[Edit I started this blog post to collate some information on the SpecSavers Advance range – so I can compare the Super against the Elite, and also see how they compared to Signia/Siemens. My requirements include social environments, cycling, and listening to sat nav, phone and computer streaming etc – as I dug deeper I decided that I really should just go for the Primax 7px … ]
As technology changes and we become more technology literate, I think there will be increasing demand from some customers to know more about the technical features and capabilities of their hearing aids. At the moment SpecSavers go for a simple option. You can have:
If you want any more details you have to discuss with the audiologist. I’ve never spent so much money on something (£2,000) and been told so little about it. Also the audiologist will understandably use the simplest broadest terms describing features in a fairly generic way. While this is approach is ideal for some, for me I still had more questions. But being a fairly reflective person I tend to think of them as soon as I’ve walked out of the session.. Wireless/Bluetooth Streaming option? directional microphones? , I want to know as much as possible.
For example, I neglected to mention that I am a keen cyclist, so my audiologist recommended the best HA based on the needs that I communicated at the time. However as soon as finally I saw the spec sheet of the next model up, I realised the advanced Wind Cancellation could be quite important to me.
The information below focuses on my requirements. Yours may be different. I have moderate bilateral high frequency hearing loss , and use open domes. I want to upgrade from my NHS BTE (Siemens Octiv M) to RIC. I want :
- Digital streaming of phone audio (ideally without addons)
- Digital streaming of computer audio
- advanced directional procession for noisy environments
- good performance in wind (when cycling)
Below is the full spec sheet which is correct for April 2017. If you have trouble reading the scans below – I also have the specs of the of the hearing aids they are based on. read on …
Note that SpecSavers have 3 different models they call Elite. The SpecSavers Model Numbers are 3 digits. The middle digit indicates the Manufacurer. 1=Siemens 2 = Starkey 3 = Phonak. The Siemens models I was considering are:
- Specsavers Advance 616
- Specsavers Advance 816
The specifications are below in the 1st and 3rd columns. Subject to change – this was correct as of April 2017.
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SpecSavers – Siemens or Rexton? Does it matter?
This is confusing.
Siemens brand and Rexton hearing aids are owned by the same company. Sivantos.
Sivantos is basically the new name for the umbrella company Siemens Audiology Solutions.
Rexton is a sister company of Siemens. So technically, at present – Rexton hearing aids are made by Siemens.
The Siemens branded and Rexton hearing aid ranges are not the same and are pitched at different market segments in this order:
- Siemens (this brand name is being gradually phased out and becoming Signia)
In fact in the UK – the Siemens Primax 7 is also called the Signia Primax 7. Also Rexton hearing aids are manufactured by Siemens.
Do Specsavers Advance have the same technology as Siemens Branded Hearing Aids ?
NO! In the UK , SpecSavers order their hearing aids from Siemens UK, so my experience is that some audiologists will swear blind that the Advance line are identical in programming to Siemens HA but with a few external differences. This is not true. The Specsavers Advanced line manufactured by Siemens is bases on Rexton technology NOT Siemens technology. They do have same or similar hardware but the programming(software) is different. For example SpecSavers Advance 816/616 have Rexton QuadCore technology (you can see the logo in the scans above), this is just a generic marketing term for certain features primarily Audio Exchange. Siemens branded hearing aids, have a different Audio Exchange technology called SmartHearing.
Regarding the Primax there are some sub-categories:
- Primax Ace – Very small RIC
- Primax Pure – Wireless capability RIC
- Primax Motion – Large BTE
- Primax Insio – Custom ITE
Primax Pure vs SpecSavers 816/616
I am primarily interested in comparing the Primax Pure against the SpecSavers 816/616.
Now that we know Specsavers 816/616 are really Rexton HAs we have more information so can do a better comparison. There is some overlap in performance between the Signia and Rexton brands. Some Rexton hearing aids will be ‘better’ on paper, than some Siemens hearing aids. However you will find that The general consensus online is that Rexton is the economy Siemens or the ‘second-line’ Siemens.
Here is a purely technical review of the Primax 7px.
With that in mind , we can compare the SpecSavers specifications against the Rexton specs and it seems fairly obvious that:
- SpecSavers Advance Super 616 = Rexton Emerald S 60 4c
- SpecSavers Advance Elite 816 = Rexton Emerald S 80 4c
||Advance Super 616
||Advance Elite 816
||Rexton Emerald S 60 4c
||Rexton Emerald S 80 4c
||Siemens/Signia Primax 5
||Siemens/Signia Primax 7
|Typical Online Cost(*)
(*) Price-wise, we should be careful not to compare SpecSavers prices with for example online prices – as SpecSavers have bricks-n-mortar outlets with Audiologists available by appointment. Prices are better compared with other hearing centres. Having said that , SpecSavers are still very competitive on the main hearing aids. However, I suspect both the Hearing and Vision departments have a similar business model of discounted big ticket items with mark-up on the accessories.
There are two apps:
Connexx Smart Remote App, which allows the user to use their smart phone as a remote control
Connexx Smart Connect App which is compatible with the optional Connexx Smart Connect accessory.
I’ve been told that the Elite can stream directly to a smart phone but the Super requires the Smart Connect. I suspect it can only stream directly to iPhone (spit!) and not Android but I’ll find out soon. Note SpecSavers sell the Smart Connect Bundle for £400 which is the Smart Connect plus the TV Streamer. Some online sites may offer the Smart Connect cheaper on its own, but my local Spec Savers said they would charge me £79 to connect it (charming!). That brings be neatly on to the next subject …
Now hear is wher it gets complicated – Currently Siemens supply NHS. My current NHS aids are Octiv M which do not have wireless capability – however they are likely to be upgraded soon. If I get a wireless Siemens aid then it will not work with the Specsavers Smart Connect.
The SpecSavers hearing aid is locked, and can only be programmed by SpecSavers. However they have a strong nationwide high street presence – this might be a risk worth taking. Again , the accessory mark-up is something to keep an eye on if locked in. Also Quality of service can very from branch to branch.
Now we have some more information , we can compare more closely against the nearest Siemens equivalent. Based on the feature sets, my decision factors are:
- If money is no object : Primax 7
- If I don’t mind SpecSavers lock in : Advance Elite
- I decide I really hate the though of being locked to SpecSavers : Primax 5
- If I want to use privately bought accessories with NHS Siemens aids : Primax 5 or Primax 7
To search for reviews on the Advance Elite: The Emerald S is considered to be similar to the Costco Kirkland Signature 7.0 (The KS 6.0 is a completely different hearing aid by another company Resound). Some information on the KS 7.0 is here. However to me the KS 7.0 looks like the Rexton Emerald 6 on account of the ‘TrueCore’ (rather than ‘QuadCore). Still reviews will give some insight into Rexton hearing aids generally..
As an IT enthusiast, the “lock-in” thing sits really badly with my spirit. miniTeSo I’m paying the extra £700 to go with
Siemens Pure Primax – Ideal Hearing
Rexton Emerald – Ideal Hearing