Great Hearing Aids, But Will That be Enough?
I have been recently wearing the new Active Pro devices from Signia. The devices are an interesting departure from the form factor of traditional in the ear aids, designed to look more like wireless earbuds than hearing aids. The idea is that the form factor may be more pleasing to people who don’t like the idea of traditional hearing aids but need help with their hearing. My answer to those as well-versed readers of my posts would know is, get over yourself. Anyway, there are many people out there with this outlook and very few signs of them getting over themselves. So, this type of device probably has a great future. It is an interesting concept though, while it kind of slips into the ranks of devices such as the IQbuds from NuHeara and the new Enhance Plus from Jabra, it is different in function from both. The IQbuds are wireless earbuds that have hearing aid functionality, the Enhance Plus are more hearing aids with wireless earbud functionality, while the Active Pro, are hearing aids that just look like earbuds. I wonder is this the rock that they might die on? One thing that is different which I think will probably make users exceptionally happy is the Assistant in the app, more on that later. Let’s talk about the Signia Active Pro and the differences between them and other devices within this niche.
As I said, the Active Pros are quite different from the competitors within this niche. I think it is worth exploring those differences before I talk about my experiences with them, why I thought the Assistant in the app was outstanding and finally why I think they are pretty decent devices but wouldn’t wear them.
The IQbuds are typical wireless earbuds, they offer a direct hands-free connection to any mobile phone with a Bluetooth connection. They also use some pretty good hearing device features including the NAL prescription for amplification, directional microphones and noise reduction. The key is that their battery life is four hours.
The Enhance Plus is a different beast, the core functions of the device are from hearing aid technology including the 17 channel audio processing unit, probably the ReSound amplification protocol, feedback management system, directional mic array and finally noise reduction system. This hearing aid functionality has wireless earbud functionality piggybacked onto it and it offers direct hands-free connection to any mobile phone with a Bluetooth connection. The key to this one is that it has a battery life of ten hours
The Active Pro is a hearing aid that looks like a wireless earbud, pretty much full stop. It is a good hearing aid filled with some outstanding Signia features, but it doesn’t offer true wireless earbud functionality. It will directly connect to iPhones for streaming audio and phone calls, not in a hands-free way, but more on that later. The battery life is outstanding offering 26 hours on a single charge. So you can expect a full day of use.
They are powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery and they come with a convenient, portable charging case with Qi wireless charging technology. The charging case provides three 26 hour charges on the go. So you could easily fully charge them and go away for a weekend without fear.
The Devices, The Charger, The Package
By now, you probably know about my seeming fetish for packaging, anyway, the packaging for the Signia Active Pro would not be seen wanting beside any high-end consumer electronics devices. Signia has done this very well since they introduced the Styletto and the box is reminiscent of that style. I think the packaging is important, if you are paying large denominations of cash for a product, well then, the packaging and presentation should reflect that.
The charger is nice, low profile, nice to hold, easy to put in a pocket, an attractive piece of kit that speaks of quality. When you open it, the devices look good, nestled in their charging hollows. Again, the presentation here speaks of high quality. The devices are easily taken out of the charger with minimum fuss, even with big fat fingers like mine. They are also easily placed into the charger and you can feel the pull of the magnet as you drop them in.
Most of the time they line up with the charging point quite well, but a few times they didn’t and I had to give them a little twist. That’s not a major issue, but you need to be aware of it, if you don’t see the LED come on when you place it in the charger, it isn't charging! The last thing you want is to miss that and then take them out in the morning to find out one is dead.
The devices are small and quite low profile so they sit rather well in the ear and are quite unobtrusive. Discreet even! They sat in my ear well, they didn’t press against anything, they weren’t wedged into my concha bowl, they just nestled in there well. I want to take a moment here to explain why I would not necessarily be wearing them in the future. The devices were quite comfortable, I used them with a semi-closed tip which looks like a tulip.
However, I just could not get used to the feeling of them in my ears for long periods. That may seem strange to you considering I wear hearing aids, but I wear Receiver In Canal hearing aids with open tips. I am used to having something in my ear canals, not necessarily in the bowl of my ears. When I do (using my NuHeara IQbuds for music) it is only for a few hours at most. Of course, I am fussy because I suffer from occlusion a lot because of fluctuating mid-ear pressure.
So the fact is simple, I will probably never wear in-ear hearing aids. That doesn’t reflect badly on the Active Pro or any other In The Ear hearing aid I ever try, that’s all about me. To you dear reader, I would say that these are comfortable devices that sit well in the ear. From time to time I had to re-seat them in an optimal position but it wasn’t onerous in any way. Overall, I think without the freaky Geoff don’t block my ears syndrome, I would have to give them a 9 out of 10 for comfort.
The Signia Active Pro is a premium level device with all of the features, 48 processing channels, 20 adjustment bands and extended bandwidth up to 12kHz. The sound quality from the Active Pro is excellent, as you would expect from a modern premium Signia hearing aid. They worked well in different sound environments giving me decent clarity even in noisy situations.
Overall, I was happy with the sound quality and the app gave me options on the go to finetune it. While the controls offered by the app are limited, the assistant can be used quite well to change the sound delivered. I like the assistant and I can see it evolve to be a very powerful tool for users to manage their sound quality.
Bluetooth & Streaming Audio
The devices are Made For iPhone just like many modern hearing aids from Signia and other manufacturers. Unfortunately, these types of devices don’t offer the classic Bluetooth headset mode that other wireless Earbuds use for calls and connect to a host of different Bluetooth enabled devices. That means that the Active Pros aren’t hands-free devices and won’t let you use a phone-based personal assistant like other Earbuds.
It is this fact that makes me wonder about what target market they will be successful with. For instance, if your target loves the idea of wireless earbuds that deliver all of the power of premium hearing aids, well then the Active Pro aren't for them. If the target is someone who wants to make sure no one knows they have a hearing loss, well then the Active Pro is ideal.
The only reason I bring this up is because of the form factor and the widening niche that has begun to evolve. that niche appears to be attractive to people. While the other players in this niche offer relatively low price situational devices. The Active Pro is a high priced all-day, everyday device that doesn't offer the functionality of the others.
In finishing, these are really good hearing aids, they work well in many sound situations and deliver outstanding clarity. They are discreet and comfortable to wear, and they sat well in my ear. The charger case is outstanding and being able to be free of a plug for days at a time is fantastic. If anyone notices them in your ears, they just assume they are earbuds. So I guess they work as advertised.
Like us on Facebook by clicking the button below to keep up with our latest utterances. Alternatively, if you don't like Facebook, sign up for the newsletter below. It is important to remember, a hearing aid isn't properly fitted unless they do Real Ear Measurement.