Hearing Health News – August ’21
In this new and recurring blog series, we take a look at a few of the prior month’s biggest stories in the world of hearing health care. August was a busy month, with several new releases, continued fallout from the semiconductor chip shortage, and a new study linking untreated hearing loss and depression.
Phonak Announces 3 New Releases
New Waterproof Audéo Life Hearing Aid
It’s been a decade since a hearing aid manufacturer was bold enough to release a hearing aid and market it as “waterproof.” Lately, manufacturers have taken the more cautious route of calling their hearing aids “water-resistant.”
That changed on August 30th, when Phonak announced their new Audéo Life waterproof hearing aids. These devices are showerproof and splash proof and can even be submerged up to 50 cm (19.6 in) and still function normally.
While this hearing aid has the same IP68 rating of existing Phonak Paradise hearing aids, it does appear to have some additional protection against water not available in the standard Paradise lineup.
How well they’ll hold up in water remains to be seen, and we’d still recommend exercising caution around water- these probably aren’t for doing laps in the pool. But if you sail, row or do stand up paddleboarding as part of your healthy lifestyle, not worrying if your hearing aids get wet is a huge relief. Existing water-resistant hearing aids are already very durable, as evidenced in this cheeky video, so we have high hopes for a hearing aid actually marketed as waterproof.
Under the hood, the Audéo Life is powered by the same Paradise technology that allows for direct connectivity to any Bluetooth device- which is part of what’s made it our most popular Bluetooth hearing aid.
Audéo Life is a limited-release product that is not yet available nationwide. We anticipate being able to offer this hearing aid to ZipHearing customers in the coming months.
Audéo Paradise is Now CROS-Compatible
The wait is over.
Phonak finally announced the release of their long-awaited CROS P device, compatible with select Audéo Paradise models: Audéo P-13T, Audéo P-R, and Audéo P-RT.
If you have single-sided deafness, or very poor word understanding in one ear, you probably wear a CROS or BiCROS hearing aid. As a member of a relatively small club, you’ve usually had to settle for older technology until your hearing aid manufacturer offered a CROS. Not anymore! The CROS P-R gives you all the newest Paradise features like direct Bluetooth connectivity and lithium ion rechargeability, while still accommodating your unique CROS needs. If you prefer, it’s also available with a size 312 disposable battery.
Innovative ActiveVent Receivers
Available for receiver-in-canal style hearing aids, ActiveVent receivers are a creative solution to a problem that has plagued this style of hearing aid for as long as it’s been around.
The primary benefit of wearing open-fit receiver-in-canal (RIC) style hearing aids is the natural sound quality they allow, since this hearing aid allows the ear canal to remain open, allowing sound to pass through the ear canal normally.
The downside to that, is sometimes too much sound enters the ear canal, which can make it even more difficult to hear, particularly in noisy environments.
In the past, the only tool hearing providers have had to address this issue is to partially “close-off” the ear canal, by fitting the hearing aid with a custom ear mold, or using a “closed” dome which created a better seal in the ear canal, as opposed to the more popular and desirable “open” dome. The problem with that, is a closed dome or custom mold isn’t ideal in many situations- so hearing providers were essentially fixing one problem, but causing another.
Phonak says they’ve solved this problem, with their new and aptly named, ActiveVent receivers.
ActiveVent is a new receiver (speaker) that automatically changes the size of the vent based on what’s happening in the environment. Doing this seamlessly optimizes hearing in noise and when streaming Bluetooth signals.
ActiveVent receivers can be swapped out on any Paradise rechargeable hearing aid by your hearing care provider. We don’t yet know the price for these receivers, and they’re not yet available nationwide. We anticipate being able to offer this receiver to ZipHearing customers in the coming months. ActiveVent receivers also won’t be appropriate for all hearing aid wearers- talk to your hearing provider about whether this may be a good solution for you.
Another Study Links Untreated Hearing Loss to Depression
A recent publication of results from a University of Manchester longitudinal study of depression in seniors found a positive link between untreated hearing loss and depression. This has long been talked about in relation to the social isolation many with hearing loss exhibit. The results are a culmination of data collected from 74,908 people aged 50 to 89 years old between 2002 and 2017.
The study not only showed that wearing hearing aids decreased depressive symptoms, but that wearing hearing aids “most of the time” had a markedly larger improvement in depressive symptoms than those wearing them “some of the time.”
Starkey Hearing Technology Unveils New evolv AI Hearing Aids
In recent weeks Starkey has been teasing a new release, and on August 31st we found out what it was.
During a live-streamed event, top Starkey executives announced and detailed their new evolve AI hearing aids.
Here are just a few of the highlights of this much-anticipated release:
- evolvAI is a new family of hearing aids available in all styles, from the smallest IIC style hearing aids, to powerful BTE style devices.
