Still a stupid name, but a damn fantastic hearing aid
I have been wearing the Phonak Paradise rechargeables for some time now on and off and I am exceptionally impressed with them. I wrote elsewhere recently "You know, as I sit here streaming the wonderful The Heart Asks Pleasure First played by Myleene Klass, to my Paradise hearing aids, I can't help feeling wonder at how far we have come on the journey with digital hearing aids. Admittedly I am lucky, I don't suffer from a lot of problems with hearing well in background noise with modern hearing aids. Maybe that is why I feel that hearing aids kind of put me at an advantage over the people who don't wear them. The simple pleasure of hands-free phone calls, asking my hearing aids what the hell am I doing today, streaming beautiful inspiring music, the joy of Terry Pratchett books on audio, and the manic if sometimes hilarious dictation of messages and emails."
So yes, I like the Paradise range a lot, and I think the concepts around them represent an evolution of hearing aids towards Hearables. It hasn't all been plain sailing though, there have been problems, not insurmountable and relatively easily fixed. If you are getting yourself some Paradise hearing aids, here are the things you need to know.
Let's get straight to the problem, I think that makes the most sense. When I say problem, this isn't a disaster, it is just something you need to know, oh and the workaround that fixes it. The issue is with the tap control feature and it is brought about by the fact that we are all wearing masks.
The tap control feature is sensitive enough, that's why it works so well. Unfortunately, it can be set off easily enough when you put on or take off a mask which leads to unwanted behaviour. I have cut off numerous phone calls just by taking my mask off as I was talking to someone. I have also set my Google assistant off many times by adjusting or taking off my mask.
The Fix is Simple
The fix is simple, just go into your app, hit the menu at the top right of the screen (looks like three lines) and click My Hearing Aids. You get a new screen and half-way down is Tap Control. Just turn it off when you are wearing a mask. You can still answer and end a call with the button on the aids if you wish. When you have finished wearing your mask, just go back into the option and turn tap control back on.
All I can say is thank God the Phonak design and development team decided to put the control over the tap feature in the app. Otherwise hearing aid users across the world may have been driven to distraction.
It's So Worth it
Some of you may say, why not just turn the feature off entirely? For me, the answer is that the feature is so worth it. The ease of use for streaming audio, answering calls and using my Google assistant is outstanding for me and I would not like to go back. That may be different for you, you may not see the use case for you. If you don't, turn the feature off. You will be at the loss of nothing. I like the touch control, but there is so much more to Paradise than just this one feature.
While you may now feel that tap controls are ancillary, or that the easy use of the voice assistant is not core. I think within a short period we will begin to look back at the Paradise as the beginning of a shift. While I know there are similar features out there, no manufacturer offers the combination of good sound quality, universal and now integrated connectivity and ease of use that opens up accessibility through voice to many. Let's take a look at my long term experience so far.
Phonak says that a fully charged Paradise aid should be able to deliver 16 hours of use based on 8 hours of listening, 4 hours of audio streaming via Bluetooth classic (so from your phone, be it calls or music etc.) and 4 hours of TV Connector streaming. I am getting easily a full day of use every day streaming calls and a lot of audio.
I listen to podcasts on the morning and evening journey to and from work. I take calls during the day and whenever I can I listen to an audiobook or music during the evening. Never once have I been even close to running out of battery life except for when I forget to charge them.
I still hate the fact that the charger is not a system with onboard charges like some other brands. Being able to throw your hearing aids into your charger case without having to worry about plugging it into a wall socket is wonderful. I know Phonak does offer a charger pack to go along with their larger charger case but it is really bulky. Not something you would throw in your coat pocket.
As I said in the early run-down, the Paradise aids performed as well or better than I expected in all of the situations I found myself in. The new Autosense 4.0 (sound management system) does its job well, managing the features and switching between pre-sets efficiently.
While in the earlier review I said that I had not noticed the speech enhancer working that much. Over time, it became more obvious that I was hearing the wife talk from the sitting room a little better than I would expect when I was sitting in the kitchen.
