|Phonak at a Glance|
|Oticon at a Glance|
|Bluetooth capability||Yes (phone, TV)||Yes (phone, TV)|
|Tinnitus support help||Yes||Yes|
|Customer service||Online FAQ, 1-800 number, Online form||Online support, 1-800 number|
Neither company advertises its hearing aid prices online. If you're interested in a product, you'll be directed to find a professional hearing aid provider in your area to book an appointment. From there, your hearing aid provider will work with you to find which hearing aid model best suits you and your budget. Take a look at our Oticon and Phonak pricing pages for more information on price and how to purchase your hearing aids.
The most significant difference between Phonak and Oticon is in the fundamental philosophy they use to calculate how much sound is produced at which pitches to address your hearing loss. Phonak leans toward the “maximum speech audibility” approach defined by the DSL-I/o 5 algorithm developed at the University of Western Ontario. Oticon's algorithm is closer to the NAL-NL2 formula from the National Acoustics Lab in Australia. Both accurately represent the entire spectrum of speech for soft through very loud sound inputs, but the NAL-NL2 approach provides a little more listening comfort. Research has historically shown the algorithms to be essentially equivalent when listening to speech, so you really can't go wrong.
Beyond providing basic loudness correction for hearing loss, Phonak and Oticon differ significantly in how they approach hearing speech in background noise. Phonak relies on automatic and manually adjusted directional microphones to “zoom” into desired signals. Oticon's “Open Sound” approach in their OPN generation devices aims to provide an accurate “360” representation of the world that allows the brain to select the signal you want to listen to. I don't see a significant difference between the two approaches for people with mild to moderate hearing loss in my clinical practice. For those with more severe hearing loss, particularly those with very poor hearing in background noise, the Phonak approach works a bit better for my patients.
Both Oticon and Phonak offer hearing aids ranging from IIC (invisible in the canal) to high power BTE (behind the ear). The most popular for both is the RIC (receiver in canal) style that provides a great balance between discretion and functionality. Phonak also offers a unique device called Lyric, which is an “extended wear” IIC. The Lyric uses a sealed battery and is placed very deep in the ear canal by specially trained dispensers. After about three months, the device is replaced under a subscription plan. I've fit a lot of these in my practice; I've found that for folks with mild to moderate hearing loss and the right size and shape ear canal, they work quite well.
Quick Tip: Not sure which hearing aid style is right for you? Check out our hearing aid buying guide for more details on hearing aid styles and more.
Both Phonak and Oticon offer “Made for iPhone” devices. Android users can also connect to both, but Oticon users will need an intermediary device called the Connect Clip. In contrast, the Phonak Marvel can connect directly to most Android devices using the “Bluetooth Classic” protocol.
Both Oticon and Phonak allow users to overcome the limitations of distance, reverberation, and background noise; however, Phonak has the edge here. Their Roger system, while quite expensive, is the leader for hearing well in complex listening environments, including educational settings. Both offer equivalent TV streaming devices and smartphone apps.
For the average first-time senior customer, I feel very comfortable recommending either Oticon or Phonak. Both will provide world-class technology and customer service at a fair price. Phonak and Oticon are currently only available through “brick and mortar” dispensers, but they offer some level of telemedicine support.
I tend to lean toward Phonak for those with more severe hearing loss since those users nearly always need the more aggressive speech-in-noise approach that Phonak provides.