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Technical

Phonak Launches Marvel with Universal Binaural Streaming and a New Level of Sound Quality

By | Technical

Phonak has launched its new Audéo Marvel receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aid which brings binaural sound to virtually any form of Bluetooth streaming—IOS, Android, or otherwise—with a unique sound classification technology yielding audio quality that impressed a group of industry experts and hearing aid users last week during a special media event and sneak-peek of the device at the company’s US headquarters in Warrenville, Ill, near Chicago. Based on the third version of Phonak’s Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital (SWORD) chip, the Audéo M is also designed to place the user at the centre of the audiological process with an array of new Smartphone apps, remote fine-tuning, and sound processing capabilities, says Phonak US President Jan Metzdorff.

PARC Research Audiologist Lori Rakita, AuD, explains how the AutoSense OS 3.0 technology classifies streamed media in real-time for optimized listening.

PARC Research Audiologist Lori Rakita, AuD, explains how the AutoSense OS 3.0 technology classifies streamed media in real-time for optimized listening.

New levels of binaural sound quality and universality. One key feature that immediately jumps out in Audéo M is its sound quality. For real audiophiles and others accustomed to hi-fi systems, the sound quality in today’s hearing aids is very good, but can still prompt them to ask why the devices can’t sound like stereo headphones. Of course, the problem—which has been around even before made-for-iPhone (MFi) systems became available—stems primarily from the venting of the aid for real-life environmental speech and sounds. This provides the important natural sound benefits associated with open-fit aids, but has required a trade-off in streamed sound quality. With the Audéo M, Phonak has reinserted a clear richer sound into streamed music, TV, or other devices via hearing aids—and demonstrated fairly dramatic differences in a paired comparison test. The system features AutoSense OS 3.0 which reportedly classifies streamed media for optimized listening.

Barb VanSomeren, Lori Rakita, Kailen Berry, AuD, Jan Jan Metzdorff, Christine Jones, AuD, Anna Nicole Klutz, AuD, and John Urbaniak at Phonak US headquarters near Chicago.

Phonak staff members Barb VanSomeren; Lori Rakita, AuD; Kailen Berry, AuD; Jan Metzdorff, Abby Poyser, AuD; Christine Jones, AuD, Nicole Klutz, AuD, and John Urbaniak at Phonak US headquarters near Chicago.

“We have the first classifier that also operates on the streamed signal,” said Christine Jones, AuD, Phonak US vice-president of Audiology and director of the Phonak Audiology Research Center (PARC) in Warrenville during a presentation at the media event.  “Some of the early work we did highlighted that there was an opportunity with streaming—as with the unique listening environments that can also be encountered by patients—where someone’s preferences may be very different than when listening to streamed speech, or dialog in media, movies, etc. Listening goals can be different, and sound quality preferences can be different. So, now we are not only classifying the environmental sounds, but we can also classify those streamed sounds to deliver the best possible experience under all listening conditions.”

Although the advanced design of the previous Audéo B-Direct model is award-winning, it does not feature binaural streaming. With the new Audéo M, wearers can now binaurally stream audio content, including smartphone calls, music, eBooks, and more, to both ears from any Bluetooth device.

Phonak points out that iPhones account for only 13% of smartphone use worldwide compared to 86% for the Android OS, and wearers’ choices have been limited primarily to hearing aids that utilize the MFi protocol. Additionally, even with IOS-compatible devices, some forms of MFi hearing aid streaming (eg, streaming from MacBooks and iMacs) were unavailable until now. SWORD 3.0 is capable of running Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth LE, AirStream Technology (for TV), and Binaural VoiceStream Technology for high-speed data transmission between the two hearing aids in a binaural fitting. The new system even works with Siri and LiveListen. (Phonak’s proprietary Roger 2.4 GHz signal will also have direct streaming capabilities to the hearing aid next fall.)

“This means we now have universal binaural wireless connectivity,” said Dr Jones.  “In order to have the best access to speech on the phone, it’s best to hear well with both ears. And, beyond that, we are the only product that now connects to not just Apple and Android, but any Bluetooth device. This opens up a new world of connectivity for people because of its universal nature…What this means is, that in those cases where something is not accessible through the Apple iPhone or device, it should be accessible through the hearing aid.”

Jones explained that Phonak has also created a sophisticated system called “Environmental Balance” that controls how users hear the streaming in addition to how they hear the surrounding environment, both of which can still be adjusted via the basic volume control. All of this has the potential to open up even more of the popular streaming applications.

Packshot_Audeo_M-R_P5_pairAudéo Marvel wearers also benefit from hands-free Smartphone operation. Previously, hearing aid wearers using the MFi (and future ASHA) protocol needed to hold the smartphone up to their mouths and talk into the phone’s microphone to converse. The new hearing aids feature microphone inlets built directly into the housing, allowing wearers to have phone conversations by literally talking through their hearing aids.

