The Phonak Marvel, My Day to Day Experiences
In the last article, I spoke about the Marvel and its quite amazing Bluetooth connectivity. The connectivity options with the Marvel are outstanding. Phonak's choice of Bluetooth connectivity protocol was inspired. It is the leader of the class when it comes to connectivity, however, is there more than that to the Marvel? It seems that the profession has almost lost its collective mind with excitement over the devices. Is that warranted? I would have to answer yes, but with an addendum. Let me explain.
You Know I Love Lithium-ion Rechargeable, Right?
I have written elsewhere here that I recently realised that I love rechargeable hearing aids. In particular, lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids. Steve has said, "Any product with a rechargeable battery is only useful if it lasts a decent amount of time between charges, annoys the hell out of me that I have to charge my phone twice a day." I managed to use my Marvels for a full day without recharging in general. There were some exceptions.
I connected the Marvel direct to a Bluetooth enabled television, you know because I could. Don't do it, just don't, after a couple of hours my hearing aids died. Direct Bluetooth streaming from a television chews through the battery like a damned hungry hog. In fairness, many of you would probably never consider doing it, but I am here to tell you, don't.
I also used the TV Streamer provided for the devices. The sound from the TV streamer is outstanding and it is a lot less power hungry. I didn't test it to destruction as is my want, but I will in the near future as I want to do a comparison article and get a clear idea of how power hungry the new types of direct streamer are.
Get The Bigger Charger Case With a Power Pack
I said in the last article that I have the mini charger case. It is a lovely thing. However, you need to think about the larger case and a power pack. That will give you tremendous versatility, and if your hearing aids do die, you will be able to charge them on the go. Like I said, in general, I got a full day out of the rechargeable aids. However, I would have liked the extra assurance of being able to quickly and easily charge them up if I had to.
During the trial, I made and received many phone calls and the hands-free system is pretty cool. I still get a little tingle of excitement every time I reach up to push the button on the hearing aid to take a call. Although wandering around seemingly talking to yourself can lead to some pretty strange looks in shopping centres. I had a child ask me "are you one of the crazy people?" I so wanted to say yes hahahahahahahah. However, I settled for no I am on the phone and showing her the hearing aid. She seemed a bit disappointed.
I almost felt honour bound to twitch a couple of times and laugh maniacally, but I held off. During the trial, my experiences during phone calls were pretty good. I heard the caller very well in most cases except for dodgy connections. They seemed to hear me pretty well. In noisier situations or windy situations, it appeared that the caller had a little trouble hearing me. However, I heard them just fine. Overall, I was more than happy with my experience here.
During my testing, I had no dropouts or refusal to recognise or pair episodes. I had one issue of refusing to stream which I quickly solved by turning off and on the Bluetooth on my phone. There is no delay in streaming, when your phone rings, you hear the ring in your hearing aids. When you answer the call, you are straight into the call without stutter. When you finish the call, it just reverts to the programme you were in or the streamed audio you were playing.
Phonak has ensured that the Marvel strikes a good balance between streamed audio and environmental sounds. You can hear the streamed audio well, but you are still aware of what is going on in the environment. Your hearing care professional can fine-tune the balance between them, and you can change it in the Remote app. I was happy with the Phonak pre-set and didn't fiddle. That's a good point when I trial hearing aids; I just fit them with the manufacturer defaults. I always do this so that I can get a clear idea of the tech before I change anything.
My Call-To-Text App
This is a shining example of modern thought in hearing aid development. The app transcribes phone calls into text, allowing you a better chance to have a phone conversation with strangers that make sense. I used the app a couple of times, and I was impressed with its functionality. It occasionally threw up some weird stuff especially when I was using common Irish technical terms. Overall though, great app and I can see the benefits it will provide for many people.
Remote App isn't Great
Unfortunately, the Remote app from Phonak just doesn't cut it. I mean it offers volume control, allows you to change programmes and allows you to alter the balance between streaming and environmental sound, but that is all it allows you to do. It doesn't allow you to customise the sound or to change the focus of the hearing aids which I missed. I know I am a power user and not everyone wants this type of functionality. The thing is, in my experience, they don't want it until they have it, then they really want it.
Great Sound in Everyday Environments
I like the sound of the Phonak Marvel, it isn't quite what I am used to, but it is pretty decent. They sound excellent, perhaps a bit tinnier than I am used to, but that could have easily been the open tips I was wearing allowing more low-frequency sound escape. The devices worked well in all of the different sound situations I found myself in on a day to day basis.
The devices handle the noise versus speech equation very well. The clarity of speech is excellent in noisier situations. The Marvel delivers that clarity well while managing the sounds of plates banging, cutlery clattering or water running. Speech understanding is pretty solid, and in noisier situations, you can hear whom you are speaking to relatively well.
An Excellent Hearing Aid Option
In finishing, does the Marvel live up to the hype? I think it does. The Marvel is a really excellent hearing aid option. It has outstanding connectivity and offers truly unique features. I liked the day to day sound, and the streaming experience is amazing. There are two things that I take issue with, the first is the app, it doesn't offer me enough in-depth power of the way I hear. Having said that, during the trial, I probably didn't need to use the app that much.
The second is the charger, I think Phonak need to re-consider the standard charger and go down the route that other brands have gone. There is a lot more to the Marvel than just the connectivity, and I do think that there is a lot to be excited about. All round, these devices are pretty damned good, and I would have no issue with recommending them to anyone.
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Posted by Geoff
Geoffrey (Geoff, anything else makes him nervous) Cooling is an Irish hearing aid blogger and has been involved with the hearing aid industry since 2007. 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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