In an article we undertook quite a while ago called “Nano Hearing Aids, An Outrageous Hearing Aids Rip Off Site, nanohearingaids.com”, we explained why the devices from nanohearingaids.com were an outrageous rip-off and pointed out the blatant lies that they tell consumers. Anyway, we pointed out that those Nano CIC hearing aids looked just like cheap Alibaba amplifiers that could be bought for around thirty dollars. Dr Cliff Olson a highly respected Doctor of Audiology who provides hearing care and hearing aids in Phoenix, Arizona went one better. He got his hands on both the Nano CIC and the cheap Alibaba amplifier. He ran a load of diagnostics on the devices and surprise, surprise, they are almost identical. Let’s talk about what he found out and the video he undertook.
So Cliff ordered the two separate devices from Nano and Alibaba. When they turned up, he did a physical comparison between the devices. In essence, apart from the branding, the two devices were exactly the same. More than that though, they were both packaged with an accessory pack that was exactly the same right down to the little screwdriver to turn the volume control. But hey, that could simply be a coincidence, you know, these things happen. Sometimes if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a swan in disguise right? Well, no, actually, it’s usually a duck.
Cliff undertook electroacoustic testing of the device using an industry standard testing device (hearing industry). What he found out was fascinating. The Otometrics hearing instrument test box allows us to measure the Diagnostics of hearing aids with an extremely high level of accuracy by doing a diagnostic test. With the equipment, Cliff could directly compare the output of the Nano hearing aids with the Alibaba amplifiers in a very controlled environment that eliminates variability of measurement.
He ran the Nano hearing aid through the diagnostic testing sequence first and he found that he couldn’t complete the full usual set of tests because the volume control on the Nano hearing aid was only set for two levels of volume, minimum and maximum, there was no in-between. It seems that even though the Nano devices have volume wheels they only have two volume settings maximum volume and minimum volume no matter how much he adjusted the volume wheel.
After completing the testing with the Nano hearing aid he undertook the test sequence with the Alibaba amplifier There was a striking similarity between the results of the Nano devices and the Alibaba devices right down to the exact same issues with the volume control occurred with the Alibaba devices just like they did with the nanos. The finished output comparison between the nano devices and the Alibaba devices showed the numbers are almost identical almost as if he was testing the exact same device. Imagine that?!
Performance in The Ear
Cliff, not being one for half measures then used a real ear testing device to see how both the Nano devices and the Alibaba devices actually worked in the ear. Yes, you guessed it, exactly the same, identical performance from both. However, we learned a rather worrying thing from this test. Cliff set the targets for a normal sloping to moderate sensorineural hearing loss which is a very easy type of hearing loss prescription to match. He found that the outputs from both devices set to low volume just didn’t match the targets needed. Even worse, the ouputs on the maximum volume could in fact further damage someone’s hearing.
Cliff Olson finished off his video by saying that he couldn’t advise anyone to even try either of the devices. He, like us is an unbiased source of information who is simply concerned that consumers get good solid easy to understand information. While it is difficult to say that these devices are the same device without deeper investigation, the simple fact is this:
Same crap build quality
Same volume wheel functionality
Same crap sound
Exactly the same electro-accoustic characteristics
A press release came across my desk this morning that made me pause briefly. Hear-It AISBL (a non-profit organisation that works within the hearing loss arena) has released a new report on the prevalence of hearing loss. A staggering 466 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss. That is a rather frightening number; they say that one in three people over the age of 65 have problems that make a real difference to their lives.
More than that though, they believe that number will rise to over 900 million by 2050. Considering the impact that hearing loss has on the broader health of people who suffer with it, those are pretty frightening figures. The report goes on to state that considering the impact of hearing loss, it is important that people have a hearing test on a regular basis to identify issues and get early treatment. You can read the press release in full below.
GN Hearing joins the World Health Organization’s call for a renewed focus on hearing tests to help people improve health and quality of life
Ballerup, Denmark, February 25, 2019 – A new, extensive report reveals the widespread impact that hearing loss is having across Europe. The report, Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs from Hear-it AISBL, a non-profit organization, is based on analysis of hundreds of scientific studies from the last twenty years. Hearing loss is a growing challenge, 466 million people worldwide live with disabling hearing loss and it affects nearly one in three people over the age of 65.2 This figure is estimated to rise to 900 million people by 2050. These are stark figures.
Hearing is essential for humans to communicate, socialize, learn, work and be entertained. It helps keep us safe and aware in our environment. Hearing loss, if left untreated, can increase the risk of health complications, including social isolation, more frequent hospitalizations, depression and dementia. While hearing loss can have a negative impact on day-to-day life, the new report demonstrates that the use of hearing aids and other hearing solutions help people live fulfilling lives.
Despite this, many people who would benefit from hearing aids remain undiagnosed and untreated. Checking for hearing loss and seeking treatment is therefore critical in maintaining not only personal well-being but also assisting public health bodies in tackling increasing social challenges related to an ageing society in Europe. The report is issued in connection to World Hearing Day on March 3, a global awareness day from the World Health Organization (WHO).
This year’s campaign encourages the public to check their hearing, which is the first step towards addressing hearing loss.
“It’s worrying that too many people with hearing loss aren’t receiving treatment, especially as we know that through the advances in technology people often rediscover joys that they once lost. We encourage everyone to check their hearing, and treatment must be a much higher priority for people and public health bodies globally,” says Kim Ruberg, Secretary General of Hear-it AISBL.
GN Hearing, a member of Hear-it and supporter of the report, welcomes the publication of Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs: “The report is yet another demonstration of the importance of treating hearing loss to both people and society. At GN Hearing we work constantly to develop innovative hearing solutions that help people achieve their ambitions.
