I'm liking the way hearing aid products are going these days, I've been wearing aids for about 35 years now and they've changed a lot in that time. They used to be bulky beige eyesores that were un-stylish, they were medical devices first. These days hearing aids are sleek, stylish and well-presented. I started with that paragraph because as well as producing first-class hearing aids, ReSound did a superb job of packaging them and creating something that looks like a welcoming lifestyle/health accessory and not a medical device for someone who is "disabled".
Manufacturers are starting to notice how Apple and Samsung style their products and following suit, this is great news. The box that the ONE hearing aids come in looks lovely. The charging case should, in my opinion, win a design award, its easily the best designed I've used, the aids themselves are slim, well-crafted and discrete. It's the whole package, it's a product that would not look out of place sitting next to the latest MacBook Pro.
So, it Looks The Bee's Knees, But Can You Hear With it?
This is the third year in a row I've reviewed ReSound's new hearing aid. I reviewed the LiNX 3D, then the LiNX Quattro, and now the ONE. To be honest, I think I'm becoming a bit of a ReSound fanboy.
Geoff has already written a review of his experiences with ONE hearing aids. I have a slightly different setup to him as I have a severe hearing loss, which means I need a moulded earpiece and couldn't use the microphone-in-the-ear M&RIE feature, which is a shame but it's still great anyway.
First thing I noticed when I got the ONE is that it is longer and thinner than the Quattro and any other hearing aid I've used. This doesn't make it more visible when it's behind your ear and is actually more comfortable. I wear glasses as well as hearing aids and the thinner body of the hearing aid means there's more space behind my ear for the glasses and my ear doesn't get pushed out like it used to with shorter, stubbier hearing aids.
Another very noticeable thing if you've worn hearing aids before is that the receiver wire is longer than usual. Normally the shell of a hearing aid will sit right at the top of your ear but with the ONE the aid sits much further down the back, level with the canal. I'm told this positioning helps give a more realistic sound in conjunction with the M&RIE technology.
The hearing aid being thinner and sitting further down behind the ear helped to reduce wind noise disturbance for me. Wind noise has been a major pain in my ass forever, know the noise you get if you blow on a microphone? That's what the wind does on your hearing aid, even a light breeze can sound like a raging tornado on many hearing aids. The ONE sitting further down blocks off much of the wind from the microphone and helps a lot to reduce noise, it is still there, but it's improved a lot. The ONE has a mode specifically to combat wind noise as well, more on that later.
I shouldn't gloss over a pretty revolutionary piece of technology in the ONE hearing aid, GN is the first of the leading manufacturers to put a microphone in the receiver on a behind-the-ear hearing aid. This is big news for a couple of reasons:
1. The canal is the most natural place to have the microphone. When a hearing aid is a behind-the-ear model the microphone is traditionally on top of the ear, that makes a difference to how we perceive sound compared to someone who is using their ear canal and pinna (the outer ear) naturally, the sound is not captured in the same way and this can make it hard for hearing aid wearers to determine where a sound is coming from (called localization). This extra microphone in the M&RIE fixes that problem, meaning us hearing aid users again get the benefit of having radar-shaped ears to pick up sounds.
2. It will allow real-ear measurement hearing tests to be performed without extra equipment. You don't care about that? You should! As Geoff has been harping on about for many a year, real-ear measurements are an often-overlooked test that is vital to getting a perfectly-setup hearing aid.
As I said above, due to my severe hearing loss I'm not able to have the microphone in the canal on my moulded receivers so I can't tell you how well it works, Geoff can. I was told by GN that they are working on making M&RIE available to everyone at some point but the majority of you will be in the fitting range anyway so this is probably not going to be an issue for you.
All Around Mode, Two Becomes One
The ONE has a smartphone app that allows you to control settings and tweak how it sounds (more on this later). The default setting of the hearing aid and the app is called "All Around", this is the everyday setting that I use 99% of the time.
This mode gives you natural hearing in all environments, by that I mean the hearing aid is picking up sounds and voices from all around you. That might seem like an obvious statement but if you've been wearing hearing aids for many years you will know that older models did not necessarily do a good job of giving you a natural-sounding landscape.
