The end of 2018 was fascinating in the hearing aid world. The LiNX Quattro release by Resound was closely followed by the Audeo Marvel release by Phonak. On top of that, Starkey pushed out their fall detection feature to some Livio users. Going into 2019 there were clear favourites in the minds of many professionals and consumers alike. 2019 has been a bumper year for new introductions by a few of the brands. Let's talk about the stand-out favourites during 2019. The list right now is:
- Costco Kirkland 9 ( a whole lot of hearing aid for a great price)
- LiNX Quattro (outstanding sound & The first Made For Android Device Ever)
- Phonak Marvel (hugely successful hearing aid globally)
- Starkey Livio (first hearing aid to begin to deliver integrated sensor sets)
- Opn S (building upon the success of the original Opn)
- Signia Xperience (first hearing aid to use motion detectors to influence sound presentation)
- Signia Styletto Connect (building upon the original Styletto by adding connectivity)
- Unitron Discover (bringing the Unitron twist to Made For Any Phone)
- Bernafon Viron (building upon the Zerena with lithium-ion rechargeability and even more power)
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Costco Kirkland Signature 9.0 Hearing Aids
Up to this year, we haven't really considered Costco Kirkland hearing aids as a separate brand in its own right. Mainly because they are made by some of the big hearing aid manufacturers. However, after some conversations with some readers from the US, we decided that would change in 2019. So for the first time, we are including Kirkland hearing aids on the best-of list.
The Kirkland Signature 9.0 hearing aid range is made up of one Bluetooth enabled Receiver In Canal hearing aid at one premium level of technology. While the range is limited in model choice, the hearing aid will fit most hearing losses because of the interchangeable receivers (speakers). The Kirkland Signature 9.0 can use four different receivers,which allows the hearing aid to cover hearing losses from mild to severe to profound hearing losses.
The device is an IP68 rated hearing aid with a dual control button that is powered by a 312 zinc-air battery, it doesn't have a telecoil onboard which is unfortunate. Again though, it is a Bluetooth hearing aid, however, unlike other Bluetooth hearing aids, it offers direct connection to any Bluetooth enabled cell phone just like the Phonak Marvel or the Unitron Discover. The new Kirkland Signature 9.0 is manufactured by Sonova and it is built upon the same hardware as the Phonak Marvel and Unitron Discover. It is important that you understand that the Kirkland 9.0 is similar to these hearing aids but perhaps not exactly the same.
Hands-Free Phone Calls
The hearing aids provide hands-free phone calls from your connected cell phone. You simply press the button on the hearing aid to answer the call and talk away. You can also end the phone call with a simple touch of the button on your hearing aids.
TV Audio Streaming
There is a TV streamer accessory for the device that allows you to stream audio from any TV or sound system direct to your hearing aids without a streamer. The TV accessory provides excellent sound quality.
App-Based Remote Control
There is also an accompanying app for both Android and iPhones which will allow you to control your hearing aids remotely from your smartphone
Kirkland Signature 9.0 Features
The Kirkland Signature 9.0 uses the Sonova Sword chip for communication and the features are as follows:
- Third-generation enhanced automatic operating system
- Premium-level classification of environmental sounds and streamed media
- Binaural signal processing and binaural beamforming
- Direct connectivity to any Bluetooth phone with audio streaming to both ears
- Hands-free phone calls with built-in microphones
- 20 fine-tuning channels, 9 automatic programs, 3 manual programs
- Receiver-in-canal (RIC) form factor with 312 battery
- 4 receiver power levels
- Accessories: TV Connector
Resound LiNX Quattro
The Resound Quattro is one of the big contenders in 2019, it is the aid with pretty much everything, except better. Outstanding battery life, fantastic iPhone connection and since early September, direct Android connection, good looks and outstanding sound. Kind of what's not to love? As you may know, I have tried the Quattro 9 devices and have been exceptionally impressed with them as has Steve.
The direct Android connection currently only works with Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a phones. When Android 10 reaches the One Plus 7 phone soon, it is thought that the Quattros will also make a direct connection to that phone as well. Over the next six months, we should see other phone brands introduce phones that will connect directly to Quattro hearing aids.
For me, what really sets the Quattro apart, is the pretty amazing battery life delivered. Resound has delivered a lithium-ion powered rechargeable device that provides over thirty hours of use. That's amazing. The charger case concept is also excellent, several days of extra power in your carrying case! The hearing aids have already proven very popular.
At the start of September, Resound introduced custom Quattro hearing aids. What is interesting is that the Quattro customs are Bluetooth enabled hearing aids all the way down to CIC. In fact, the Quattro CIC will be the first-ever Made For iPhone and Made For Android CIC. I half expect to see an Enzo Quattro in the near future.
Phonak Audeo Marvel
The Audeo Marvel is going to be seriously popular in 2019 and there are good reasons why. The hearing aids and the associated features have really caught the imagination of the buying public and the hearing care profession. Although with simple and easy connection to any Bluetooth enabled audio device, it's easy to see why. I have tried them myself and I see the value of the devices. Phonak have really extended the launch of these devices, more so than ever before. The full Audeo range isn't really expected to be released until late 2019. That is fascinating, They often stagger the release of a platform, I can't ever remember them staggering the release of a model line up.