We do this by listening to their needs and transforming hearing care for example by applying artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to our solutions,” says Mikkel Hansen, Head of Global Medical Affairs of GN Hearing. For 150 years GN has been dedicated to making life sound better. Therefore, the company is committed to helping people identify and treat their hearing loss.
As we covered in the article “Phillips Re-enters The Hearing Aid Market With Hearlink Hearing Aids Range”, you will soon be able to purchase Phillips hearing aids from their new Hearlink range. But what hearing aid models do they offer? Let’s take a look.
Three Hearlink RITEs and a BTE
The range is made up of three Receiver In The Ear (RITE) hearing aids and a Behind The Ear (BTE) hearing aid as follows.
Hearlink Mini RITE
Small and sleek Made For iPhone RITE instrument with size 312 battery that fits discreetly behind the ear. This hearing aid can have different speakers for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Lithium-ion Made For iPhone rechargeable RITE instrument with a lithium-ion power pack. Fully charged within only 3 hours and providing a full day of use. This hearing aid can have different speakers for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Discreet Made For iPhone RITE instrument with size 312 battery, telecoil and double Program Button. This hearing aid can have different speakers for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink BTE PP
Full-featured powerful Made For iPhone BTE instrument with size 13 battery, telecoil and double Program Button. This hearing aid style is most commonly used for severe to profound hearing losses. It’s powerful and easy to handle. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Three Hearlink Custom Hearing Aid Types
The new Hearlink customs will be available in Three different In The Ear models at every technology level. That’s an IIC. a CIC, an ITC, with the ITC being a Made For iPhone hearing aid which will make many people happy.
Hearlink Invisible In Canal (IIC)
The smallest Philips HearLink instruments that fit deeply in the ear canal for maximum discreetness. This hearing aid style is for mild to moderately severe hearing losses. This device will not be a Made For iPhone device. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink Completely In Canal (CIC)
The completely-in-canal hearing aid style is for mild to moderately severe hearing losses. It is worn completely in the ear canal and is barely visible from the outside. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink In The Canal (ITC)
Offers many options for individualization including Program Button and Volume Control. It is likely that this device will be a Made For iPhone hearing device. This in-the-ear hearing aid offers many options for individualization and is suitable for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
A new report by Hear-It AISBL (a non-profit organisation that works within the hearing loss arena) called “Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs”, will be presented at a lunch debate at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on the 6 of March in connection with the WHO World Hearing Day on the 3 of March. We have already reported on a press release linked to the report in the article “New report highlights the staggering impact of hearing loss” which detailed that 466 million worldwide people suffer from a disabling hearing loss. The report will also detail the financial cost of untreated hearing loss. They say that in the EU, untreated, disabling hearing loss costs 185 billion Euros each year. A disabling hearing loss is defined by the Global Burden of Disease research group (GBD) as a hearing loss greater than 35dB.
The report, “Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs”, is carried out for hear-it AISBL by Professor Emerita Bridget Shield, Brunel University in London with the assistance of Professor Mark Atherton, Brunel University, London. In 2006, Professor Bridget Shield compiled the first report for hear-it AISBL: “Evaluation of the Social and Economic Costs of hearing Impairment”.
The British Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA), working in partnership with its European counterpart EHIMA and Hear-it.org who has published the findings, is sharing the UK data of this global report to highlight the very real cost to society of untreated hearing loss.
Untreated hearing loss in the UK costs £25.5 billion each year
Around 3 million people in the United Kingdom live with an untreated, disabling hearing loss, which costs the UK £25.5 billion each year. This is a cost to society of £8,500 for every person with a disabling hearing loss each year. The costs are based on estimates of the lower quality of life and higher unemployment among people with a disabling hearing loss.
Lower quality of life due to disabling hearing loss in the UK costs £16.5 billion each year. Lost productivity in the UK due to higher unemployment among people with a disabling hearing loss costs £9 billion each year. In total, this is £25.5 billion. The cost does not cover extra health care costs caused by hearing loss.
The report documents that the use of hearing aids and other hearing solutions improves health and increases the quality of life. It also highlights that people with an untreated, disabling hearing loss are at greater risk of social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and dementia, while people who treat their hearing loss do not experience a higher risk than people without hearing loss.
There are 4.5 million people with a disabling hearing loss (>35 dB) in the UK. Around 3 million are not treated for their disabling hearing loss as only around one in three in Europe with a disabling hearing loss use hearing aids or other hearing solutions. That is a really poor figure and one that both Government and professional bodies need to change. With a steadily ageing population who live longer and longer and with an earlier onset of hearing loss due to increased noise exposure, this growth will increase even further in the years to come.
The report, “Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs”, is a meta-study which has analysed and compared hundreds of scientific studies and papers in the last two decades about the prevalence and consequences of hearing loss and the use and benefits of hearing aids.
“BIHIMA welcomes this scientific report that chimes with much of our organisation’s campaigning work over the past few years to raise public awareness about hearing loss and halt its dramatic economic and social impact on our society”, says BIHIMA Chairman, Paul Surridge. “The report clearly demonstrates that untreated hearing loss is a major health issue and we call on government to recognise this and support early identification and intervention and the valuable role that hearing instruments play in providing a solution, both for the individual and for society.”
World Hearing Day is held by the WHO on the 3 of March each year to raise awareness of how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote hearing care across the world. The theme for World Hearing Day 2019 is “Check your hearing”.
