Who are the major hearing aid companies? There are six major holding companies, with sub companies operating under a host of different names. (Some might argue that there are seven, but with pending deals and mergers on the horizon, we’ll stick with six.) Hearing aids have evolved into small devices with very little obvious branding, therefore the brands are mostly unknown to the average person. Experienced hearing aid users may be familiar with the product brands, but what about their history? The following is a snapshot of each company’s origins.
“Helping People Hear”. Starkey is the only American and non-European-based company, headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Founded in 1967 by William F. Austin as a hearing aid repair store, Starkey has grown from an independent shop to North America’s only major hearing aid company.
Fun fact: Sales for Starkey doubled in 1983 after President Ronald Reagan wore the brand’s hearing aids. Supply was in such high demand that the company suffered a manufacturing crisis.
Whether it’s Elektroakustic, Phonak, or Sonova (Unitron), the Swiss company was founded in 1947 while Ernst Rihs became the majority shareholder in 1965. Sonova has research or manufacturing facilities in Vietnam, China, Canada, and the U.S. as well as in their native Switzerland.
Fun fact: Other than being one of the world’s six largest hearing aid providers, Sonova is also one of the pioneers and facilitators of cochlear implants. Cochlear implants allow a permanent solution to hearing loss through surgery.
Sivantos is a new company with a couple major lines of hearing aids including Signia and Rexton. Those familiar with the hearing aid industry for a while will remember that Siemens was one of the major manufacturers. Siemens is a German company which happens to be the largest industrial manufacturer in all of Europe. Siemens Hearing Instruments sold to Sivantos in 2015 and is headquartered in Singapore. Sivantos is the parent company of Signia (Sivantos’ premiere brand), which is actually based in the exotic land of New Jersey. To summarize, Signia is rooted in Germany, overseen from Singapore, and manufactured in the U.S.A. Sivantos could be considered the youngest company in the industry, though it comes from one of the longest-established manufacturers in European history.
Fun fact: (Not-so-fun fact) Siemens had to start from scratch after all the plants in Berlin were destroyed during World War II. The first hearing aids in Germany weren’t produced again until 1951 in Erlangen.
Widex was founded in 1956 and is still owned by relatives of the two Danish founders, Christian Tøpholm and Erik Westermann. The new headquarters demonstrate a pioneering spirit in sustainability by using groundwater for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. Energy is also created by a wind turbine outside.
Fun fact: Similar to some of America’s most humble, yet inspiring, success stories, Widex was started in the basement of co-founder Christian Tøpholm.
ReSound was founded in 1984 by Dr. Rodney Perkins, a renowned medical innovator who’s currently a Professor of Surgery at Stanford. ReSound as it’s known today has been operating under the Danish parent company, GN Store Nord since 1999.
Fun fact: Though the ReSound name wasn’t conceived until the 1980’s, the company has roots going back to the 1940’s when Gerd Rosenstand founded Danavox in Denmark. Danavox produced its first hearing aid in 1947.
Oticon was founded in 1904 by Hans Demant. His motivation was personal as his wife suffered hearing loss and Hans was looking for a helpful solution. Hans’ son, William, inherited the company in 1910 and the company still operates under the parent name, William Demant Holding Group. Oticon began manufacturing its own hearing components and hearing aids in 1940.
Fun Fact: Princess Alexandra wore a hearing aid for her coronation as Queen of England in 1902. This was well known in Denmark as Alexandra was Danish. Hans was so desperate to help his own wife that he traveled to England to purchase a similar device.
UpState Hearing Instruments fits the majority of their hearing aids from several companies but has, and could, fit every major brand in any of their offices. Each brand has an array of instruments to fit and be programmed for any type of hearing loss. Consult with your hearing aid dispenser to find out what cutting-edge technology can be utilized for you today.
*Sources: All promotional slogans are directly from each company’s respective brand. The purpose of this material isn’t to endorse any particular company but to relay their principles and philosophies through their own words. Other than their own websites, company history was sourced from Wikipedia.