presented like this:

Groups of 50 people try all of the major hearing aid brands. Maybe have 5 groups with each group having a different type of hearing loss.

Each group would test both in the ear and behind the ear hearing aids, standard and custom molds, etc.

The evaluation would include objective data on improvement in speech discrimination in different environments: noise, quiet, indoors, outdoors, cars, classrooms, office, etc. Battery life could be evaluated.

Subjective evaluations of the quality of music streaming and phone calls could be done.

Are there any reviews or studies like this? If not, then why?

There are no reviews like this. Who’s going to pay for it? Unlikely hearing aid manufacturers would pay for it to show that it likely doesn’t make any difference which hearing aids you wear. There have been some blinded studies done showing no difference between basic and premium model hearing aids and some showing people liked their placebo hearing aids.

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Most studies use mild to moderate hearing loss only for their studies, they don’t use what I feel is real world hearing loss. They don’t use the ones with hard to fit issues, or even severe to profound hearing loss. Most people with mild to moderate hearing loss don’t even realize they have a hearing loss. When I first started trying to get aids and help, I was told yes I needed aids but I would not like them because we don’t know how to make them work for you. I had a severe extreme cookie bite hearing loss. That was a private practice Audiology clinic. It wasn’t until I finally got approved for my aids from the VA that I found Audiologists that would even try to make aids for me. I have even been told by my Audi that I have now that he can make them work because I am losing my high frequencies.

As already stated, who would pay for such a study? That would be a very costly study to run. With new models coming out every year or 2, by the time the results were collected, tabulated and published, they would be giving info for old models. What would the study use as a control? A hearing person, or group? It’s just not a situation that lends itself to that sort of study.

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There are tons of electronics review sites on YouTube and elsewhere. Anything from watches to cell phones to earbuds to robotic vacuum cleaners. The manufacturers send free samples of their products to the reviewers because they want the exposure. The reviewers make money from ads on their sites/ channels, and from affiliate links. I am curious why Dr. Cliff doesn’t include comparative objective testing in his reviews…such as the ability to hear in noise. Wouldn’t it be good to know which hearing aid provides the best speech discrimination in noisy environments? And ok, instead of testing fifty people then test three people and average their results. Some objective data is better than nothing.

Hearing aid manufacturers do something similar to what you’re suggesting. They design a comparative test that their aids will shine at. Then they do a comparison between “leading brand A and B” or something similar. The problem is that it’s not objective and if they somehow screw up and lose, they don’t publish it. The good side is that it really doesn’t matter because all major brand hearing aids are decent. If there’s some special feature you want, an audiologist or somebody on the forum can direct. Sorry, but what you want just isn’t going to happen (unless you fund the objective hearing aid test institute)

The hearing aid makers do exhaustive testing of aids before introducing them. The results are proprietary information. I did see a video produced by Phonak describing the testing they did for Autosense. Some of the results seemed to show only marginal improvement. Hearing aid makers don’t want objective comparisons. They want to sell hearing aids based on often inflated claims. There are differences in the different brands, or else there wouldn’t be the fierce brand loyalty we see. Personal preference might play a bigger role in hearing aid sales than objective performance.

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Your interest in comparative reviews regarding various hearing aid performance has been needed for the last thirty plus years. Who - I repeat “WHO” is the overseeing entity that monitors, reviews and judges hearing aid performance. The answer is “NO ONE”. And please don’t tell me consumer reports does a good job breaking down HA performance. That’s a joke.

Your suggestions jaseverson have been mentioned by others here on HT, in trying to break down the difference in HA performance not just for individuals but the masses. I posted your same thoughts months ago and got the usual. Hard to do. How do you differentiate between someone’s experience with a certain aid to someone else. How do you compare various hearing losses with various hearing aids and then break that down into consumer friendly data. Blah, blah, blah. Your suggestions as mine could easily be achieved if any “serious governing body” really wanted to find out how hearing aids tick and how certain brands would benefit certain people with mild, mid range and severe to profound hearing loss. It’s all pretty much “Spock Logic”, to test multiple aids on several large groups of people with various levels of hearing loss and then come up with objective data to share with “future” buyers of hearing aids. Oh - wouldn’t that really be nice.