The long vaunted merger of Widex and Sivantos is finally completed. Jointly, the business is now the third largest player in the hearing aid sphere. But what will that mean for consumers? What can we expect to happen and what benefits might it drive? Those are interesting questions, but to answer them, we need to look at the background of both businesses and their outlooks. Let’s talk about WS Audiology.
Sivantos, Capable of Anything!
I like Sivantos a lot, mainly because they don’t have a lot of history within the hearing aid world. Yes, they purchased Siemens and yes, many within the company are industry veterans. But I never felt that it stopped the business being capable of great innovation, the innovation and change that only outsiders can bring to any industry.
Within the greater industry, Sivantos are seen as a little crazy, but I like that a lot. Apparently, I am renowned for being a little eccentric myself, who knew? I and many analysts within the industry have always seen them as wildcards. I am not sure if any other business would have been brave enough to deliver the Styletto. I mean it is a completely new concept in hearing aid design. Since the takeover of the Siemens business, they have shaken it up across the world, securing existing business and driving new business.
They have also taken on some of what you would call movers and shakers within the industry to drive the business forward and secure new business. Outside of the business side, they have now delivered two outstanding hearing aid platforms since the takeover, they have also delivered Own Voice Processing which could have huge benefits for hearing aid users, and betted heavily on Bluetooth enabled hearing devices to move forward.
For me, this makes complete sense and they are just one of many manufacturers doing so. They were the very first to show signs of understanding that the connection to a mobile phone could offer so much more than just streaming when they connected movement to how the directional microphones would work and I look forward to seeing how that plays out.
Widex, A Renowned Maverick
Widex has been renowned as a maverick from the beginning. While most hearing aid brands were simply sales businesses that sell hearing aids. Widex was always a company of engineers who happened to sell hearing aids. There is a real difference to that and I am proud that I once worked there during that time. Widex has changed, it has been forced to be a more grown-up corporation, and while that has taken some of the shine of the business for me, I understand why it was necessary.
The change towards a more typical corporation could have changed Widex into just another bland company churning out fairly decent products. But, it didn’t, much to the joy of many ex Widex people. They still deliver on pretty interesting innovation as the Unique and then the Evoke platforms have shown. They are the first into machine learning and they are already using the benefits of it to make their user’s lives better.
What Happens Next?
From a business perspective, I think there will be organisational changes across the world. Business units will be merged on a case by case basis I would imagine. Sivantos business units being merged into Widex Business units where it makes sense and the opposite happening where it makes sense. None of that should or would affect consumers though. The brands will remain separate, I believe there will always be a Widex brand, just as there will probably always be a Signia brand.
I think the fruits of the separate R&D departments will lead to even greater innovation from both brands. Great people work better when they work with great people with different views and experience. I think that Sivantos R&D has a lot to learn from Widex and Widex R&D has a lot to learn from Sivantos.
I think the brands will follow their own course for at least a couple of years before the ranges become more homogenous. However, I would not fear that and I think it will just make the hearing aids themselves better. As consumers, we have to see that as a good thing. Like us on Facebook by clicking the link below, I promise not to send you pictures of damned cats.
People often ask us what is the best rechargeable hearing aid on the market. I always counter, the best for what? Getting an idea of what a user wants from their hearing aids allows you to better recommend a solution. Over the last few years, we have meant to address this concept in an article, but I keep forgetting. Anyway, here we are, let’s talk about the best rechargeable hearing aids and what they are best at.
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Best rechargeable hearing aid for power iPhone users: Resound LiNX Quattro
Best rechargeable hearing aid for Android phone users: Phonak Audeo Marvel
Best rechargeable hearing aid for users who value style: Signia Styletto Connect
Best rechargeable hearing aid for health-conscious users: Starkey Livio AI
Best rechargeable hearing aid for seamless connectivity: Phonak Audeo Marvel
Best rechargeable hearing aid for battery versatility: Oticon Opn S
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid For iPhone Power Users
The award goes to the LiNX Quattro from Resound. You have an iPhone, you want a Made For iPhone hearing aid, but you want the rechargeable device that offers you the best possible performance and longevity. Well then you need the LiNX Quattro from GN Resound, it really is as simple as that. The battery life on the rechargeable Quattro hearing aids is astonishing. If you are a power user, streaming audio for anything between five and twelve hours a day including your TV time, the Quattro will handle it with ease and still have enough power to get you all the way to bedtime.
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid For Android Phone Users
The award goes to the Phonak Audeo Marvel right now, but that might change if Resound introduces the Made For Android protocol later in the year. Right now though, the Audeo Marvel rechargeable hearing aid provides the benefits of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery with seamless connectivity to Android phones. In fact, we should state clearly that it offers seamless connectivity to any Bluetooth enabled mobile phone. Battery life while streaming is acceptable and even power users should do okay.
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid For Users Who Value Style
The award has to go to the Styletto Connect from Signia. The Styletto Connect offers discretion and style with a completely unique design. The devices offer both rechargeability and a direct connection to iPhones for streaming audio including phone calls. The devices will deliver several hours of streaming but if you are a power user of audio streaming you probably need to look elsewhere.
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid For The Health Conscious User
It has to be the new rechargeable Livio AI from Starkey. At the minute the Livio AI is really the only hearing aid that is focused on the wider health of the user. The devices offer a lithium-ion battery and direct connection to iPhones for audio streaming. We have no details on battery life so we aren’t really sure about whether they are really suitable for power users of audio streaming. Having said that they are the only hearing aid that has some awesome and unique features that are focused on wider health.
