Consumer Reports Hearing Aid Brand Survey Review | Kirkland Signature, Phonak, Signia, Oticon, & AGX

By: Dr Cliff Olson
January 23, 2019
Video Transcript

In the Spring of 2018, Consumer Reports conducted a survey of over 17,000 of it's members to determine the hearing aid brands with the best overall satisfaction.

Consumer Reports is pretty good at reviewing a variety of consumer products from Cars, to Appliances, and yes, even Hearing Aids.  This survey attempted to find the best Hearing Aid Brands based on 12 different criteria.

1. Battery Life

2. Ease of Charging or Changing Batteries

3. Ease of Cleaning

4. Value

5. Reliability

6. Fit/Comfort

7. Visibility to Others

8. Sound Clarity

9. One on One conversation in Noise

10. Talking in Small Groups

11. Talking on a Cell Phone

12. And Listening to the Television or Radio

Their results identified 16 different Hearing Aid Brands with overall scores ranging from 67-76 out of 100 total points.

-Tied for Last Place with 67 points we have NuEar & Beltone.

-Then in 7th Place Miracle Ear with 69 points.

-Tied for 6th Place with 70 points they have AGX Hearing, Starkey, -Bernafon, Unitron, & Audibel.

-In 5th  Place they have Liberty with 72 points.

-In 4th  Place they have Rexton with 73 points.

-Tied for 3rd Place, they have ReSound, Widex, Phonak, & Oticon each with 74 points.

-In Second Place, they have Signia with 75 points.

-And in First Place, they have the Kirkland Brand with 76 points.

According to Consumer Reports, a. “A reader score of 100 would mean all respondents are completely satisfied; 80, that respondents are “very satisfied”, and 60, that respondents are “somewhat satisfied” on average, and…differences of less than 4 points are not meaningful.

”If we look at difference scores, there is no significant difference in overall Brand Hearing Aid Satisfaction on the Upper end of the scale between:

Kirkland

Signia

Oticon

Phonak

Widex

ReSound

& Rexton

On the Bottom end of the scale, there is no difference between:

NuEar

Beltone

Miracle Ear

AGX Hearing

Starkey

Bernafon

Unitron  

& Audibel

As nice as it is to have survey data from over 17,000 Consumer Reports Subscribers, I have two major issues with this data.

First, according to Consumer Reports, "This data is only based on Consumer Reports members who may not be representative of the General US population”.  Which means that you can't make generalizations based on this data.  It would be like assuming that country music is the most popular music genre just because people in Nashville Tennessee like country music the most.  

Since all of the data was collected from individuals who are Consumer Reports Subscribers, they are probably like-minded.  So like-minded that they might think completely different than the average hearing aid wearer.

Second, and even more concerning.  Some of these Brands sell the SAME hearing aids.  Bear with me.  There are 16 Hearing Aid Brands in this survey.  Those 16 brands are owned by only 7 different companies:

Sivantos owns – Rexton, Signia, Kirkland, & AGX Brands

Sonova owns– Phonak, Unitron Brands

Starkey owns– Starkey, Audibel, & AGX Brands

GN owns – ReSound, Beltone, & AGX Brands

William Demant owns – Oticon, Bernafon, & AGX

Widex owns – Widex & AGX

Liberty is on it's own

Let's take a look at the AGX Brand since 5 of the 7 companies actually make AGX Brand hearing aids.  AGX is just a name rebranding, otherwise, they are identical hearing aids of each manufacturer.  An Oticon hearing aid is IDENTICAL to an AGXo hearing aid.  A ReSound hearing aid is IDENTICAL to an AGXr hearing aid.  A Starkey hearing aid is IDENTICAL to an AGXs hearing aid.  So if AGX ranked at the bottom of the list, and these other Name Brands landed at the top of the list, how is this actually possible?

Look at Beltone.  Beltone ranked last and ReSound ranked 3rd.  These are basically IDENTICAL hearing aids with different names stamped on them.  I like that Consumer Reports is trying to compare Hearing Aid Brands, but this is virtually an impossible task.  In my opinion, every single one of the hearing aids at the bottom of the list could easily be at the top if the hearing care provider fitting them followed Best Practices including Real Ear Measures: https://youtu.be/cHR0Oa6I-wY

Dr. Cliff's Thoughts
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