But you see the hearing aid industry is pretty much ungoverned. The FDA doesn’t get involved, much less any other government agency regarding the short and long term performance of hearing aids. Case in point - “how do you even know you’re getting a brand new hearing aid that has never been used by another human being” when you fork over $2,000, $3000 dollars. The answer is “you don’t”.
You might see a fancy little box your aids came in or a plastic cover with a new brush to clean your aid with, but really are you looking at a totally new aid or a reused/recycled aid that was worn and rejected by someone else?

But getting back to your initial question - I’m not even sure hearing aid manufactures want objective data between say a Phonak aid and a Oticon aid that can clearly spelled out (for the buying public) the advantages of one aid over another. The way the game is played you’re supposed to let your selected hearing aid specialist or Audi pick out the hearing aid that is best for you. Unfortunately, more than half the hearing aid specialist out there already have special contracts with certain HA manufactures to push this aid or that aid. Now I’m not saying all HA dealers work that way but I do give “Big Bonus Points” to any Audi or aid specialist that offers across the board selection of various hearing aids. But (again) you have to wonder from a price stand point if such and such Audi or aid specialist is going to offer one hearing aid brand cheaper then another because of some special volume contract involved between the aid manufacture and the hearing aid dealer. And yes I’'m aware that certain aids do cost more than others, but really it’s the hearing aid dealer that decides the final cost due to his or her commission for selling x, y or z hearing aid.

In any case with OTC hearing aids coming in some distant (delayed) date the odds of evaluating the overall performance of hearing aids as they relate to some research study or hearing medical review that some how ranks aid performance, is probably a distant dream that will never be truly implemented.
For now all we have is “Google such and such HA” and Cliff Olson’s excellent online reviews on new aids to base our buying decisions on, plus who ever we meet with that sells hearing aids.

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Because there’s no real objective measures that would prove that some aid is better than the other.

Todays HAs perform equally in quiet, no matter the tech level or brand.

If they can help you at all. For that we use WRS. If that’s low, forget about getting much out of them.

In noise, their success depends on your brain’s ability to use the information needed. The higher your SNr, the worse your expected help, and no HA in the world will help you. At the time, best HAs give what, 5db boost?

External mic gives 15db. So you’re better off with cheapest aid a proper mic than with most expensive aid.

And if your SNR is higher than that, you’re doomed. (higher snr = worse hearing).

Two people with same audiogram and same WRS still can have different SNR and then expected help from HAs vary.

Our losses aren’t standardised and our brains which process signal are different. Issue with hearing loss is that we don’t have objective way to really know what gets to the brain, how distorted it is etc.

Distorted sound makes brains job extremely hard.

With headphones you can put them, measure output per frequency and what not, but sound is clear or you can even measure distortion.

But with HAs all those values are basically useless since we hear with our brain and we stil know almost nothing about that part. Only wild guesses and subjective feedback from many trials.

But, they’re subjective.

HAs hardware specs aren’t that different between major manufacturers and will tell you nothing how well will your brain utilise the information given.

So what would be the point of such big trial when at best you can get personal opinions?

This game doesn’t have single winner. Each person have to decide for themselves what brings most value to them, for their loss and lifestyle.

I spend several hours on this site, I’ve started with another post, but this one is also loaded with facts.

Only thing I regret is not finding that site 3 months ago. Great great information.

Like, in noise you need max 1.5m distance, and put noise behind you but also if you face wall, get 3m from the wall. And with regular speech, after 7m mics just can’t pick it up.

Such facts about how mics work can tell you what are the differences and similarities. And what to expect.


hold4triple and blacky…thanks for your good comments. I do think that hearing aides can be compared objectively. For example, an audio testing device could measure the hearing aides ability to filter out noise and make speech clear. Yes, its true that each person’s experience will vary, but that doesn’t mean comparisons can’t be made. And yes, when you are hammer, everything looks like a nail. So if a dealer has contracts and incentives, of course they will push that brand, and of course they will push the higher margin top of the line aids. Gosh, only 5db of improvement in noise…that is pretty modest. Blacky.,…that is the best website I have seen…I was impressed by this article. .seems that Phonak and Unitron do the best job with automatic program switching. So then the question is just how effective are the programs?

