We’ve written about hearable technology for several years. I’ve also been able to personally try a select number shipping over-the-counter hearing assistance devices, including Nuheara’s IQ Buds and IQ Buds Boost, Olive Health’s Olive, and Wear and Hear’s BeHear Now, and most recently, BeHear Access. Those devices include self-administered frequency threshold hearing assessments you use to adjust your profile within the hearables’ mobile apps. This month I’ve had the opportunity to try Phonak’s newest generation hearing aid platform, Audeo Paradise.
Phonak is a business brand of Switzerland-based Sonova International. Sonova’s brand develops and provides consumer hearing aids, cochlear implants, wireless communications products, digital solutions, and professional audiological care products. The new Phonak Audeo Paradise hearing aids include several new technologies that include Motion Sensing Hearing, continuous environment sensing, personalized noise cancellation, speech enhancement, tap control, multiple simultaneous Bluetooth connections, and voice assistant compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri.
The Audeo platform adjusts for various sound environments dynamically, whether sound changes in the same place or as a user moves to different locations. With Motion Sensing Hearing, the hearing aid’s microphones sense when the wearer is conversing while walking and focuses the microphone sensitivity in the direction of the other person. Personalized noise cancellation allows the user to experiment with numerous sound characteristic settings to find the combination they prefer, which they can then save as a custom setting. Users can define an unlimited number of combinations of settings. After trying out the custom setting function, I found just letting the hearing aids adapt automatically to my sound environments worked just fine for me.
The Paradise hearing aids can pair with up to eight Bluetooth devices with two simultaneous active connections. For example, you could immediately click over to answer your phone when you’re also using the devices as speakers for a Zoom video conference call on your computer. The user can configure and manage Bluetooth connectivity and all other settings from the MyPhonak mobile app.
Phonak sells Paradise hearing aids with the new capabilities in several versions, each with replaceable or rechargeable batteries. I’ve been using the rechargeable style. Charging fully depleted batteries can take up to three hours, but the batteries can then power the hearing aids for a mixture of listening, streaming, and phone conversations for up to a combined 16 hours. I’ve been using them almost exclusively for listening and in my long days that often exceed 18 hours the hearing aids haven’t’ run out of power.
Phonak sells Paradise hearing aids in the U.S. through hearing professionals. The price will vary depending on the package one signs up for with an audiologist. So I don’t know the actual price, but believe it’s in line with other premium hearing aids.
The MyPhonak app has a frequency threshold hearing self-test anyone can use to get a general idea of their possible hearing loss. It’s necessary to make an appointment with an audiologist for fine-tuning the settings. I was able to have my Paradise hearing aids configured online using Phonak’s Remote Support feature on the app. Once you’ve registered your hearing aids, which most people would do at a hearing professional’s office, you can then request remote support. A Phonak support specialist who is either assigned to you or is on call sends an invitation to you via the app. When you accept the invitation, that starts a two-way audio and video call on your smartphone.
I’ve tried out and used a variety of hearables — aka hearing assistance devices — and found that they range from some to very helpful. For the usual reasons (primarily cost), I’ve held off getting fitted for real hearing aids and have muddled through without them while only slightly annoying (I hope) my relatives and friends. Without question, using the real deal, especially with the rolling sound environment adaptation in the Phonak Audeo Paradise platform, makes a world of difference. The Paradise hearing aids are tiny devices that loop over the top of each ear, and a transparent listening tube fits in the ear with a small dome on the end that fills the ear canal. Being pandemic aware, I’ve been in close contact with others rarely since I began wearing the Paradise hearing aids, but when I have, no one has noticed I’m wearing hearing aids until I mention it.
Admittedly my first experience with hearing aids is an eye, um, ear-opener. The new Phonak features dynamically adjusting to changing sound environments, including on-the-move conversation adaptation is mighty impressive, as are the platform’s Bluetooth connection features and battery life per charge.