Oticon Chili Review
Note: The Oticon Chili is a very outdated hearing aid. We now recommend purchasing the Phonak Naida V90.
At the end of 2010, Oticon (the oldest hearing aid manufacturer in the world), released a new super power hearing aid named Chili. You can view the brochure here. The Chili was released shortly after Phonak’s Naida SP device, which was at the time (and still is) a leading super power BTE, and the Chili was ostensibly meant to be a competitor to that aid- some even dubbed it (tongue in cheek) the “Naida Killer.” The Chili has been met with a lot of praise and could compete against any super power BTE on the market in 2010, and still can in 2014.
One of the biggest lures with the Chili (originally), was its size. Oticon built the Chili to be a slim and discreet device which operates off a size 13 battery- whereas most super power hearing aids use a 675 battery. This makes the Chili a much smaller aid, particularly when compared to Oticon’s previous power hearing aid, the Sumo. The Sumo has since been discontinued, and the Chili is now Oticon’s only true power BTE on the market. The Chili is offered in the standard BTE size, and is 1/3 smaller than the Sumo was. You can view a photo of the two hearing aids side by side here. So the Chili is a smaller aid, but it’s also not quite as powerful as the Sumo was. The Chili has a maximum peak gain of 78, while the Sumo was at 82. However, I’m not so sure that 4 db makes a huge difference, as once you need an ultra power hearing aid like the Sumo, you are probably better off exploring cochlear implants. This is pure speculation, but I’m guessing this is why Oticon discountinued the Sumo (aside from it being old)- I’m just not sure there is a large enough market for ultra power hearing aids anymore.
While we’re on the topic of gain (hearing aid volume), it’s important to note that if you have a severe to profound loss, lack of gain in the newer products is the reason you can’t wear a newer Oticon hearing aid. For example, the Alta BTE 13 is one of the newer hearing aids by Oticon, (built on the Inium platform), but it only provides 68 db of peak full on gain. The extra 10 db that the Chili provides is absolutely crucial and will make a huge difference in your hearing ability. So the Chili is still a solid hearing aid. It is built on the Rise 2 platform, just like the Intiga, Acto, Agil, and Ino, and these are all still very popular products that sell well.
A lot of research and development went in to the Chili, that is evident by reviewing the white paper here. Probably the most notable part of that document is the outcome of the study conducted right before the Chili was released, in which 15 exerienced hearing aid users wore the Chili for a month and were then asked for feedback on the product. As you can see from the image below, 14/15 participants chose the Chili over their previous power BTEs- and these ranged from Starkey products, to Phonak, and more.
The Chili is available in 3 different technology levels: the Chili SP5, SP7, and SP9. One of the nice things about all of these technology levels, is the wireless features are available across all 3 levels. This is really important, because individuals with severe to profound hearing losses typically rely more heavily on electronically transmitted sound sources. In addition, Oticon recently announced that if you bought hearing aids after 2007 they will now be compatible with the ConnectLine App for iPhone, which means you can keep the streamer out sight and just use your iPhone as the control. The streamer used to have to be worn around the neck, and users would constantly have to push buttons on it, which can be cumbersome and is not as discrete as some would like.
A breakdown of the various technology levels and their associated features can be seen below:
So there are just a few things to point out about these feature sets. First, if you go with the Chili SP5, you are really missing out on a lot of things that make the Chili such a great product, for instance:
Speech Guard: Speech guard is the main speech enhancement feature of this hearing aid- and that’s what hearing aids are ALL about! Oticon has a unique way of amplifying sound with Speech Guard. The hearing aid essentially uses two seperate systems to look at speech and noise individually, which allows for preservation of natural speech cues and the reduction of unwanted background noise. In my opinion, this is not a feature you want to go without.
Binaural synchronization: Binaural synchronization is also a very important feature, the benefits of this feature are well documented across various manufacturers. This feature allows the hearing aids to work in tandem and make automatic adjustments as needed to make sure sound is always presented at a comfortable level.
Multiband directionality: This feature is unique to Oticon and is probably one of the reasons (as shown in the pie chart above), that several people reported better speech understanding and less background noise. Most directional hearing aids just switch between omni directional and directional modes, and that’s very beneficial, but the Chili takes it a step further. When in the presence of background noise, the Chili will very selectively switch directionality modes ( by band), to improve the signal-to-noise ratio as much as possible and preserve sound quality. In short, Oticon believes this is a more selective way go apply directionality in hearing aids, and it’s their unique philosophy.
As far as my opinion goes, I wouldn’t necessarily spring for the SP9. Sure, it may be worth a try, but if I were looking at these hearing aids I would first try the SP7. For me the SP7 seems to be a good balance between price and features, and it is my personal opinion that a lot of times users with severe to profound losses do not benefit from the higher end technology (to a certain extent). I think a lot of patients and hearing providers would corroborate this opinion as well. I have worked with this hearing aid quite a few times, and I can say for certain it is a well built, sturdy hearing aid. Unlike a lot of BTE’s, the battery door has some resistance to it, it doesn’t just swing open and closed, and this really gives it a sense of quality and sturdiness. The Chili is a tough hearing aid. It’s shock absorbent, nano-coated, and has an internal seal inside which protects the electronic parts from water, moisture, and dirt.
Apparently, the Chili is even reliable enough for Olympic athletes! Oticon attracted a little buzz in the 2012 olympics, when David Smith, #20 on the US Olympic Volleyball Team wore the Chilis and reported that they “did not disappoint.” Watch the video below:
So there you have it. The Oticon Chili- a durable, reliable, top of the line hearing aid that is good enough for olympians. If you’ve worn the Chilis and can submit a review, we’d love to hear from you, so please post a comment below!
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.