- As we predicted, Starkey is now offering a completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid with direct connectivity to iPhones and many Android phones (no need for a streamer accessory). Starkey claims this is the world’s smallest CIC hearing aid with direct 2.4GHz technology. An interesting footnote- the pull string on this device (that wearer’s use to grasp onto the hearing aid for removal), also doubles as the antenna for the device, which is an industry first.
- evolve AI hearing aids have the fastest Bluetooth connection experience on the market, half of what it previously was. This means wearers can spend less time fiddling with pairing their hearing aids to their phone, and more time reaping the benefits of the new evolvAI devices.
- “Edge Mode”, which is Starkey’s proprietary and AI-driven feature to improve speech audibility in noise, is now available in all technology levels except 1200, and is now accessible via the Thrive App.
- evolvAI hearing aids can directly connect to 31 Apple devices and 38 Android devices- which is more than any other hearing aid that uses Bluetooth Low Energy.
- Fall detection and alerts are now available in all technology tiers. We’re happy to see this feature being expanded, as Starkey reported in the livestream that it is saving lives.
evolvAI is being released over the coming months. Visit this page for pricing and more details in the coming weeks.
Global SemiConductor Shortage Affecting Hearing Aid Manufacturers
Beginning several years ago, demand for the semiconductors used in chips for almost everything in your home began to rise. When COVID-19 hit and several large manufacturers had to shut down, inability to produce these critical components started a ripple effect that has hit most consumer electronics, the auto industry and hearing aids. While most major hearing aid companies are still able to produce hearing aids, many accessories like chargers, media streamers and remote microphones are being impacted by the shortage.
According to CNBC, larger industries and companies like Apple have some leverage over supply, but the bigger variable on how industries ride out this shortage is how they plan for supply chain disruptions.
Unfortunately, the most optimistic predictions say that supply may lag demand well into Q2 of 2022.
As a result, we’re seeing significant delays on many accessories from almost all hearing aid manufacturers. This means accessories like TV streamers, chargers, and remote microphones. Most manufacturers have yet to provide a date that they’ll be able to fulfill orders on these devices.
If you are a hearing aid user who needs an accessory impacted by the shortage, there are a few options:
- Call around to some local hearing care providers. Some may have these in stock if they were ordered before the chip shortage began. This is ideal because you know the product is new, authentic and should still be eligible for the full manufacturer warranty (usually 1 year)
- Check with the local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and ask if they know of any organizations that have used or donated Hearing Assistive Technology. This is not as good as a “new old stock” device, but HLAA is a well known and reputable group, so their recommendations are usually ethical and honest. These folks are also a great resource for tips, tricks and support as you get used to hearing aids.
- Some devices are available online from Amazon or eBay. This option, particularly eBay, may save you some money, but be careful. Before you close the deal, ask for the serial number and call the manufacturer. If it’s a genuine product, they should have it on file. Also check with them about the warranty. If it’s used, ask the seller about their return option. The other risk with this option is that the purchase will likely not have any available support, however most manufacturers have videos on their websites or YouTube channels showing how to set up their accessories as well as providing some troubleshooting.
- While having an accessory specifically designed for your hearing aids is great, there are also some great universal accessories, particularly for TV listening that may work well. Diglo.com is a company that specializes in creative solutions to hearing better when hearing aids alone don’t do the job. They’ve been around for 35 years and have folks who can help you figure out a good set of solutions for your particular needs. Most of them are either hearing aid users themselves, or they have family members who are.
Oticon Announces New Products to the “More” Lineup
On August 31, Oticon announced they were expanding the styles and features of their flagship Oticon More hearing aids.
Oticon More is already one of our most popular hearing aids here at ZipHearing, and we’re excited that it’s now a good solution for even more people.
For a brief rundown of Oticon More and why it’s so popular, check out our video review if you haven’t seen it yet
Oticon More is now available with a disposable 312 battery, in the popular minRITE T style.
Oticon More was originally released in the miniRITE R style, which is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. While we do believe the rechargeable style is the better option, we can certainly understand why some people may want disposable batteries– and now they’re available.
New CROS devices and compatibility
For wearers with single-sided deafness, there are now (2) CROS devices that are compatible with More devices, CROS PX (rechargeable), and CROS miniRITE T, which uses a disposable battery. Interestingly, the CROS PX rechargeable is also backwards compatible with earlier OPN S hearing aids.
New charger in the works
Oticon is said to be working on a new portable charger for their rechargeable More devices, but due to the semiconductor chip shortage (mentioned above), we think it’ll be some time before these chargers are available, and we currently are unable to supply them to our customers.
If you’re interested in one of these new chargers, please subscribe to our blog (below), and we’ll update you when these are available!