Update: All of the Audeo devices are now introduced and available. In August, Phonak introduced the Bolero Marvel range which consisted of two Behind The Ear Hearing aids. One of the devices is a lithium-ion powered rechargeable device.
They have also introduced a new firmware upgrade for the Marvel that they are calling Marvel 2.0. You can read about Marvel 2.0 here. The Marvel range has been very successful and Phonak found it difficult to keep up with demand. The devices are great and the Bluetooth connection is outstanding.
Starkey Livio AI
Starkey is finally introducing the Livio AI to a wider audience this year. For me, this is probably a standout hearing aid because of the new functionality concept that Starkey is bringing to hearing aids. The Livio AI was already a very different hearing aid from anything else before they made their announcement at CES 2019. Now the Livio AI represents a completely new use case for hearing aids. In fact, it probably represents a completely new type of device concept.
Driving A New Concept
Starkey is at the forefront of driving the change of use case for hearing aids. As I said, this is really a new device concept, yes it is a hearing aid, but it offers far more than just that. It also focuses on overall health and wellbeing. Starkey is introducing capabilities and features that move the Livio AI towards an integrated health device concept. Here are the features including the new ones.
- Translation in 27 languages
- Amazon® Alexa connectivity
- Rechargeable option – NEW
- Fall Detection and Alerts – NEW
- Heart Rate Measurement – NEW
- Voice-to-text Transcription – NEW
- Natural user interface with tap control
- Self Check for hearing performance – NEW
- Thrive Virtual Assistant, built on Google Assistant – NEW
So that's the three big contenders so far for 2019, let's get into the predictions. In no discernible order:
Oticon Opn S
I originally said in this article that Oticon will deliver a new platform in 2019, the Opn has been an outstanding success but it is pretty old now. I wasn't wrong, Oticon has just announced the introduction of the Opn S platform which is the new platform from them.
In fairness, Oticon surged ahead with the Opn, but the others are catching up. I still think it is one of the best hearing aids around though. Oticon has made some bold claims about the new Opn S and the benefits delivered over the original Opn platform. They boil down to 15% improved speech understanding, 10% reduced listening effort and finally, 10% increased memory recall.
Source: Demant A/S financial presentation
The announcement said that in addition to better sound processing, the new hearing aids will feature dramatically improved feedback cancelling. Oticon believes the new system in the Opn S will eliminate the problem entirely. The company also mentioned a new OpenSound Booster in the Oticon On App. Details on this are exceptionally scarce but we expect to be able to update you in the very near future.
The new range will initially come in four model types at three levels of technology and the market rollout of the Opn S family will start in March. The model types look like a Mini RITE, a Mini RITE-T, a Lithium-Ion rechargeable Mini RITE-T and a 13 BTE. As I said, this will be the first time Oticon goes with a lithium-ion power source. The details are scant and we would expect them to become clearer as we get close to launch time.
I would also expect them to push their remote care system this year. With the introduction of the Kaizn app, Oticon has invested in machine learning. It will be interesting to see how they leverage that in the marketplace and what they do with the data.
I said when I first wrote this article that "Signia is just off the back of a very successful launch of their Nx platform, however, I don't expect them to be quiet in 2019. I would expect a launch from them, but I think it will be a model type, rather than a new platform. Could be wrong though, Signia is one of the hungriest in the market and they don't work by the usual strictures of the industry, so anything is possible, if not probable." I was right, Signia has launched a brand new model called the Styletto Connect. I said that I still thought that we may hear more from them in late 2019. I guess I was right. On the 17th of September, they announced the launch of a brand new platform called the Xperience.
Signia call it a breakthrough hearing aid platform that understands the complete soundscape and adjusts to the wearer’s movements. The Xperience platform is their first hearing aids that use onboard motion sensors to deliver a better hearing experience for the user. It also has newly designed hearing devices that are smaller and more powerful than ever. Signia say that their new acoustic-motion sensors enable a completely new sound processing technology that measures more aspects of sound than existing hearing aids. Which means vastly improved hearing from any direction, in any situation – even when moving.
The Xperience platform offers the new Pure 312 X (with optional T-Coil) and rechargeable Pure Charge&Go X hearing aids in three levels of technology. It also brings brand-new, all-in-one smartphone app offering greater convenience for users. The new Signia Xperience chip includes 80% more transistors and seven times the memory of the previous Signia Nx chip, while also being 60% smaller. As a result, the first two hearing aids on the platform, the Pure® 312 X and the Pure® Charge&Go X, are smaller yet more powerful than their predecessors.
Two Hearing Aids, Three Levels of Tech
The new Xperience will be available with the two models in three levels of technology, the 7, which is the premium, the 5 and the 3.
The Styletto Connect hearing aid is a discreet device that offers coverage for mild to moderate hearing losses. It is an attractive if different design and reminds you of high end electronics as opposed to traditional hearing aids. The charger case is outstanding and it delivers four extra charges for the devices which means you can go away for a long weekend and forget your plug.