Think about a scenario where you are standing in a shop, talking to two people, one in front of you and one beside you. There are also other people passing by who are talking, there's other noise like things banging into shopping carts, doors closing, tannoy announcements and so on. A hearing aid is having to process all of that and decide what you want to hear, again an obvious statement but not all hearing aids are created equal in the ability to do this.
The ONE strikes an excellent balance in hearing ability. For example, I was in the pub with two friends, I was able to hear clearly what they were saying at all times. But, I was also aware of the conversation on the next table, their words sounded clear to me but did not interfere with what my friends were saying. That's a big thing as older hearing aids will either make those background voices sound like mush or be so loud you can't here who you want to.
Being able to hear who you want but having a clear, relaxing, uncluttered background is a sign of a great hearing aid. Too much background noise and you get overwhelmed and tired by it, too little and you aren't aware of what's going on around you, the ONE gets it spot on.
The thing that really grabbed my attention in that pub outing was when the bar staff came to the table. The three of us were talking, I was listening to them and concentrating on what they were saying, the lady came to the table from my left and said, "Have you finished with your plates?", I had exactly what she said and very clearly. With older hearing aids I would have heard that she'd said something but not understood as my focus was on someone else, I'd have had to ask her to repeat, but the ONE gave me enough focus on her to understand clearly whilst my friend speaking was still the main focus. That was a sit up and take notice moment for me, the way the hearing aid reacted so quickly to allow me to hear everything she said was impressive, she was a new voice that I wanted to hear and she instantly was.
A pair of ONEs work together to create a listening environment, to work out which voices you want to hear and what's background noise. Driving in my car was another time I noticed this working well, I had the window down and so road-noise was loud on one side of me - the ONEs, working as a pair, were able to reduce that noise to the background and bring the passenger's voice into focus so that they were easy to hear.
Ultra Focus Mode
This mode is selectable from the smartphone app. It is ideal for very noisy situations like pubs and restaurants. Rather than serve you a 360-degree soundscape like All Around mode does, Ultra Focus will concentrate heavily on what is directly in front of you. All Around does a great job in many pub and restaurant situations so it's not like you always need to switch to Ultra Focus just because you happen to be in one of those places. This mode is for when the noise gets overpowering.
Because of the current COVID situation here in the UK it took me a while to be in a situation to properly test out this mode, pub's are quieter and restaurant tables are social distancing, the ONE wasn't being tested. I got my chance the other day, we went out for a pub dinner on a Friday night, it was quiet when we arrived but the place soon started to fill up and the noise levels increased. As the evening wore on I was struggling to hear my wife and daughter a bit, I was still in the conversation but the rising noise was making it tougher. Also, I noticed them saying "what?" to me as well, seeing as my wife can hear a pin drop a mile away I realised I was talking too quietly, which is an interesting side effect of hearing loss, because I was hearing them talking quietly I was matching my volume to what I thought there's was.
I remembered about Ultra Focus, three taps on my iPhone and I was in that mode. The change was not subtle! Ultra Focus kind of feels like it creates a tunnel between you and the person in front of you and everyone else is locked outside that tunnel. The voices from the other tables fell away to a light rumble in the background and my wife and daughter's voices became clear, pretty much as if I was talking to them without anyone else around. Also, my own voice became very clear to me again as well, I went back to talking at a normal level, they weren't quiet any more and neither was I.
Ultra Focus does its job very well, it's not a mode you'll use for normal day-to-day use but when it comes to blocking loud noise and bringing a speaker's voice to the fore it is second to none.
Outside mode is for use outside, no, really. It is specifically designed to reduce the dreaded wind noise. As I said above, where this aid sits on the ear reduced wind noise quite a bit for me anyway and is probably enough on its own for light to moderate wind. For stronger winds, it's worth opening the smartphone app and picking Outside. This mode cuts off the higher-pitch sounds of the wind, so you can still hear it but it's less invasive. This cut-off does affect voices a little too, it changes the way people sound a little bit but they are still easy to understand - cutting the wind out and cutting people off a bit is much more preferable than battling to hear over the raging typhoon you get with hearing aids that aren't equipped to deal with wind noise. This mode is not perfect, wind noise is still a problem but it's much less of a problem than with other hearing aids, its a big step towards solving the wind noise problem.
