Oticon Real 1 vs Philips Hearlink 9040 (huge price difference)

Couple of questions. Sorry if slightly off topic. Is the 9040 specifically available as a BTE?

Also - if it is comparable with the Oticon Real - then it must be one of the strongest offerings Costco are doing currently. Does one need the connect clip for bluetooth streaming on android?

I would agree that if I didn’t have the money to buy the Oticon Real or More, I would go for the Philips 9040 at Costco for $1700 as a cousin model. I wouldn’t say that it’s comparable. I would say that it has a lot of similar technologies except when it comes down to the core. I would definitely not say that it’s the same, not like how the KS10 is the exactly the same as the Phonak Paradise down to the core, sans tinnitus.

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If my hearing would be noticable better with the Oticon Real over the Philips, I would pay the money and move on. I can read about the technology all day, which is cool, but which one performs and helps me hear in better in multiple situations? It’s difficult to try both of them because of the time involved and upfront money you have to pay. That’s why it’s useful to hear other’s experience who have a similar hearing loss. I’ve bought premium models in the past and they haven’t been any better than the CC models.

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The actual hardware is identical. Both built on the SBO DA_AU5_MNR_R – fcc id 2ACAHAU5MRTRC (assuming we’re talking about the rechargable variants). The software may make a difference, but I suspect it’ll be minor at best. Bigger difference will be whichever audiologist is able to spend more time with you and tweak them.

Interestingly, both the 9030 and More are also based on that same hardware platformm. Seems like it’s only software differentiating the two generations this time around. Makes me wonder if these things can be crossflashed with a little bit of ingenuity… but that’s not a rabbit hole I’m going down with devices that cost nearly 10% of my yearly income and are vital to my day to day functioning.

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The initial setup is based on your audiogram and REM. There shouldn’t be much difference between using Costco or any other HCP.

After wearing for a couple of weeks you may want to make tweaks. Here the experience of the HCP could make a difference, but another approach is to use DIY for tweaking. The software is surprisingly easy to use. This is the approach I am taking. I really like being able to make minor changes.

Can you share with us where you found this kind of information? Any public link? This is very interesting info to learn about some more. Thanks.

It’s here, lots of good information on bluetooth module as well.

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The user guides mention the fcc ids for the hearing aids - which is the same for all of the below models (and probably some bernafon and sonic hearing aids as well)

Oticon Real (page 76)

Oticon More / Play / Zircon (page 77)

Philips 9040/7040/5040 (page 76)

Philips 9030/7030/5030 (page 69)

And as tenkan shows, the actual documents submitted to the fcc can be looked up. The “user manual” notes the following " The Aurora5 miniRITE T R radio model is intended to be installed in Oticon, Bernafon, Sonic, Philips and affiliated private labels wireless hearing aid devices of the miniRITE T R (Receiver-In-The-Ear) wearing style"

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Ah, OK, thanks both @tenkan and @terra for sharing this information.

I can understand that the radio model can be the same for Oticon and Philips aids, and possibly extends out to Bernafon and Sonic as well. I would consider the wireless radio frequency portion of the hardware sharable and commonly used between all the Demant brands. That would be what I would call the peripheral stuff, similarly and consistent to how they share the TV adapter and BT streaming device (like the ConnectClip type), and even peripheral technologies like the Sudden Sound Stabilizer and Wind & Handling Stabilizer, the Sound Optimizer (feedback prevention), Speech Rescue (frequency lowering), etc.

But I’m not convinced that this radio model submitted for FCC approval is ALL INCLUSIVE that represents everything that comprise of all the hardware portions of the aids, including the actual system on a chip platform of the design. This only proves that they share the same radio-specific (peripheral) model as submitted and approved by the FCC. It doesn’t prove that they have the same exact hardware all throughout.

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Why would DeMant go to the expense, testing, certification, increased production cost and increased inventory cost of producing two versions of the same core module: when you can make the one and knobble/de-feature it with software?

They’re slicing up the market; selling different versions of the same cake to different income streams. It’s part of the problem of the market running as a restricted entrance oligopoly.

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I agree, it’s highly unlikely there are any real hardware differences (though perhaps a minor CPU update between the More/Real and comparable models of the other brands that didn’t require a new FCC ID).

Million dollar question is what do the actual software differences amount to? I don’t think there’s a lot of us who got to use the various different models out there with the exact same settings prescribed, and hearing is subjective enough that it’d be tough to get a true answer without blinded trials.

I don’t think we are going to get a definitive answer to the million dollar question. My guess is the software differences are minimal. However, there does seem to be a rational course of action: try Costco first.

You get 180 days ( in US) to try and tweak. If you’re not satisfied, Costco refunds the entire cost.

Of course, if you have an unusual hearing loss, you should probably stick with an audiologist who deals with this type of loss, but for standard ski-slope loss, Costco does well.

@chrisb The real question is: Does one help you hear better in various situations to justify the extra cost. From what @Volusiano has shown the software algorithm structure is different. It’s interesting to know the processor, A/D converters etc. but that won’t tell you if one is better than the other. I’m guessing the SOC was developed several years ago and is not the latest technology.