Better processing and noise reduction, reducing cognitive load. Additionally, the enhanced SWORD OS incorporates Binaural VoiceStream Technology™ into Marvel hearing aids, a technology most recently employed in Advanced Bionics’ Naida CI sound processor. This four-microphone technology is reportedly capable of improving speech understanding by up to 60% in noisy places like restaurants, while simultaneously reducing the amount of effort by 19% required to listen and understand.1,2

“Audiology is at the heart of everything we do at Phonak,” said Sonova Group VP Martin Grieder in a press statement. “That’s why Marvel is such a game-changer for our industry. Marvel technology empowers people and provides a true ‘love at first sound’ experience. We believe the sound quality is second to none, and it begins the moment the person puts the hearing aids on.”

PhonakAudéoMarvel

Phonak Audéo Marvel mini-charger.

Lithium-ion rechargeable technology for “a full day of streaming.” While no reliable statistics exist on the market penetration of rechargeable hearing aids, most experts estimate that about 17-20% of all hearing aids now feature rechargeability. Phonak has been a pioneer in rechargeable hearing aid technology, creating in 2016 the first lithium-ion hearing aids—a technology that appears to be gaining ground with hearing aid manufacturers.

According to Phonak, Marvel hearing aid wearers can enjoy a full day of hearing aid use—including streaming— on a single charge. The Audéo M rechargeable hearing aid also offers new features, automatically turning on or off when taken out or being placed into the charger. The system includes new LED lights and a new mini charger.

Remote fine-tuning and live voice-to-text transcription apps. With Marvel hearing aids comes the introduction of a suite of convenient smart apps. The myPhonak app allows wearers to have their hearing aids adjusted in real-time, in any situation, anywhere via videocall by the hearing care professional. It also gives consumers the ability to rate their hearing aid satisfaction in various environments and directly send this feedback to their hearing care professional.

The myCall-to-Text app reportedly provides live transcription of phone calls from the other party in more than 80 languages. This provides an extremely useful option for hearing aid users in noisy environments, or for people who prefer additional visual captions when using the phone.

New marketing campaign and rollout. A suite of marketing materials has been developed to promote the Marvel launch. Phonak US Vice-president of Marketing Barb Van Someren explained that the marketing surrounding Marvel emphasizes its multifunctionality, providing consumers with access to the world of sound that we all want via enhanced sound quality, a constellation of devices and streaming options, and phone calls. The new marketing assets highlight Phonak technology, audiology leadership, and Marvel’s diverse capabilities, and includes a video series that features two women exploring all the different ways Marvel can be used in a contemporary format (eg, the women’s dialog resembles the TV show Grace and Frankie) .

The rechargeable Audéo M-R will be available in November along with the zinc air Audéo M-312, and Phonak will add the Audéo M-312T and Audéo M-13T in February 2019. A rechargeable version of Marvel with T-Coil (Audéo M-RT) and RogerDirect functionality will be available as a firmware upgrade in Fall 2019.

The importance of placing your ear mould correctly

By | Consumer Advice, Technical

When your hearing is at a level where it is necessary to wear behind the ear hearing aids (or BTEs), then the ear mould fit quality is crucial to the effectiveness of the devices.

By the way, when talking about BTEs, we mean hearing aids with thick 3mm tubing and ear hook. Those with thin 1mm tubes are termed THIN TUBE (commonly dispensed by NHS), and those with thin wires are termed RIC (receiver in the ear).

So, I notice certain common problems with severe to profound hearing loss fittings:
1. One is that the ear mould is aged (get it replaced if it is yellowing or orange colour, brittle, or in any way damaged);
2. The tubing is not being changed regularly (the ear mould tubing should be soft and pliant when pinched). If the tubing is brittle, discoloured, cloudy, torn or if it has debris inside, then you need new tubing.
3. The mould itself is too shallow. As a rough indicator, ear moulds should be extended down the ear canal if the hearing loss is severe+. For various reasons, many ear moulds in use are too shallow in the ear canal. This will cause loss of useful gain and increase feedback issues (whistling).
4. The mould is ill-fitting. Unfortunately, ears change shape through life, so it is quite plausible that your ear moulds do not fit as well as they need to (very snug, without being uncomfortable).
5. The aid itself over-compresses. Many modern digital hearing aids which may perform quite wonderfully for those with a mild to moderate hearing loss do not work so well for severe+ losses as they may adjust volume downwards when not required.
6. Loop / T-coil (and FM / Radio) function is under-utilised. There are additional features in most BTEs that can assist you to hear better in challenging environments. However, I’m continually surprised at the lack of awareness in this area.
7. The most frustrating problem is so common. It is the way the ear mould is situated in the user’s ear. If it’s not right, then volume is lost and whistling occurs.
 


These two photos above show the ear mould helix part (top) not fitted into the ear correctly.


This 3rd photo shows a great quality ear mould (Starkey Silicone E2108) fitted into the concha of the ear correctly.

We are experts in handling the complexities of severe to profound hearing loss. Call us to book an appointment with Jo or Alan.

Steve discusses the merits of Ultimate Ear Protection

By | News, Technical

Our visitors are reacting well to Steve’s warm and personable approach. With a skilled technical background over decades, he has a wealth of knowledge about our products and can explain the finer details in easy-to-understand language in a manner that you will appreciate.