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid For Seamless Connectivity
Again the Audeo Marvel from Phonak is the easy choice here. The Marvel will basically connect to any audio source that is Bluetooth enabled. Laptops, computers, Macs, mobile phones, even TVs. In essence, if it has Bluetooth and it is capable of streaming audio, you can be pretty sure it will connect to the Marvel range
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid For Battery Versatility
The new Oticon Opn S wins the award here because of the easily changeable lithium-ion battery pack. Oticon has just introduced the new Opn S range and it includes a brand new lithium-ion powered rechargeable hearing aid. The fascinating thing is that Oticon has ensured that the battery pack can be changed at a local level in your hearing care professional’s office. That means it doesn’t need to be sent back to the factory for repair and you don’t lose the use of them for any time at all. That has to be seen as a really great thing for anyone who is worried about the longevity of the battery pack.
As with other articles, I will continue to adapt and build this one. So drop back from time to time as I realise what I left out and as the best devices for different functions changes through 2019.
The end of 2018 was fascinating in the hearing aid world. The LiNX Quattro release by Resound was closely followed by the Audeo Marvel release by Phonak. On top of that, Starkey pushed out their fall detection feature to some Livio users. Going into the first quarter of 2019 I think there will be clear favourites in the minds of most professionals and consumers alike. I also think that 2019 will be a bumper year for new introductions by a few of the brands. Let’s talk about the stand out favourites for 2019, the platforms that are available and finally who I think will introduce new stuff. It’s all crystal ball stuff though I warn you, crystal ball and educated guesses.
For me, what really sets the Quattro apart, is the pretty amazing battery life delivered. Resound has delivered a lithium-ion powered rechargeable device that provides over thirty hours of use. That’s amazing. The charger case concept is also excellent, several days of extra power in your carrying case! The hearing aids have already proven very popular and judging by the traffic we get to Quattro pages on the site, they will continue to be into 2019.
It will be interesting to see what Resound do next with the Quattro. Going on historical precedent (The original LiNX) we may expect a Quattro take 2 shortly that is a full line up of models. I think that would please many people. I would also half expect to see an Enzo Quattro in the near future. At the moment and for at least the near future, if you want a Resound BTE or ITE, you need to fall back on the LiNX 3D range.
Phonak Audeo Marvel
The Audeo Marvel is going to be seriously popular in 2019 and there are good reasons why. The hearing aids and the associated features have really caught the imagination of the buying public and the hearing care profession. Although with simple and easy connection to any Bluetooth enabled audio device, it’s easy to see why. I have tried them myself and I see the value of the devices. Phonak have really extended the launch of these devices, more so than ever before. The full Audeo range isn’t really expected to be released until late 2019. That is fascinating, They often stagger the release of a platform, I can’t ever remember them staggering the release of a model line up.
I still expect them to introduce the Bolero late next year, going on the Audeo launch, perhaps that will be staggered as well. While I think the Audeo Marvel will do well, it won’t be the king of aids that it might have been because of the limited model types. If you want a Phonak BTE or In The Ear device you will have to fall back on the Belong, or wait.
Starkey Livio AI
Starkey is finally introducing the Livio AI to a wider audience this year. For me, this is probably a standout hearing aid because of the new functionality concept that Starkey is bringing to hearing aids. The Livio AI was already a very different hearing aid from anything else before they made their announcement at CES 2019. Now the Livio AI represents a completely new use case for hearing aids. In fact, it probably represents a completely new type of device concept.
Driving A New Concept
Starkey is at the forefront of driving the change of use case for hearing aids. As I said, this is really a new device concept, yes it is a hearing aid, but it offers far more than just that. It also focuses on overall health and wellbeing. Starkey is introducing capabilities and features that move the Livio AI towards an integrated health device concept. Here are the features including the new ones.
Translation in 27 languages
Amazon® Alexa connectivity
Rechargeable option – NEW
Fall Detection and Alerts – NEW
Heart Rate Measurement – NEW
Voice-to-text Transcription – NEW
Natural user interface with tap control
Self Check for hearing performance – NEW
Thrive Virtual Assistant, built on Google Assistant – NEW
So that’s the three big contenders so far for 2019, let’s get into the predictions. In no discernible order:
Oticon will deliver a new platform in 2019, the Opn has been an outstanding success but it is pretty old now. In fairness, Oticon surged ahead with the Opn, but the others are catching up. I still think it is one of the best hearing aids around though. I would also expect them to push their remote care system this year. With the introduction of the Kaizn app, Oticon has invested in machine learning. It will be interesting to see how they leverage that in the marketplace and what they do with the data.
I would expect Unitron to deliver their own version of the Marvel this year. Normally they aren’t far behind Phonak with their tech, some would say in front sometimes. The Tempus platform has been a success for them but again, they need to shake things up to stay relevant. I would also expect them to deliver a remote care system. In fact, considering Unitron’s commitment to its users, it is almost glaring by its omission.
Signia is just off the back of a very successful launch of their Nx platform, however, I don’t expect them to be quiet in 2019. I would expect a launch from them, but I think it will be a model type, rather than a new platform. Could be wrong though, Signia is one of the hungriest in the market and they don’t work by the usual strictures of the industry, so anything is possible, if not probable.
I think 2019 will be the year that Widex finally launch their much-vaunted fuel cell device. It will be interesting to see what the market makes of it. It will also be interesting to see what type of feature set it has and exactly what market it is aimed at. Their current platform is the recently launched Evoke which is a pretty impressive platform. The machine learning feature is unique, or at least was unique until Oticon introduced their Kaizn app.
I also think 2019 will see the introduction of more lithium-ion rechargeable hearing devices by more brands. The Z-Power system was a fantastic idea but has proven problematic out in the world. Mores the pity really, but I expect most of the brands to switch to lithium-ion as a result.