The phone experience is pretty damn good, phone calls are generally clear, and everyone I spoke with said my voice sounded good on the other end. I often answered calls during my use of the aids with my phone in my shirt pocket, occasionally with it in my trouser pocket, and sometimes with it sitting on the table about five feet away. I never had any Bluetooth issues while doing it and the callers seemed happy with their ability to hear me.
There was the odd occasion where I was outside in a windy situation and callers would mention that it was a bad line. I would have expected that though so I am not surprised by it. The only thing to do is to make excuses, ring off and then ring back when you are in a more sedate setting.
As I said in the earlier run-down, Phonak are not the first to put motion sensors in their hearing aids. Understanding the actual motion of the user will allow better feature management decisions to happen in the processor when the user is on the move. In my day to day experience, I did notice the difference that the motion sensor made to hearing a companion while walking alongside them. It simply made it easier to hear them without having to focus on them so much.
Dynamic Noise Cancellation
Dynamic Noise Cancellation is a new noise suppression system that allows Phonak hearing aids to work even better in noisy situations. The feature can be set by your hearing professional. It can also be activated, decreased and increased from your app. It will give up to an extra 4dB signal to noise ratio boost. An additional 4dB may not sound like much, but it could be enough to help you hear what is going on. I managed to use this feature twice in the long term use of the aids and it does make a difference, it gives that extra boost in background noise to help you hear better.
The only issue I found was that sometimes one of the phones would grab the audio connection when I didn't want it to happen. I was listening to an audiobook on my Android phone when I decided to check the news on the iPhone. When I started to use the iPhone, it grabbed the connection and interrupted the book. That's a Bluetooth thing though, that isn't a Paradise thing. Once I figured it could be an issue I just worked around it.
Pretty much everywhere else, the Bluetooth connection was pretty robust, not giving me a huge amount of issues. I went back to using my Pixel 3a and Samsung Galaxy S8 after the initial review. Paradise played nice with both of the phones. In general, the connection was robust and I didn't suffer many of the connectivity problems that I would expect.
I plan to start using the iPhone again as the main phone for an elongated test and I will give feedback on it later.
I said a long time ago that the Phonak App was rubbish, they must have been listening because the upgrades to that app have offered outstanding functionality. The new myPhonak app works much the same as the old myPhonak app. The familiar three-band frequency controller for bass, mids, and treble, a volume control, noise reduction and speech focus control, and control for decreasing loud sound or increasing soft sounds are all there.
I have heard others say that the app is confusing and a lot of stuff is hidden away. I don't feel that so much, I think the simple everyday stuff is kept out in front, while the more powerful stuff that adds nuance to your sound is one simple step away. I think that is a good balance of functionality.
The Dynamic Noise Cancellation is only visible in the Speech in Loud Noise situation and as I said, you can also change or set up your tap control feature in the app. You will also have access to the remote hearing care feature, battery status and wear time, a hearing diary, and any custom program settings.
In finishing, these hearing aids are excellent, they offer very robust features to deliver better hearing in even the most complex sound situations. The ease of use when it comes to phone calls is outstanding and audio streaming is excellent. While the tap control feature is problematic because of the current pandemic, it is still outstanding and I believe represents a new and deeper integration between hearing aid and phone that will open up so much to us.
Right now, there are a plethora of excellent hearing aids on offer from the big hearing aid manufacturers. Each one offering something unique and different. The Paradise holds its own very well amongst the other offerings and even has some unique features itself like hands-free calls and tap control amongst others. I have dispensed several sets of Paradise at this stage and even though it is early days, each one of the Patients wearing them is exceptionally happy with their decision to purchase.
In the world of hearing aids, you can't really get much better than that. Is the Paradise the best hearing aid out there? That is an impossible question to answer because there are too many variables in Patient needs. Is Paradise the best hearing aid for you? Again, I can't answer that without a clear idea about a lot of your needs and issues. Is the Paradise amongst the best hearing aids on offer right now in the market? That one is really easy, hell yes.
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