Phonak introduced their new ActiveVent receivers in August this year. I said at the time that I felt it was a great move forward. I felt that way not just because of what it represents right now but what it could mean in the future. Anyway, I recently got a hold of a pair of ActiveVent receivers which I have been wearing for several weeks, attached to a couple of Audeo Paradise 90 hearing aids. It has been an interesting experience, at times impressive, at times more irritating than an irritating thing. On balance, I think I can accept the annoying for the amazing it delivers. Let me explain what I mean.
Open and Closed Vents
Before I go into the ActiveVent, I will briefly cover open and closed vents. An open-fit or open vent is only something that a professional has to consider when a user has good low-frequency hearing, rather like me. If a user has good low-frequency hearing, but a high-frequency hearing loss, open fit or open vent delivers a more natural experience, allows low-frequency sound through naturally and ensures that a user does not suffer from occlusion.
Open Fit Gives Comfort, Closed Fit Gives Benefit
However, a closed fit is best to activate all of the features in the hearing aids. So up to now, when dealing with a typical high-frequency hearing loss, it has always been a compromise between comfort and efficacy. The issue is most evident when streaming audio like music and phone calls. The audio with an open fit sounds a bit crap; it also makes a difference in noisy situations.
A closed fit delivers a better experience in those situations, but if someone has good low-frequency hearing, it will irritate them greatly everywhere else. ActiveVent tries to provide the best of both worlds, an open fit that converts to a closed fit in some situations. So with that basis of knowledge behind us, let's talk day to day experience.
These are a bit crap
So, we started the journey with some instant fit silicone tips at the end of the ActiveVents. We got them fitted to my loss and then started streaming some music. I wasn't overwhelmed with emotion, to be honest. I thought they were a bit rubbish. Indeed, the audio was a bit fuller than with open tips, but it didn't blow me away. In fairness to everyone, the instant silicone tips didn't fit my ears that well. So, we changed one of the tips to a titanium-based instant fit tip that was knocking around.
I was pretty impressed with the difference, the sound quality of streaming audio was pretty good, and the titanium tip felt comfortable in my ear. It was still a little off balance because of the instant tip in one ear, but I could begin to get a real sense of the difference the ActiveVent would make. I wore them for a few days to try and get a sense of them but to be honest; the instant silicone tip kept coming out, meaning the titanium instant tip side felt really out of balance.
Custom Fit Titanium Tips
Anyway, the custom fit titanium tips made for my ears came, so I quickly changed over the receivers to get a good run at them. First things first, the tips were a thing of beauty, perfectly fitting in my canals, and they offered fantastic retention. I can honestly say they didn't slip out once while I was wearing them.
Occlusion Jim, But Not As We Know It
I don't know whether I have told you this before, but I hate occlusion. It is the one thing that is likely to make me twitchy, I don't mean like they got my food order wrong, and it's Monday snide remark and glare twitchy. We are talking full-on, going fricking nuclear, Hulk smash, tear the ears of the side of my head twitchy. My gift, to you the world, is that I never wear In The Ear hearing aids for this very reason.
The ActiveVent receivers combined with the custom titanium tips certainly occluded me a bit. However, to mine and everyone else's astonishment, that was it. No rising blood pressure, no if I don't get these God damn things out, someone is going to die moments, basically and astonishingly, occlusion that I could handle. Most bizarre really.
Yup, holy shit, the sound was amazing, full, warm audio, with some lovely bass and that zingy treble that I have come to recognise from Paradise. I started to see why some people I know were raving about the streaming audio sound being offered. The sound was excellent; I played through my usual play-list that I usually listen to with my NuHeara IQbuds, and the sound was spot on.
The calls were excellent; the difference between my usual open fits and the ActiveVent was noticeable. Again, the voice on the other end was fuller, with the intonation easier to hear. My audiobooks were easier to hear, especially if there was background noise wherever I was. All audio streaming sound was better and hugely better if there was background noise around.
In noisy situations, the ActiveVent close, although it has to be a pretty loud situation. When it does, you get a sense that speech is easier to hear, that you have to put slightly less focus on hearing it. As you can imagine, I didn't really get into that many noisy situations, so I didn't get to try it out thoroughly. However, from my limited experience, I knew there was a difference.
The Damn Click!
Well, it has been all pink fluffy clouds and unicorns up to now, right? Yes, well, unfortunately, it's time to balance that out a bit. Every time the ActiveVent closes, there is an audible click. Now, the click is audible and noticeable but not overwhelming, or to be clear; I didn't find it overwhelming. Initially, it can be a bit disconcerting, can catch you by surprise a bit, but I quickly got used to it.
Clickety Click, Click, Click
In the beginning, the damn thing clicked on and off constantly when I was looking through Facebook or Linkedin on my phone, which drove me damn insane. What was happening was, even though I had the videos on my news feed muted, they were set to autoplay. That meant that every time I scrolled by a video, it grabbed the damn Bluetooth connection in case I wanted to unmute it. Hence the clickety-click, click, click. To be honest, I was starting to get a bit Hulk Smash, and then someone pointed out what the issue was.
Turn Off The Damn Autoplay!!!!!
So, I went into settings on the apps, found the video settings and turned off the damn autoplay. Silent nirvana once more. Warning to all who fit ActiveVent and wear them, turn off the video autoplay in your Facebook and Linkedin apps, you will thank me later, all donations can be sent to Hearing Aid Know marked Geoff's Rum and Magic Mushrooms fund.
Other than this, the click was quite tolerable; it was funny; from time to time, the ActiveVents would click closed before my phone started to ring. That was a little weird, but I got used to it. On occasion, they would click closed for no apparent reason when flicking through apps on the phone. Again, this was not necessarily onerous.
Turn Off App Audio Notifications
I have many audio notifications for apps turned off; if I didn't, the Bluetooth would be grabbing my hearing aid audio constantly. If that were happening with the ActiveVents, I would say it would be intolerable. So again, another tip, turn off the audio notifications for all of your apps with the exception, I suppose, of the ones that you think are imperative.
Let's wrap it up; the ActiveVents with custom-fit Titanium tips are pretty cool. They offer people with good low frequency an excellent balance of open-fit and closed fit when they need it. I think if I can manage the occlusion, anyone can. When they activate, there is a clear, audible click, disconcerting at first, but you get used to it. For the love of God, turn autoplay for videos off on your apps, or you may get uber twitchy. Definitely, manage your app audio notifications.
With all that in mind, I still think they are worth the hassle. But I love to stream audio of all kinds to my hearing aids. If that sounds like you, you have good low-frequency hearing, and you are savvy enough to know your way around your smartphone, well, then these devices might not be a bad investment for your Audeo Paradise aids.
They are an added extra, and they will cost you. Phonak has also only delivered a six-month warranty on them. That doesn't mean that you will only get six months out of them, but you are buying a new one if it breaks down after six months. The one thing that will kill the Active Vent will be wax ingression; it is what usually kills all receivers, to be honest.
There is a massive HF3 wax receiver on the tip of the receiver, which should catch a lot of wax. However, it will need to be changed when it begins to get packed. I think if you take care of these receivers, I mean genuine care, wiping them down, brushing out the wax guards when everything is dry in the morning—changing the wax guards when they need to be changed. Well, then you should get a year or so out of them.
If you have wet waxy ears, well, then these receivers aren't for you. You will kill them on a semi-regular basis. Anyway, I liked them; I think they are worth a shot if you enjoy streaming audio and you have a bit of a tough time in loud background noise, but in fairness, who doesn't?
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