I think Starkey has shown the possibilities here and I believe others will follow. The introduction of sensor sets to hearing aids in a wider manner will begin in 2019, who knows, maybe Signia has their eyes on the prize?
Hearing Aids as Your Personal Assistant
Oticon has begun to show the way here with the introduction of the Kaizn app. I think this concept will be expanded and I would expect some of the brands to run with it. Again, to be honest I was surprised that Unitron didn’t do it. Their focus on the consumer has led to some really interesting and innovative ideas, so I half expected them to move this way.
Bluetooth hearing aids have really captured the imagination of the hearing aid consumer. Since the launch of the original LiNX from Resound in 2014 the Made For iPhone hearing aid segment has just grown. Almost every hearing aid brand has a Bluetooth hearing aid or entire range at this point. I thought I should cover the 5 best for 2019, they are in no particular order and I am not outlining the best hearing aid. Simply because your hearing and your needs are complex, too complex for me to say one is better for you than the other. So what I am going to do is talk about the five latest offerings from the brands, lay out the pros and cons and my experiences where possible. At least then, you have a clear idea about what might be right for you.
As the year progresses, I have no doubt this article will change. For the moment, the hearing aids I will cover are:
Resound LiNX Quattro
Starkey Livio AI
The Resound LiNX Quattro Rechargeable
Resound delivered the Quattro range late in 2018, I have been wearing the rechargeable version and I have to say I am exceptionally impressed with them. They offer really good sound, solid streaming and amazing battery life. I am going to concentrate on the rechargeable version here because I think if you are getting Quattro, you should strongly think about it. Let’s take a look.
They offer an amazing 24 hours of use with 12 of those hours streaming! No one else even comes close to those figures. You can expect between 4 and 7 days of use from the zinc-air powered device. In general, most of the Made For iPhone hearing aids will provide 4 to 7 days of use.
Resound always had pretty solid connectivity, but with the introduction of the Quattro, they took the opportunity to re-design the wireless radio and antenna. They say it is the best set up they have ever had and I would tend to agree. They appear to offer the most solid direct connectivity I have ever experienced with the iPhone. I haven’t experienced any real problems with the connectivity. By direct connectivity, I mean that the hearing aids connect to the iPhone without an intermediary streamer.
Apple Only For The Minute
While the direct connectivity is solid, it is only available at present for Apple devices. We expect to see connectivity for Android this year, but, who knows? By that, I mean both Google and Resound are committed to delivering it, but until you see it, don’t hold your breath. At present, you can connect to Android phones with the aid of a streamer. The hearing aids will connect to an Android phone for the use of the app at present.
Connecting to Computers & Other Devices
The Quattro does not offer direct connectivity to computers or Bluetooth enabled TVs or other Bluetooth enabled audio devices. However, you can connect to all of these devices through one of their wireless accessories. The beauty of these devices is that they connect directly to Quattro hearing aids without an intermediary streamer. By that I mean you can connect their TV streamer to any audio device and it will stream the audio directly to your hearing aids with a range of up to thirty feet. You can also get access to a choice of two remote microphones for use in noisy situations.
The Charger Case
I have to mention the charger case here, mainly because I love it. It is really discreet, small enough to throw in a pocket. Yet it holds three more charges for your hearing aids. It means that you can go on a long weekend and forget your plug, and still be able to hear perfectly well until you get back.
The Resound app is amazing, I can say without a doubt that it offers the most power and personalisation available on the market. It is an amazing piece of work and I am on record telling the designers that they damn rock. I think this is a really good thing, however, you might not. For me, having real control over my hearing aids is important, but I understand if you just want to put them on and forget them. I think though, that you may actually be pleasantly surprised by the app if you give it a whirl.
Resound are introducing an integration with Siri on the iPhone that will deliver a very easy way for you to make changes to your hearing aids. There are two ways to do it, either you tell Siri to make the changes, or Siri will give you a suggestion for changes and you simply swipe to accept them. This is pretty smart thinking from Resound, it ensures that it is easier for you to get more from your hearing aids.
They have said that they will also use Artificial Intelligence to learn more about user preferences in different situations. They will use anonymised data from their app to learn about the user preferences in different sound environments. They will then begin to apply that learning in upgrades to the app. This type of thinking means that the hearing aids will be better tomorrow then they are today.
What About Disadvantages?
Disadvantages might be a strong word, some might see one thing as a disadvantage while others may see no issue. It is still important for us to try and identify them to give you a balanced view. So here goes, the Quattro range consists of only two models at two technology levels. Both models are Reciever In Canal devices, one, of course, being rechargeable and the other powered with traditional hearing aid batteries. That means the choice is limited and the Quattro may well be out of some people’s budget.
Of course and as with other Made For iPhone hearing aids on this list, connectivity to Android and other devices has to be done with a streamer. While this will probably change for Android phones this year, connectivity to other Bluetooth enabled devices will always be through a streamer. Some people may see this as a disadvantage. Finally, the rechargeable version doesn’t have a telecoil, however, you can get access to loop systems with the extra Multi MIc accessory if you want that.
The Phonak Marvel
The introduction of this hearing aid has caused big waves. The hype has been huge, but does it deserve it? I would have to say, yes. It is a pretty cool hearing aid with some really amazing features and apps to go with it. I have worn them and I have been impressed with them, they sound good, the apps that accompany them are excellent and the connectivity is pretty mind-blowing.
