Hearing Health News – July ’22
In this recurring blog series we take a look at a few of the prior month’s biggest stories in the world of hearing health care.
Hearing aids are getting more expensive
The Consumer Price Index is up over 8.6 percent over the last 12 months, and unfortunately for those in the market for hearing aids, hearing aid prices are keeping pace with that figure.
As a result of rising costs of goods and supply chain issues, nearly all of the major hearing aid manufacturers have increased their prices to retailers (hearing care providers) by anywhere from 5-10%+ since the pandemic began.
The majority of hearing care providers are in turn passing those costs onto their customers—amounting to hundreds of dollars of extra costs.
At ZipHearing, we are bucking the trend, and instead of raising prices, have cut our prices by 4% in the last 12 months and hope to continue to be able to do so.
myPhonak app gets much needed updates along with some criticism
In the first week of July, Phonak updated their myPhonak app, which is the app that is compatible with nearly all Phonak hearing aids from the last 5 years.
For many people, this app updated automatically. Others will have to manually update it on their phone.
We’ve been inundated with calls related to this update, as has Phonak, even updating their phone system to play a message that hold times may be longer than usual ‘due to the popularity of the new myPhonak app.'
After a couple weeks of the app being live, here’s a distillation of all we’ve learned/heard from Phonak and Phonak users—
Improvements to the app
Prior to this update, it would often take 10-20 seconds for Phonak hearing aids to connect and pair to a phone via Bluetooth.
This connection time has considerably improved to just 1-2 seconds.
In terms of new functionality, this app update coincides with the release of the new Phonak Audéo Fit hearing aids, and if you use those hearing aids, you’ll see numerous functions available within the Health section of the app, such as steps and wearing time, including optional goal setting, activity levels, heart rate tracking, distance walked and ran.
If you use the more popular and older Audéo Paradise rechargeable hearing aids, your app will now display a step counter.
Complaints we've received
The biggest complaint we’ve received is that users have lost connection between their phone and their hearing aids.
This is not unusual after app updates of any kind.
The fix is to delete the app from your phone and reinstall it.
Phonak provides instructions for this process here.
After following Phonak’s instructions above, we’d also recommend powering down and restarting your phone before using the app.
It’s actually a good idea to restart your phone anytime you notice Bluetooth call quality issues with your phone and hearing aids.
Others have noted that their app is constantly saying “disconnected,” when they were connected just minutes earlier.
This is more of a UI issue than anything- as it doesn’t mean anything is actually wrong.
Your Phonak hearing aids only need to “connect” to the app when you are making adjustments to the hearing aids. Once that adjustment is complete, the connection is intentionally broken to preserve your phone’s battery life.
That connection is separate from the actual Bluetooth connection to your phone, so when the app says it’s not connected, it’s not a problem.
Some users reported that their “saved programs” they’d set up in the previous app had been wiped out. Unfortunately there is no way to recover those programs, they’ll just have to be recreated.
The design and layout of the updated app has received criticism for placing too much focus on the new health-related app features.
In our experience the majority of customers use the myPhonak app solely for changing volumes and programs, and perhaps access to this functionality should get more real estate in the app.
However, we understand Phonak may want to encourage users to explore and learn about some of the new functionalities available, and this new layout may very well be temporary.
Finally, our customers who wear Paradise hearing aids with a CROS transmitter remain frustrated that they are still unable to use the myPhonak app.
We’ve been told that an update is coming for this before the end of the year.
ReSound Custom hearing aids available to order
We wrote about ReSound’s new ‘Custom made by ReSound’ hearing aids in last month’s post, and we’re happy to report that as of July 18th they are available to order.
ReSound Customs are available in all 3 ReSound technology levels: 5,7, and 9.
They’re available in 2 different styles, either ITC (in-the-canal), or ITE (in-the-ear).
In an industry first, the charger that comes with these hearing aids has custom made inserts that mirror the shape of the custom-built hearing aids, giving them a perfect fit in the charger.
Like nearly all ReSound hearing aids, Customs feature built-in Bluetooth, allowing you to stream phone calls, music, and more directly from your phone to the hearing aids.
Our price for ReSound Custom ranges from $3200-$4600 for the pair.
Learn more about Custom Made by ReSound.
Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announces the completion of the full set of LE Audio specifications
It’s called LE (Low Energy) Audio, and it’s the biggest set of specifications that the Bluetooth SIG has ever released.
What this means for hearing aid wearers
Right now, it’s a bit hard to say, but you can be certain that in the coming years the following will be true:
- Hearing aid battery life will be dramatically improved.
- Bluetooth range between a streaming device and hearing aids will be up to 100 yards.
- Latency will be a thing of the past, there shouldn’t be any lip-sync issues.
- Smaller, less intrusive hearing aids will emerge, probably more completely-in-canal models, and maybe even invisible-in-canal models.
- Proprietary hearing aid accessories like TV streamers and remote microphones will be a thing of the past.
- Thanks to Auracast™ broadcast audio, devices like TV’s and phones will be able to send out multiple streams, and you’ll be able to select a stream that you want to listen to, just like you’d select a Wifi network.
When will hearing aids have LE Audio?
We’re not sure, but we’re told by at least one major manufacturer that they’re already working on incorporating LE Audio into its products.
In reality, we’re probably still years away from seeing hearing aid manufacturers using LE audio en masse.
We are however extremely excited about the potential of LE Audio and think this is going to provide a lot of interesting new functionalities for hearing aids in the coming years.
Hearing aid coverage cut from latest version of Build Back Better Act
The Build Back Better Act is dead.
At the end of the month Senators Manchin and Schumer surprised everyone with a 725-page deal dubbed The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
At $739 billion, it's a pared-down version of the previous Build Back Better Act that was projected to cost $2.1 trillion.
It appears the previous proposal to cover the cost of hearing aids every 5 years, for individuals with a diagnosed severe-to-profound hearing loss, has been scrapped.
Back in October of '21 when we first wrote about this, we said expectations should be tempered—that the proposal had a long way to go.
We're sorry to see this coverage scrapped from the latest deal, as this would've been a nice win for those who need hearing aids the most.