I am not entirely convinced by @Volusiano analysis. Neural networks when trained are computationally quite simple. The major computational work is in collecting the training data and then optimizing the parameters. I find it hard to believe that this was done more than once. My guess is the underlying neural networks are the same.

Yeah I agree, we’re unlikely to get a definitive answer there. I’ll probably give Costco a try when it’s time to upgrade. For now I’m okay with my More’s.

The main tricky part of my audiogram seems to be that my speech discrimination is disproportionately poor. But my ENT suspects that their recording is just particularly tough for me since I can more or less have a full conversation with him (and others) without too much difficulty.

Now if the Phillips aids truly have a focus on noisy environments, that is of interest to me given the nature of my work (I’m a resident physician). But a lot of the technical details seem to be hidden behind marketing fluff, so it’s difficult to assess how much these things actually vary. I wouldn’t be surprised if the training sets used were the same.

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You’re right that Demant would not manufacture the hardware differently if they could design the same hardware that can be configured 100% via software so that they can save on production cost. But you (and @terra) are making a HUGE outright presumption here that they could do that, because you guys are not hearing aid manufacturers and don’t have that kind of visibility to really know one way or another to make a definitive statement that they use exactly 100% the same hardware for all these brands.

And neither do I have that kind of visibility to say definitively that they don’t. But I’m not saying that they don’t either. I’m just saying that the FCC application/approval just for the same radio module to be used across the board is NOT definitive proof to be able to conclude that they use the same hardware across the board either. We just don’t know enough.

But regardless of their implementation technique, whether they can use the same exact hardware across the board or not but use software to make the technology differentiation, or whether they use different hardware for their core, it still doesn’t change the fact that they’re different product lines across the different companies, and they’re not rebranded version of the same product line like how the Phonak Marvel or Paradise are the rebranded version of the KS9 or KS10 at Costco, sans tinnitus.

As an electrical engineer myself by background, I’m inclined to think that the peripheral technologies are shared and are of the same implementation, but their core platforms are not just different by software implementation, but also by hardware implementation. The reason I think this way is because the hearing aid is a very small device that would usually require ASIC type implementation (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) in order to be able to cram all the core design into a small enough space that have the kind of performance as required, especially if an AI implementation is required which would require an exhorbitant amount of real estate to execute. Even an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) type implementation (where you use the same array of silicon logic gates at the underlayers and simply have different metal layers on top to wire the gates differently to turn the FPGA into different designs, which is still a metal level hardware configuration and not a software configuration) is questionable to me because FPGAs can’t offer the (more massive and more tightly packed) real estate and the kind of high power processing performance that the ASICs can.

One glaring example is the Whisper design model. You can see that in order to be able to make the hardware design easily configurable to be 100% software updatable, they have to resort to change the design philosophy of the hearing aid industry upside down and put all that hardware into a separate (and much bigger) box (called the Brain) in order to be able to make that kind of implementation feasible.

But the bottom line is that regardless of whether it’s the same hardware with different software implementation or not, they’re still very different product lines sold and marketed by different companies, and they’re not outright rebranded products like with the Phonaks and the KS9, KS10 type arrangement.

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If you read through the SBO user manual linked above, the main IC (what they call the engine module) contains the DSP and RF chips on a single package and interfaces with all of external connections (mics, speakers, antennae). Now could the theoretically have multiple versions of that package with a different processor that are all pin compatible with each other? Perhaps, but that stretches plausibility IMO.

System on a chip (SOC) is very common occurrence nowadays where multiple chips are put together as a system of multiple chips inside a complete single package. Just by nature of having a single package does not imply that it’s very plausible that everything inside that SOC are the same.

But remember that I’m not arguing that they’re not the same either. They may be the same, or they may be different. We just don’t know. Again, the point of whether they share the same exact hardware or not is irrelevant. The real debate here is whether they have a rebranded product line arrangement like how the Phonak is rebranded as KS9 and KS10 or not. And I would contend that they’re not a rebranded arrangement, even between Oticon and Philips here. Demant is a big enough industry where they can own and foster different core hearing aids technologies between their subsidiary companies. They don’t need to have different companies under their umbrella to just simply sell the same rebranded products under different brand names.

And even if you have a same hardware and use the software to tier them differently into Tier 1, 2 and 3 by disabling some of the features, the Tiers with the different feature offerings already make them different enough in terms of performance. So even an Oticon Real 1 is different enough from an Oticon Real 3 in performance that it’s irrelevant whether they share the same hardware or not (and in this case it’s obvious that they do). So again, back to the point that it’s kind of pointless to point out that they share the same hardware in the first place.

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I’ve tried the More and liked it. I wear the 9030 and like it. I find them very similar in my actual usage, and enjoy the $5000 that’s still in my wallet. I’m sure it would be the same for the Real and 9040.

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Considering Philips aids are sold outside of costco (at least in other countries), it’s clear that those are what the Costco aids will be closest to rather than a rebrand of the Oticons.

What’s not clear is how much do the aids of the various sister companies differ. There’s probably some differences, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out Oticon Real 1 = Philips 9040 = Bernafon Alpha XT 9 = Sonic Radiant SE 100; Real 2 = 7040 = XT 7 = SE 80, etc.

I have no idea if this is a Toyota vs Lexus situation or a Chevy vs GMC