A Review of The New Audeo B-Direct From Phonak
The Capabilities, The Missing Features, The Sexy Hands-Free Experience
Phonak have now completed the launch of the new and very interesting Audeo B-Direct in the US, UK and Ireland. The concept for the device has been fascinating and it is the very first ever Made For Any Phone hearing aid. That means that the hearing aids will connect directly to any Bluetooth enabled mobile phone, no streamer and no hassle. Let's talk about the hearing devices, what they offer and some important points you need to consider before you buy them.
As I have said, this is the first ever Made For Any Phone hearing aid, that means it will connect to iPhones, it will connect to Android Phones and it will connect to pretty much any phone that has a Bluetooth connection. So if you refuse to give up your old Nokia 5210 (pry it from my dead hands!!!!!) well then you are in luck. However, there are pros and cons here, caveats to the direct connection that you need to understand, so let's talk about them.
The main pro here apart from the fact that it will connect to any phone is that the devices give you amazing freedom from your phone. They act as a wireless headset, allowing you to both answer and refuse phone calls with a touch of the button on the hearing aids. They also act to stream the call to the aids and to stream your voice back to the caller. Simply put, you don't need to touch your phone, it could be twenty feet away and you can still take a call and speak to the caller without ever needing to look for it. That is complete freedom.
One Ear Only
Unfortunately, the audio from the call is only streamed to one ear, however, in order to give you the best opportunity to understand, the attenuate the microphones on the opposite ear. I have not tried them, but I have spoken to someone who has. They said that the call is exceptionally clear and presented no issues even in a slightly noisy sound environment.
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Phonak also has a feature called Environmental Balance which will allow a user to increase the streamed audio volume over and above their surroundings. They have claimed that it can give up to a 30dB advantage in signal to noise improvement, that is a helluva lot.
No Music or Audio Books From The Phone
The second thing to consider is that you can not stream audio other than phone calls from the phone. So no music or audio books, just phone calls. But again, the phone handling feature is outstanding and delivers real benefits as discussed.
Amazing Audio From The TV
In fact pretty amazing audio from any sound source once it is connected to their new TV Connector. I talked to a few people who had got a chance to listen and they were impressed by the clarity and fidelity of the sound. That means that listening to audio at home either while watching the TV or just listening to music will be a pleasurable experience without interrupting anyone.
Three Levels of Technology
The devices are a size 13 battery powered Receiver In Canal (RIC) hearing aid that will be available in the top three levels of technology, that's the B90, the B70 and the B50. They also use the new and updated Autosense OS which brings the tweaks that have ensured the Belong range is superior to the Venture range. The devices will handle three levels of power, the standard receiver, the power receiver and the ultra power receiver which will cover hearing losses from mild to severe.
Missing Some Features
However, in the B90 and B70, they do not have all of the features of the other aids in their technology levels. Because of the chipset that Phonak are using they lack the ability to stream audio in an inter ear manner. Phonak have become famous for the use of inter ear audio to deliver better results in certain sound situations for people with hearing loss.
In essence what they do is when you enter specific situations, they stream the audio being picked up by the best side to the other side. Allowing you a better chance to understand what is being said. While they do use an inter ear data exchange to ensure the most natural cues are delivered to a user, they will not have some automatic or manual sound settings. The sound settings / programmes they are missing out on are:
- No Speech in Loud Noise on the Audeo B-Direct
- No Speech in 360 on the Audeo B-Direct
- No Speech in Wind on the Audeo B-Direct
- No Duophone on the Audeo B-Direct
That is a loss of some pretty amazing features for hearing in complex sound situations. So you need to be aware of it when you are making a decision on purchasing. There are no other surprises, nor is there much else that you need to know. Apart from what we have discussed here, the Audeo B-Direct is similar in nature to other Audeo hearing aids at each technology level.
Solid Hearing Aids, Amazing Phone Capability
These are pretty solid hearing aids that offer an outstanding mobile phone capability that is unique. No other hearing aid on the market offers this type of headset connection to mobile phones or the complete hands-free use. However, there are caveats, because of the nature of the devices you will lose out on some pretty excellent features.
That doesn't mean the hearing aids aren't pretty good performers, in fact from any of the comments I have heard so far they seem to be excellent. Like I have said before, our job is to tell you the facts, it's your job to take them and use them to make educated purchase decisions. If the mobile phone is a big part of your life and you don't want a streamer or the more traditional direct connection possibilities. If freedom of use and sexy hands-free calling is what you really want, then these babies are for you. Here is a comparison chart of features and capabilities between the Audeo B-Direct and a Made For iPhone hearing aid:
|Feature Comparison||LiNX 3d||Audeo B-Direct|
|Direct Wireless Connectivity To iPhone||Yes||
|Direct Wireless Connectivity To Android||No||
|Stream Phone Conversation||Yes||
|Answer Phone With Hearing Aid||No||
|Phone Conversation in Both Ears||Yes||
|Streaming of Audio From Phone||Yes||
|Use iPhone as Remote Microphone||Yes||
|Find Lost Hearing Aid Feature||Yes||
|Remote Fine Tuning of Hearing Aids||Yes||
|Tinnitus Therapy Feature||Yes||
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Posted by Geoff
Geoffrey (Geoff, anything else makes him nervous) Cooling has been involved with the hearing aid industry for over ten years. He has worked in private practice dispensing hearing aids and as a manufacturer's rep. He has written two books and they are both available on Amazon. He loves technology, passing on knowledge and is legendary for many other things, primarily the amount he curses, his dry and mischievous sense of humour and his complete intolerance of people who are full of themselves. Please feel free to connect with him
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