Come along to see us if you would like to know more about hearing loss, hearing aids, tinnitus, ear wax removal, balance problems, noise protection, in ear monitors, sleep plugs, swimming plugs and more.

Another Tympanometer purchased by The Nottingham Hearing Practice

By | Technical, Training

The very latest tympanometer has been tested and now ordered. It allows us to check middle ear function quickly and without fuss. The tip is placed into the entrance of your ear canal. You will feel a very gentle, almost imperceptible pressure build for about 2 seconds, and that’s it.

We are confident that we are again the only hearing care practice in this area to include free middle ear screening to every patient we test.

How to ensure you hear your TV perfectly

By | News, Technical

The main issue for TV listening when you have a hearing problem, is the distance from you to the TV.

The easiest and most cost effective way to solve this is to purchase a good quality Bluetooth transmitter. This one will be fine and costs £49.99.

And a powerful Bluetooth speaker. This one is a retro design and has easy ‘knob’ controls, including bass and treble. It costs £69.99.

You connect the transmitter to the TV. It needs a power source as well. The speaker would be positioned right next to your armchair (it needs a power source). The two devices are ‘paired’, and then your TV sound problems will be fixed!

If you are our patient, we can help set up this system for you.

New improved Phonak Titanium IIC

By | News, Technical

A new fitting method allows us to take safer, deeper ear impressions for an even more discreet result.

Also, from August 27th, additional modifications available include:

If you’d like to try this incredible medical -grade custom hearing aid, book your consultation today. Remember we let you try your new titanium hearing aids at home and work, before you have to decide to buy.

Tel: 0115 857 2900

Simple TIPS for the new hearing aid consumer

By | Technical

By Robert, our web designer:

“It appears that people searching online tend to click on the ‘about’ page quite a lot. This could be to establish that the website concerned is real, with real people. And I think this is a good strategy. If the ‘about’ page is vague or not specific, then I’d maybe avoid it.

I think engaging with social media shows that your audiologist is forward-thinking and engaged in new technology. Unfortunately this is just the modern world, and this engagement should be a prerequisite of your chosen hearing aid supplier.

Most of all, a TRIAL PERIOD must be given. This is the best protection a new hearing aid wearer could ask for as each individual’s response to hearing aids varies so much”

Read about the latest ‘Which’ survey:

 

Analysis of the hearing aid market – from an independent viewpoint

By | News, Technical

It is extremely difficult for the consumer to determine which are the best makes and models of hearing aids.

So here is our quick guide;

For a start, hearing aid results are extremely variable, so make sure you get a trial period prior to any purchase.

Here is our model analysis right now (in order of preference):

PHONAK are the market leaders, and have been for some years. So, this fact should not be ignored. Their CROS system for one-sided deafness is unparalleled, and now with the addition of the li-ion rechargeable version, it needs to be trialled.  The AUDEO B-DIRECT is the only hearing aid that allows hands-free calls to a mobile – very cool and unique.  Their RICs in general, feature the best feedback manager – so a Phonak hearing aid is the least likely to whistle when placed under duress (near a phone, with a hat on, etc).

Alongside, OTICON should be considered. Ask us to let you compare OTICON and PHONAK. Their OPN (with fastest ever sound processor) range has massively increased their market share, being the first and only hearing aid to integrate with other WiFi devices (doorbells, Amazon Echo, etc). it is Made for iPhone, meaning stereo streaming of music and calls – not the first aid to do this, but probably the one with the best build quality and reputation.

RESOUND produce the LiNX 3D, a great Made for iPhone aid, which is the first to allow for remote audiologist programming. That means you can have your product fine tuned from thousands of miles away. The app feature to memorise settings in specific venues that are stored when you next step into that location is very useful. However the LiNX seems to have become a little dated?

STARKEY have a lower market share, but continue to make good products, notably the HALO iQ another Made for iPhone aid, with a great user fine tuning tool (SOUNDSPACE).

WIDEX produce the EVOKE, with a chip just under the processor speed of the Oticon Opn – a quality manufacturer that should be considered. The SoundSense feature uses worldwide EVOKE users’ preferences to improve each individual’s hearing.

SIEMENS / SIVANTOS undoubtedly build extremely solid hearing aids but have very poor UK market share right now.

AUDIO SERVICE, BERNAFON, UNITRON, HANSATON brands are owned by the above companies – I’d say to provide products for different markets – consider VW v. SKODA. So nothing wrong with that, except that hearing aids involve a very high level of personal service, so I wonder about the motives of such an approach to market.

Oticon 2018 Conference

By | Company, News, Technical

We all attended this annual event last week. It was held at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Of the more interesting talks, outlined by The Centre for Applied Audiology Research (CAAR) was that hearing loss was the main cause of preventable dementia, and also a new user of the Oticon Opn, EDWINA CURRIE spoke eloquently on how these devices were professionally fitted by an independent audiologist and how much they have helped her in her career and social life.