Like the original, the receiver is fixed in the hearing aid and can not be replaced in the clinic, it will have to be a factory repair job. That means that you will need to take care of it to ensure it doesn't fail. Generally, people do not take care of their receivers, we see them failing all of the time through user negligence. They get full of wax and moisture and die.
Three Levels of Tech
The new model will be available across the three usual levels of Signia tech, the 7, the 5 and the 3. If we hear anything else, we will update the page.
The Relevant Power Facts
Signia say that Styletto Connect's high-capacity power cell will allow for enhanced Bluetooth connectivity. This will enable users to enjoy high-quality, long-lasting stereo streaming of TV audio, music, and phone calls directly to both hearing aids.
They say that you will be able to stream up to five hours per day and still benefit from 16 hours of battery life before needing to recharge. That's pretty good streaming time and battery life. So for a quick overview:
- Up to 16 hours of battery life with 5 hours of streaming
- Just 3 hours to fully charged
- 30 mins of charging gives 6 hours of use
- Easy wireless charging, drop them in the charger and voila
- Made For iPhone, Direct connection to iPhone
- High-quality audio streaming
- Ultra HD e2e and Bluetooth connectivity
Unitron Discover Hearing Aids
Unitron is going to deliver their own version of the Marvel in the middle of May this year. Unitron has been teasing their new Discover with both professionals and consumers alike for the last month. The Discover is their answer to, or version of, the Phonak Marvel. Unitron and Phonak, their sister company both share hardware. Again, what Unitron does with the hardware tends to be different from what Phonak does. The details from Unitron are slim at best, but let's look at what we can guess.
Two Hearing Aids
Interestingly enough, it appears for the first time ever that Unitron may not be launching a full set of Receiver In Canal (RIC) devices at launch. This is a real departure for Unitron, while Phonak did this with the Audeo Marvel, I would not have betted on Unitron doing the same thing. It appears that there will be a size 312 traditional battery RIC and a lithium-ion powered RIC at launch.
Made For Any Phone
We do know that the devices will be Made For Any Phone hearing aids which will mean a seamless stereo connection to any Bluetooth enabled cell phone or sound source. I would assume you will be able to take calls just by pressing a button on the hearing aid. Here's one of the videos doing the rounds.
Bernafon Viron Hearing Aids
Bernafon Viron Rechargeable hearing aid
Bernafon announced the Viron in a press release on April 1st, they said "Bernafon Viron is the industry’s first True Environment Processing™ hearing aids. The new chip platform delivers super-fast sound detection and processing so that users can receive more precise information about their environment in real time. Viron also includes a newly patented feedback cancellation system and is available in a brand-new rechargeable style." Since then a couple of promotional videos have turned up online. There seems to be a greater focus on the handling of music than before.
Bernafon will launch the Viron to the market in late May 2019. As you may know, or not, Bernafon is owned by Demant and shares its hardware (the hearing aids) with both Oticon and Sonic. However, Bernafon uses that hardware differently from the others and they have a very unique way to process sound and speech. I will be interested to find out what they mean by true environment processing. The video looks interesting, to say the least.
Four Hearing Aid Types
The Viron range will be available in four hearing aid types, three Receiver In The Ear models (one of which will be a lithium-ion powered rechargeable which you can see in the top pic above) and a Behind The Ear device. The hearing aids will be initially available in the top three levels of Bernafon technology, the 9, the 7 and the 5. The range will cover hearing losses from mild to severe to profound as does their existing Zerena range.
I think 2019 will be the year that Widex finally launch their much-vaunted fuel cell device. It will be interesting to see what the market makes of it. It will also be interesting to see what type of feature set it has and exactly what market it is aimed at. Their current platform is the recently launched Evoke which is a pretty impressive platform. The machine learning feature is unique, or at least was unique until Oticon introduced their Kaizn app.
I think 2019 will be the year of remote care, nearly all of the major brands have introduced remote care systems and I see consumers being attracted by the benefits.
I also think 2019 will see the introduction of more lithium-ion rechargeable hearing devices by more brands. The Z-Power system was a fantastic idea but has proven problematic out in the world. Mores the pity really, but I expect most of the brands to switch to lithium-ion as a result.
I think Starkey has shown the possibilities here and I believe others will follow. The introduction of sensor sets to hearing aids in a wider manner will begin in 2019, who knows, maybe Signia has their eyes on the prize?
Hearing Aids as Your Personal Assistant
Oticon has begun to show the way here with the introduction of the Kaizn app. I think this concept will be expanded and I would expect some of the brands to run with it. Again, to be honest I was surprised that Unitron didn't do it. Their focus on the consumer has led to some really interesting and innovative ideas, so I half expected them to move this way.
Anyway, as always, this article will be continually updated in 2019, bookmark it so you can come back and laugh at my predictions and stay abreast of what happens. Like us on Facebook below, while you are at it, cause if you liked this, you may like our other posts.