The Marvel will eventually be a full range of hearing aid types and they will be available at four levels of technology. That means that there will be a Marvel for everyone eventually no matter what style you like or what your budget is. Of course, there is a chance that not all of the custom hearing aids, when they arrive, will have the connectivity, we will have to see. Let’s talk about the Marvel, again, I am going to concentrate on the rechargeable version.
The battery life of the Marvel is in line with many of the rechargeable devices available. You should get sixteen hours of battery life with up to four hours of phone streaming and four hours of streaming from their TV connector. The 312 zinc-air should offer 62 hours of use.
The connectivity of the Marvel is amazing, it can basically connect to any audio device with Bluetooth. Any phone you care to mention, TVs, computers and Macs. That is a direct connection with no need for a streamer. More than just the typical direct connection we are used to, the Marvel also offers hands-free calls. That’s completely hands-free, you don’t even have to touch your phone to answer a call, simply press the button on your hearing aid to answer and end the call.
Connecting To Computers & Other Devices
Connecting Marvels to a computer or Mac is simple, one warning though. If you have paired your Marvels to your phone, you need to turn off the Bluetooth on your phone before you try to pair them. Marvels will not connect to more than one device, so if you have them connected to your phone, your laptop or Mac won’t find them. Connection to the computer may seem inconsequential, but it allows you to use the likes of Skype or Google Hangouts while hearing the audio directly in your hearing aids. The hearing aid mics also feed your voice back to the computer. That’s pretty cool and all without a streamer.
The Charger Case
Well, it is actually the apps with the Marvel, the remote app is nothing to write home about. It’s functional and offers programme and volume changes and that’s really about it. You can also change the balance between streaming audio and the microphones or the tinnitus sounds and the microphones. But it doesn’t give real power. However, the phone call transcription app is pretty amazing. It transcribes to text the phone call as it happens. That is outrageously cool and it delivers the ultimate opportunity to understand every phone call you ever make or take.
What About The Disadvantages?
Again, disadvantages are in the eye of the beholder. The Marvel is only available in two Receiver In Canal models right now, one which is rechargeable and the other which is powered by a traditional battery. While we expect this to change in 2019, we only have the release dates for more of the Receiver In Canal range. We have no idea when Phonak will introduce either the Behind The Ear Marvels or the Custom In The Ear devices. At present, there is no Audeo Marvel with a telecoil although we expect them to arrive later this year. There is also no remote microphone accessory that works with the Marvel, again, we expect that to change later this year.
Starkey Livio AI
A New Use Case
The Livio AI from Starkey is a fascinating hearing aid that is unique in many of its functions. It presents users with a completely new use case for hearing aids. Starkey has set out to merge different technology so the device offers far more than just better hearing. In early 2019 they announced that the aids will be upgraded to offer fall detection and alerts and heart rate monitoring on top of its existing sensor set. The hearing aids also offer the real-time translation of 27 languages through an accompanying app. We haven’t used the devices at all, so we have no personal experience with them.
While the existing Livio AI is powered by traditional zinc-air batteries, Starkey has announced a lithium-ion rechargeable device will be introduced soon. We know nothing about it right now, but we will update the article. They say that you will get 4 to 7 days out of the 312 RIC and 7 to 11 days out of the size 13 BTE.
Starkey, like Resound, offers pretty solid connectivity to iPhones. There are of course the usual Bluetooth issues but they really are inescapable for the most part. By direct connectivity, I mean that the hearing aids connect to the iPhone without an intermediary streamer.
The Livio will connect to an Android device but only for the use of the app. The Livio will not stream audio from an Android phone. There have been no announcements or indications that Starkey will offer true Made For Android connectivity, however, we would expect that to happen once Resound and GN are finished their design partnership.
Connectivity to Computers Etc
The Livio AI can only connect to other devices using a streamer device. The streamers will connect directly to the hearing aids though, so you don’t need an intermediary streamer hanging around your neck.
A Hearing Aid That’s a Health Tracker and More
The Livio AI is truly a multifunctional device that combines features from wireless headsets, fitness trackers and health apps, and finally, language translation programs. That’s right, language translation. The keys to all of this are a brand new chipset, an embedded sensor on the chipset and 2.4Ghz communication between the hearing aid and a smartphone. This allows the monitoring of movement and a deeper instantaneous communication between the hearing aids and a smartphone which has been leveraged to deliver real user benefits. The addition of the new Valencell and Sonion Reciever with the embedded biosensor will bring heart rate tracking and the upgrade of the chipset will deliver fall tracking and alerts.
The Thrive App
The health monitoring element of the Livio AI is offered via the Thrive App. At present, it offers two measurements that both deliver the possibility of a score of 100 points. It focuses on a Body score and a Brain score. The body score is calculated through a combination of activity, steps and overall movement. This information is tracked daily and accessed easily in the Thrive app.
As I said, a daily score of 100 points is possible. The app also offers a pretty in-depth remote control feature that rivals Resound’s. Starkey has also announced that the will offer text transcription of phone calls in a similar way to Phonak. We aren’t sure if that will be via the Thrive app or a separate app.
Starkey has announced a deepening AI integration to the Livio AI but the details are scant at the moment. They have mentioned integration with the Google Assistant, but it remains to be seen what form that takes and how it will work
What are the Disadvantages?
Primarily the lack of choice of styles, you are limited to traditional zinc-air devices at the minute and only two Receiver In Canal models and one BTE Model. The new heart rate functionality will only be available on the RIC devices I would imagine as it is dependent on getting the sensor in the ear canal. Starkey up to now has not gone down the custom Made For iPhone hearing aid route before now. It will be interesting moving forward if that changes. I think if they offered In The Ear hearing aids we would see some trade-off in functionality.