Yup, I was shocked as well. Especially since when I did test myself USING hearing aids for LACE training I got more than 12 or 15 need :confused:

I spend like 6-10h reading that site, it’s excellent, excellent!

Like, setting up the expectations, giving the numbers. Saying loud and clear that level of tech should be recommended by your SNR score and not your lifestyle, because we hear differently under same circumstances. And that many people pay more than they’d need.

In my case, there’s no aids that can help me ideally. Even with mics, it’s not all correct.

This part where you say we can measure output, yes, we can, we do, and it still isn’t good enough to say this manufacturer is ultimately the best. Because only variety of ‘sound colors’ as I call them can give us a choice to find a product for us.

This site was linked by someone else in another thread, excellent material.

Like, no aid can catch normal sound after 7m in quiet, and in noise that distance is up to 2m at best, but more often 1m.
It’s nice to have that in one place.

How effective are auto programs? Awesome.
Only thing I have to do is to turn off BT so that notifications from phone don’t switch my aids from tv to phone streaming.
And I do tv switch manually because I want control over that without getting up to turn on/off the connector.

One thing I don’t like is that it’s not easily seen in which program it is or when it switched, you can only go to edit to check. So far I’ve managed to catch him in noise, loud noise, car, and quiet, sometimes I feel transition, mostly not. I’m very very happy about it, since every program is fully adjustable, not just noise cancelling level, but all frequency adjustment if you need it, mic directionality for many, even how soon loud noise should trigger.

I mostly only fiddle with aids for streaming, splitting the volume because some youtube channels are different from others, and depending on the series we watch on tv, I might want louder/quieter.

Regular hearing stuff, was fiddling at the beginning to set them up, now I can’t remember if I even a/b tested something for quite a time. (so, days/weeks)

This is a good explanation of Phonak’s Auto Sense. Most people don’t understand what it is or how it works.
Thanks for sharing.

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Until I started looking up into other manufacturers I thought that variations of autosense was new standard in HAs since I bought my last one.

Then I’ve realised it’s definitely not.

This site mentioned above has some good explanation what’s the main difference - phonak/unitron having multiple bases and you modify each to the extent you need and HA switches automatically between them, plus you have manual.
And others who have single base, and then some (resound for example) brings some features that adapt to the environment automatically, like noise cancelling.

Phonak basically gives you ability to have completely different aids for different environments and on top of that, he pretty good guesses in which environment you are and makes the switch between them.

Me having special snowflake of a loss, I’ve already seen benefit of having different bases, so I’m glad I’ve discovered phonak, and especially DIY. That really helped me understand how HAs work.

It seems the Phonak Marvel and the Opticon OPN S get lots of good reviews. Did you ever try to Oticon OPN S? What did you think of it?

What do you mean by DIY? You have fitting software?

Costco sells the Kirkland Signature 9.0 hearing aids for $1500 a pair. From reading various online posts, it sounds like this hearing aid is now compatible with Roger devices, and is now available with a telecoil. After a recent firmware update, the Siganture hearing aides are now compatible with the Phonak app. Its seems that all of the features on the Phonak Marvel M90 are available on the Signature 9.0, expect for remote adjustment and rechargeable batteries.

I mentioned the telecoil but I would rarely use it, so if it adds to the size of the aid I would take a pass.

Do you think I should try out the Kirkland at Costco, or go to a budget-friendly audiologist and compare the Phonak Marvel M90 (or maybe the new Paradise) and Opticon OPN S?

It seems the Phonak Marvel and the Opticon OPN S get lots of good reviews. Did you ever try to Oticon OPN S? What did you think of it?

I haven’t. At first I was pointed towards phonak bc of being android user. Then with time I’ve discovered how tricky my loss is, and that I definitely want roger mics, and I also like direct streaming very much.
I went checking prices to make any other aid roger and android compatible and it just isn’t worth the much higher for me, plus hassle with wearing additional devices.
And then I’ve learned that auto switch programs isn’t default today, and my main emphasis is speech comprehension not natural sound, so, I stick with phonak.

When I first tried HAs, 5 years ago, I tried oticon alta pro I think it was, sounded nice but useless, I couldn’t understand a friend sitting like 50 cm from my bad ear, and I understood him better without that aid :rofl:
Granted they were fitted with manufacturers formula plus bunch of tweaking, but widex was as well.
So I wasn’t inclined to test them now either. Especially when I realised that they push ‘all sounds in and let your brain filter out things’.

