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The World Of Hearing Aid Manufacture

We are often asked who manufactures our hearing aids and on the face of it this seems to be a perfectly reasonable question. If you are a careful buyer of any product or service you may well wish to know who the ultimate supplier is. On a personal level, recalling my earliest career as a farmer, I do try to buy British produce and when not in too much of a hurry can be found peering at labels in the supermarkets trying to ascertain primary suppliers. When I buy British Apples, I can be reasonable confident that the apples have been grown and harvested in Great Britain, giving me a smug “I’m supporting the UK” feeling as I chump away.

Hearing aids are slightly different. There are a large number of manufacturers based all around the world. Some are divisions within very large international corporations. Some are specialist hearing aid manufacturers. Some blend the line between manufacturers and retailers by having interests in both camps. A number have more than one brand at both manufacture and distribution level, so that the same product can be given a tweak, a new name, a new look and Hey Presto we have an entirely new product except that it is fundamentally the same as a competitive product being made by what appears to be a different manufacturer and distributed through different retailers or different countries.

To add further confusion some of the manufacturers use proprietary chip sets while others use components sourced from two primary sub-suppliers. Therefore a large number of different hearing aids can share very similar physical components. The similarity is compounded by the fact that all this plethora of different brands, technologies and electronics have to be designed to fit in a small space – namely your ear. Miniaturisation forces standardisation and with very few exceptions a lot of hearing aids can look remarkably similar.

This minefield of smoke & mirrors used to be my happy hunting ground when for fifteen years I worked for one of the major global manufacturers. Having crossed the divide and moved into the retail world with HearingDirect, I very soon lost my feel for what was really going on behind the scenes, so handed most of our hearing aid procurement over to a company that is independent of any manufacturer or retailer. I’ve known the Managing Director for many years and with his network of suppliers and sub-suppliers he procures a selection of hearing aids from around the world for us. They are all branded HearingDirect and numbered so that the consumer can clearly see how they rank.

We are about to expand our range of hearing aids with two new models. Our manufacturer has worked with us to input software geared to provide high frequency amplification using good quality digital technology. The chips are pre-programmed to suit the vast majority of hearing loss. Am I confident that they will shortly be delivering real benefit for HearingDirect’s customers at a great price? Absolutely. Where are they from? That’s a much tougher question to answer!

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