Widex Evoke Fusion 2 Hearing Aids
The Evoke Fusion 2 is the latest Bluetooth enabled hearing aids model from Widex. The Evoke platform or E-Platform was the first ever range of hearing aids to introduce machine learning capabilities. The machine learning feature is only available on The Evoke Fusion 2 which is a direct connection or Made For iPhone hearing aid. Widex said that the Evoke began the era of intelligent hearing, where the quality of your listening experience will evolve in real time and real life.
They were right, it was the beginning and more than a few hearing aid brands have taken notice. With machine learning enabled, the Evoke range will continue to learn from you (and millions of others) as you use them so that you will hear sound perfectly.
The Evoke hearing aids evolve in real life to keep getting smarter.
Widex new SoundSense Technology means that every time you use EVOKE hearing aids, they evolve in their function. That’s why they call them the world’s first smart hearing aid. The machine learning system works by learning from you (and others across the world) when you personalise your listening experience. The EVOKE learns from sound information from the different sound situations and your inputs. Widex uses anonymous data from your changes to create a better listening experience for everyone. That means that the hearing aids you buy will be better tomorrow than they were today.
In general most of the Evoke Fusion 2 devices sold appear to be non-rechargeable devices using a traditional zinc-air battery. There is a rechargeable upgrade for it, but most professionals are staying away from it. The battery life for the 312 zinc-air is anything between 5 and 7 days.
Widex initially suffered from some connectivity problems with the Beyond, however, they quickly fixed the issue with a firmware update. Since then, they have generally had pretty solid connectivity to iPhones. By direct connectivity, I mean that the hearing aids connect to the iPhone without an intermediary streamer. While Evoke Fusion 2 hearing aids will connect to Android phones, they only do so for the use of the app.
Connecting to Computers & Other Devices
The Evoke Fusion 2 does not offer direct connectivity to computers or Bluetooth enabled TVs or other Bluetooth enabled audio devices. However, you can connect to all of these devices through one of the Widex wireless accessories.
The Widex app is really good, it offers strong control over the hearing aids allowing you to not just change programmes and volume, but also allowing you to change the frequency response of the aids and control the focus of the directional microphones. The app is also the central part of the machine learning system.
What are the Disadvantages?
Primarily the lack of choice of styles, you are limited to a single Receiver In Canal hearing devices at the minute if you want a Widex Bluetooth hearing aid. It is available in four levels of technology though. While there is a rechargeable option, many professionals are staying away from it because it has been problematic in the past.
I had a great conversation with Dave Kemp of Oaktree Products recently about the technology introduced at CES in 2019 by the hearing aid brands. Like me, Dave is fascinated by smart assistants and the voice first strategy we are beginning to see in technology. He recently wrote an article for Voice Bot called “Hearing Aids as a Home for Smart Assistants – The Hearables Market Expands” which detailed the latest changes in hearing aid functionality in this area. You can watch our conversation below.
Voice first is basically the switch from physical user inputs to voice inputs. Instead of typing, you can just say it. Voice recognition has been around for a very long time. However, with the introduction of smarter and faster systems, it has become exponentially better. Voice first has led to the introduction of the new wave of smart home assistants like the Alexa Echo and Google Home Smart Speakers. With the advent of a deeper connection between hearing aids and Smartphones, voice first features make a lot of sense in hearing aids.
Smart assistants offer a huge amount of functionality, integrating them with the function of your hearing aids makes real sense. The concept moving forward would be that your hearing aids function as your personal assistant. Telling you what your day is like, notifying you of and reading you your emails and text messages. In turn, you will instruct them to use a particular programme or increase the amount of noise reduction and narrow the microphone focus.
What are the best hearing aids innovations in 2019?
We have barely started 2019 and already we have seen announcements about groundbreaking technology from the hearing aid brands. Like 2018, 2019 will be a year of emerging new technologies, hearing aid features and indeed hearing aids which I believe will affect the future of hearing aids for years to come. Let’s take a look at the innovations in 2019 that will make a difference.
As I said, 2019 is barely ten days old and we already have a host of announcements about upcoming hearing aid tech from some of the big brands and some of the big component makers. I was expecting CES to be exciting, I really didn’t expect that I would hardly be able to keep up. While I will cover innovations in tech, I will also cover innovation in the business model.
The Biggest Hearing Aid Innovations
I think the biggest innovations around hearing aids for 2019 will be the following:
Fuel Cell Technology (Widex)
Deeper integration of sensors in hearing aids (Starkey first, then probably everyone!)
Rechargeable custom hearing aids (not sure who will be first)
Deeper integration of personal assistants (Resound, Starkey, Probably Signia and Widex)
The Fuel Cell technology is based on Methanol, the small fuel cell inside EVOKE EC gets energy from the refill unit, which holds a methanol cartridge. Once the methanol meets the air inside the fuel cell, electrical energy is produced to power the hearing aid. The only waste from this reaction is vaporised water and negligible amounts of carbon dioxide.
What Difference Will it Make?
Holy crap! Is that succinct enough? So, details are sketchy at this point, and we expect things to become clearer as they move towards launch. However, this technology really does have the potential to change the hearing aid world forever. Hearing aids without batteries, no charging, no need for a plug, no need to buy batteries, a simple 20-second charge of Methanol and you get 24 hours of use.
The possibilities for the technology are endless, however, we need an answer to a lot of questions as well. Questions like, are the hearing aids wireless? Are the hearing aids Bluetooth Enabled? If they aren’t, why not? Will you be able to fly with them? Can you carry the charging station in hand luggage? I really do think that this is a huge breakthrough, however, until we answer all the questions, we really don’t know will it be a vanity technology or a true paradigm shift.