My special snowflake of the loss makes my brain’s job hard enough and I decided I’ll go for solutions that makes comprehension as easy as possible (it’s not easy, it’s hard, I just don’t want to make it harder). I don’t care about ‘natural sound’, since I have one good ear if I want to hear that. I mostly don’t. Eg I wear HA in good ear to get the most of binaural tech, plus simultaneous streaming, and so far I never removed HA to ‘hear the real sound’. I’m perfectly fine with weird sounds that are overemphasised for speech where I can understand people speaking.
Other times I prefer silence over anything else. Not audiophile either.

What do you mean by DIY? You have fitting software?

I do, and programming device, so with that I reduced need for visiting fitter for trivial stuff plus I got to understand how they can be set up.

I’ve checked starkey and resound sw recently, and didn’t like the (lack of) options :joy:
Phonak really enables a tons of customisations, what I like

Costco sells the Kirkland Signature 9.0 hearing aids for $1500 a pair. From reading various online posts, it sounds like this hearing aid is now compatible with Roger devices, and is now available with a telecoil. After a recent firmware update, the Siganture hearing aides are now compatible with the Phonak app. Its seems that all of the features on the Phonak Marvel M90 are available on the Signature 9.0, expect for remote adjustment and rechargeable batteries.

I think I’ve read that even remote might come?

I mentioned the telecoil but I would rarely use it, so if it adds to the size of the aid I would take a pass.

Difference between 312 regular and T rechargeable which are biggest I think are few mm in length and 1 wide. Unless you have laser meter in eyes, you probably won’t see the difference if they’re not side by side. My ear really doesn’t feel it. I’ve had a bunch of them on my ears. To me, all are just tiny. And I wear glasses and they’re behind my ear when you look at me from the side. And I don’t have big ears.

Do you think I should try out the Kirkland at Costco, or go to a budget-friendly audiologist and compare the Phonak Marvel M90 (or maybe the new Paradise) and Opticon OPN S?

I’d say try KS9. They’re basically M90 which are really great aids. And price is unbeatable.

Regular prices here are let’s say 2800 eur for M90 and 3000 eur for P90. Per piece. So to me, it’s ‘just’ 400 eur difference and a bit better BT connection and softer button and 2 devices at once is worth the difference.
I’m on job hunt and will work in IT, so watching conferences/tutorials on the computer while staying connected to the phone sounds good. Also, I’ll commute each day at least an hour in public transport each way, so BT that has less hiccups outside when walking is worth.

I managed to get some significant discount (also, I’m buying one without any setup, the one for good ear), but the price difference between M and P is the same.

But if I’d have an option to go half the price and get 2x M but such deal wouldn’t be available for not Ps, I wouldn’t think twice.

So it depends how much money you can waste on them. Also, if you need mics or not (if your sentence in noise score is bad, for example). If you need mics, I’d say costco KS9 and then you buy mics and you’re probably below the price for that same package with other dispenser.

If you don’t need mics, then play around with comparing. It’s probably a bit harder since you probably have to pay for each and then get refund (I don’t have to pay anything in advance, so even parallel comparison is easy).

Take notes! Don’t rely on your memory. I managed to forget the sound quality in a day :joy:

And phonak vs oticon, I’d say it’s worth trying more manufacturers if you’re not happy with speech comprehension or whatever you seek and features with the current one. So start with one and give it some time then if you are not happy, try another one.

But keep in mind to be realistic. Like, no aid can help you understand better in noise if your brain need more than 5db SNR boost, aid works up to 7m in quiet and not through the walls, and 1-2 m in noise, speech babble noise is the hardest, and probably in 0.5-1m distances.

Also, if your best word recognition score is poor (80 and below), no aid can push you above that.
Because that’s what your brain can figure out of the sounds coming in. You might train your brain with time and intentional exercises. But don’t expect that HAs will bring back comprehension. They won’t.

They only bring more or less processed sound, and it depends with which your brain can work the best.

And one more thing, cheapest level of tech or even cheapest platform currently available will give you same comprehension in quiet as the most expensive one. Saw study but also tested on myself.