The ONE doesn't require you to buy batteries and fiddle around trying to insert them into a little gap at the bottom of the hearing aid, it uses rechargeable batteries and comes with a charging case.
Rechargeable is pretty much the standard now, all big brands have rechargeable models, I would never go back to wearing an aid that wasn't.
I've been wearing rechargeable hearing aids from GN Hearing for years now, first the Quattro and now the ONE, I have never run out of battery, not once, and I wear them all day long, I stream music and phone calls a lot. It doesn't even cross my mind these days that I might run out of battery at any time, long gone are the days where I'm stuck somewhere without a spare battery and I hear the beep to let me know I've got about half an hour before things go quiet.
Having I mentioned the charging case? I freaking love the case. It's a perfect design. Some other brands have a corded charger that is designed to sit on a table but ReSound's is way better, it is perfect for any scenario. I like to sometimes take my ears out when I'm driving, I can pop them in the charging case and it fits perfectly in the drawer in the dashboard. The case fits in my jeans' pocket with room to spare. The charger is charged up via USB cable, means I can charge it anywhere, I don't need a wall socket nearby, so I can charge it on holiday from my laptop, in the car from dashboard USB, etc. It really is a well-designed and stylish piece of kit, it's versatile and doesn't get in your way.
Audio Streaming With Bluetooth
I have my iPhone 7 Plus connected to my ONEs via Bluetooth. Everything works perfectly. I hear the ring for incoming calls in my hearing aids, so I don't need to worry about listening for the ring in my pocket. Calls are sharp and clear, voices are easy to understand and I can change the call volume via the iPhone volume.
If I need more control of how the caller sounds I can use the ReSound smartphone app to alter the bass/mid/treble of the call to suit. I sometimes boost the mid and treble of someone with a low gruff voice.
Bluetooth is also great for listening to music, videos and podcasts. Same as with the calls, streaming is perfect, it works, no glitches and no hassles.
Background noise when using Bluetooth is configurable in the smartphone app. By default, the hearing aids allow some background noise but the focus is on the streamed sound, this is set so that you are still aware of environmental sounds but they did not overpower the streamed audio. The app allows you to turn off environmental sounds completely if you wish.
I've said it many times before on this website but the addition of Bluetooth streaming to hearing aids is a game-changer for me, it makes hearing on the phone so much easier than before. I can listen to music and video at a comfortable (and safe) volume whilst still being aware of sounds around me
Bluetooth streaming is an amazingly useful feature of this hearing aid.
The ReSound Smart 3D Phone App
Smart 3D™ is the app that is provided with the ONE. It's the same one that the Quattro used, which is a good thing as its a great app, ReSound didn't need to replace it, just add a few new features.
The app is simple and intuitive to use. It is easy to switch between All Around, Ultra Focus, Outdoor and any other modes your provider may have put on for you - one press to open the app and one press to change the mode, that's important when you need to change mode quickly and discretely.
The other main feature of the app is to allow you to change the sound of things in All Around mode. You can change the base/mid/treble and alter the level of noise reduction - simple controls that are easy to use that make a big difference to how you hear someone's voice. All Around just works most of the time but I use the app if I'm trying to hear someone who is very softly spoken or when I'm in the office, I whack up the mid and treble from the default and that gives me confidence I'm going to hear the quiet talkers without trouble.
The ability to alter the sounds you are hearing is brilliant. All Around works for me 99% of the time but I know if I'm going to be talking to someone very quiet I can crank them up with a few touches on the app and hear them perfectly.
It's a Yes From Me
I would not hesitate for a second to recommend this hearing aid to anyone. The LiNX 3D was great, the Quattro was better, the ONE is better again.
It's a well-designed product that is simple to use, has a great app and a charging-case that I am in love with.
Most importantly, it gives a great hearing experience in all situations, it hasn't let me down yet and I don't expect it to.