The BiometRIC receiver in canal is optimized for size and will measure heart rate, R-R interval, activity levels, energy expenditure, and will provide a platform for future innovations in hearing health devices. Biometric sensors offer comprehensive vital sign information and placing the sensor in the receiver (speaker) in the canal gives it perfect access to the best place to track that info.
What Difference Will it Make?
The possibilities are endless really, quite often people with hearing loss suffer from other so-called comorbidities such as cardiac issues or diabetes. It will mean that their hearing aids can help to monitor the condition as well as help them hear better. Even if a person with hearing loss is fit and healthy, they generally want to stay that way. The addition of sensors will mean that they can monitor their fitness levels while hearing better. Starkey was first with sensors and they have announced that they are releasing several updates in functionality to their Livio AI devices in March and the new BiometRIC will be part of that launch.
Rechargeable In The Ear Hearing Aids
The rumour mill has been going for some time in relation to rechargeable custom hearing aids. I think they will be released this year, but I am not sure who will release them first. I think there is a good possibility of it being Signia or Phonak. I base that really on educated guesses. Both of the brands have a lot of experience now with lithium-ion cells. Sonova (owners of Phonak) through the purchase of Hansaton has real-world experience with rechargeable custom hearing aids, while Signia has been ever inventive with the design and shape of lithium-ion cells. I do believe we will see the devices, although it may be late in 2019, or even 2020.
What Difference Will This Make?
Rechargeable hearing aids have proven massively popular. While initially many thought of them as ideal hearing aids for people with eyesight or dexterity issues, that attitude has changed. I said myself, I didn’t realise I loved rechargeable hearing aids until I tried them, and it is proving to be the same for many new hearing aid users. A rechargeable custom hearing aid would be exceptionally popular with the buying public.
With this type of functionality, your hearing aids will become an integrated part of your life. They will no longer be something you have to wear, they will be something that you want to wear. They will make your day to day life easier. Keeping you apprised of your schedule and the updates during your day that are important to you.
Widex were the first brand to make steps forward with machine learning in their Evoke range. The system is an outstanding example of innovation from a company who is renowned for it. They have pointed the way and the other brands have most definitely picked up the challenge. Both Resound and Starkey make claims about Artificial Intelligence integration with their hearing aids. In both cases, details are a little scant as of the writing of this article. It remains to be seen if what they are introducing is Machine Learning or true Artificial Intelligence. There is a distinct difference. No matter, the Widex machine learning system has already proved its worth and Widex hearing aid users across the world are benefiting from it, even if they don’t use it.
What Difference Will it make?
Machine learning is making a huge difference right this minute, Widex is using data from thousands of hearing aid users across the world to continually make their Evoke hearing aids better. That is the beauty and the power of the system, it learns from real-world use and integrates its learnings into existing hearing aids. Artificial Intelligence will take that system one step forward, and if it happens in real time, it will ensure that hearing aids are reacting and upgrading their function constantly.
Upgrades of Hearing Aid Functionality
This is something that we are seeing from many of the brands this year. We have seen firmware updates pushed out from Widex, Oticon and others before. However, this year it really appears to be a top line concept. Resound announced that their new AI system will continually introduce new upgrades to existing hearing aids. Starkey has just announced that it will upgrade the Livio AI with new functionality. Widex designed the Evoke machine learning system to ensure that Evoke hearing aids would be upgraded to function better continuously.
What Will it Mean?
I see this as a bit of a sea change in the industry, it will mean that the hearing aids you buy today, will, in fact, get better tomorrow. That is a paradigm change, before now if you wanted better hearing aids, you bought the latest ones. Hearing aid technology is moving so fast though, that this will probably never change. Yes, your existing hearing aids will get better, but the latest super duper ones will still be an inviting proposition.
Made For Android
Made For Android is finally expected to land this year, Resound announced that they are working on the protocol with Google and they expect to push it out to the Quattro hearing aid range this year. I would expect the other brands to follow late in 2019 or 2020.
What Will it Mean?
It will mean that all the pretty cool functionality that is available to many hearing aid users with iPhones, will now be available to Android users. It also opens up possible new functionality and a deeper partnership with Google with an eye towards future technology concepts like Google Assistant as an integrated personal assistant.
Business Model Changes
While this isn’t a new technology, I think it will be driven by new and innovative hearing aid technology. Just recently we reported on Lively Hearing who are offering hearing aids in a new and unique way with remote care. I think this is probably the first example of a growing hearing aid channel. The recent advancements in telecare for hearing aids ensure that business models like this can exist and thrive. I don’t think it will be the end of the existing channel, I think it will be an accompaniment to it. I mean not all hearing aid users are willing to buy online, not all hearing aid users are actually suitable for this type of online model. But, there certainly is a place for it.
I think that this is just one example of possible changes we will see to the hearing aid purchase model in 2019. The possibilities are endless, unbundled purchases, buying different service levels, subscription models, renting hearing aids, who knows? There are new players becoming involved with new ideas and experiences of completely different purchase cycles. More than that, existing businesses are looking for new and innovative ways to remain relevant to consumers. To be honest, I really don’t think consumers know what they want. But I think 2019 will be the start of finding out!
Multifunctional Communication Devices
With the advent of recent technological innovation, hearing aids are changing dramatically. The use case for hearing aids up to now has been simple, help you hear better. Moving forward though, they will become multifunctional devices centred around communication in all of its rich detail. The use case for hearing aids is changing, hearing aids are beginning to become devices that you don’t wear because you have to. You will wear them in the future because you want to because they will enrich your life in many ways beyond just hearing better.