Only condition is that they’re both properly fit following the best practices.
Check here if you haven’t already

best practices summarised by dr cliff

edit: I decided I want roger select which with phonak marvel/paradises doesn’t need extras. I didn’t tried other mics, mostly because whenever I checked, everyone would say how select is pure awesomeness and I definitely confirmed that in my ears, so I was lazy to do extensive testing all around. I think other manufacturer’s mics can do good in relatively quiet with several people around the table (think meetings), but I’m not sure if any is coming close to select in noisy situations. Since, I think many use omnidirectional for table solution or direct-directional tat has to be worn on a speaking person and grabs only their voice, while select definitely has some noise cancelling features built in, plus it seeks the speaker or you can fix it on someone. I really hear the difference. I have tested it with roger pen, and pen isn’t even close. I guess since pen uses omnidirectional approach for table mode.
Select uses beam forming bla something. Works really good, if you need that. I do :frowning:

So, I’d say two most important reasons were sticking with android and having select without insane additional costs (I’d have to pay either 1000 eur for select in that works with P/M or 1000 eur for regular select + around I think 600 or 800 per receiver, and I’d need two or one plus device to plug in that receiver).

That’s main reason why I haven’t do trials with other than phonak. I did a ton of online reading and price calculations and ended realising that it would cost me even more to get the similar setup, and I’d either need to buy new phone, or additional streamer and whatnot. Just too much hassle just to see if I’d like the sound more. I decided I want speech clarity, I got it. Sound isn’t the best, but it serves the purpose.

I tested some baby unitron without any gadgets so that I can say that I did to my insurance. I’ll get around 700 eur from them, I’m not sure if I’ll manage to convince them to buy me P90s. I doubt it :frowning:

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Regard Costco and remote programming of KS9: From talking to my fitter, this is definitely in the works. Don’t have a firm date, but I got the feeling it should be “soon.”

Another advantage of Costco vs a bargain seller is that Costco offers a lot of service. Drop your aids off for a few minutes and they’ll give them a quick check and change the wax filter and dome (and often the battery) They’ll also handle any shipping it back to the manufacturer if warranty work is needed. For newbys (and many others, including me), Costco is hard to beat. I’d almost say that if you have to ask the question, you should just go to Costco.

Blacky and MDB…I made an appointment at Costco for a hearing exam and then testing out the KS9. The earliest appointment I could get was September 30th.

Blakcy, I looked at your audiogram. I can’t imagine how that impacts your hearing, but it must be difficult. I have pretty typical high-frequency loss starting at about 4hz…20-30 DB in the one ear and 30-40 DB in the other ear. I am pretty sure my speech recognition is above 80.

I am 6’8" tall so standing and having a conversation with people of average height can be challenging for me if there is background noise.

Glad you mentioned the Roger devices…if I return to substitute teaching placing the Roger Select in the center of the classroom might be helpful. Of course, my vanity would prefer the pen, but you indicated it is inferior to the larger device.

MDB–hope you are staying safe with all of the wildfires…I am happy to hear that Costco provides a good audiology service. I have to admit I don’t like going into Costco, but I will do it to buy their prime grade brisket. Costco forces people to buy three bottles of ketchup instead of one bottle. I am a minimalist so this turns me off haha.

Blacky, how much does that Roger Select device that you like cost?

Roger select only works in relatively small radius and if you have students, chairs, desks, books, etc. blocking the select - you will not get a good connection. Plus who wants to put some expensive hearing aid device in the middle of a classroom where kids can play hockey with it, or possibly toss out the window?

Click on the link and then check out the first picture/display of the Roger Select. See the bare bones empty table with one glass of water on top. I really think its time to get realistic on some of these “through the roof” expensive gadgets and stop claiming they do all, see all, smell all, hear all, etc. Spend your hard earned money buying a good hearing aid and leave these “pumped” expensive accessories in the “not interested” file.

So far so good with the fire. I buy very little from Costco besides gasoline and hearing aids. I don’t think a Roger Select in the middle of the classroom would cut it. Roger devices are pretty expensive. I’ve seen prices for the Roger Select iN (the one you need if you don’t want to buy separate Roger receivers) range from $1100 to $1750.