Saturday, April 25, 2009

Followup Opinion - Rexton Cobalts

So I've worn my new hearing aids a few full days now. They are nice, but they definitely need a re-tuning badly. I am going back in a week from today.

Biggest complaints so far:
-Music sounds like total crap while I'm driving. Maybe it's all the compression, but it just sounds like it runs through a tiny AM radio first and then through my speakers. The "Music" program makes things sound better, but road noise is unbearable. I didn't really have this problem with my old ears, but then my gain wasn't as high.
-Voices also tend to sound really distorted in loud environments--again I think this is the huge amount of compression we put on. I want clear sound in all environments, but I want my aids to supress sounds that are too loud.
-The remote is very nice, if not a tad heavy. Funny, people wants phones heavy like the iphone because that makes them feel "substantial". This remote definitely doesn't fall into that category--I want it LIGHT.
-Of course, we need to configure bluetooth and direct audio still.

High points:
-These things are tiny. My right ear canal is having a little soreness, but then this happened with every new set of aids I have ever had. I think my canals just need to acclimate.
-The compression does a far job at supressing loud, sharp sounds like something falling on the floor (or me coughing, hah)

I can't wait to get them retuned. I have high hopes for them, and they seem to be up to the challenge.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pictures of my Rexton Cobalts

I ordered my new Rexton hearing aids in silver and also ordered a an optional kit to convert them to blue. I wanted half and half, so I exchanged a couple of the silver parts out with blue parts. Here is what they look like now (dime shows just how tiny these things are):

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New hearing aids - Rexton Cobalt 16

I picked up my new hearing aids today and thought I would post my initial thoughts. First, let's take a little journey back in time to understand some of my history.

I got my first set of ears 10 years ago. They were the Senso+ model in the CIC (completely-in-the-canal) size, made by Widex. They were almost invisible and functioned fairly well, but after four years they were no longer powerful enough to keep up with my progressive loss, so I got a new set.

The new set were Phonak Claro ITE (in-the-ear) models, and were far more technologically advanced, and also far larger and more noticeable. I was able to control the volume and choose programs using my Phonak wristwatch. I have worn these for about five years now, but again my hearing loss has outgrown the volume possible with these models.

Fast forward to present day. I recently bought a pair of Rexton Cobalt 16 (same as Siemens Pure 700) and a bluetooth remote control that Rexton calls an RCU (same as the Siemens Tek). The Rexton aids are the same exact instruments as the corresponding Siemens models for a much smaller cost. I'm not sure why they do this, but it's true. The hearing aids also feature standard size 312 rechargeable batteries and a charger that also dries the aids overnight. This is really convenient because if I forget to charge my batteries, or find myself somewhere for days without a charger, I can use normal-size 312 batteries.

The Cobalts can be ordered with 45dB or 55dB receivers that use open or closed domes, or with a 65dB receiver that requires a custom micro mold. After a few failed open and closed-dome RIC fittings with a 55db receiver, I went with a micro custom mold RIC and the 65db receivers. Fitting was fairly painless since I am a very experienced user and have a strong knowledge of frequencies and how hearing aids and signal processing works. With the custom mold, they seem to have PLENTY of power--certainly more than I need now.

The sound quality seems pretty good, but I had my audiologist put quite a lot of compression on my main program because my hearing threshold is so close to my pain threshold. I believe my HL number is around 85dB in the speech range, so although I need lots of gain, I am easily overwhelmed by sounds not much louder than that. The compression seems to make things sound distorted, especially in environments where background-noise is high. The music program is pretty much compression-free and music so far sounds pretty good.

Thankfully, the wind reduction system works pretty much as advertised. One of the most annoying things about my Phonak aids was not being able to hear ANYTHING in windy conditions. Everything just sounds like a "camcorder in the wind". The Cobalts produce some wind noise, but not loud enough to be annoying at all.

Unfortunately, we didn't set something up right, so I cannot pair my remote with my bluetooth phone or iPod yet. We'll have to fix this when I go back in a couple weeks.

Overall, like every time my hearing has outgrown my hearing aids, a new set of aids basically means learning to hear again. Things sound very unfamiliar, including my own voice. I will post more in a week or so when I acclimate a little more to my new world of weird sounds.

--Note on the bluetooth remote: it's really a pretty cool feature, and one of the main reasons I chose these aids. The remote is roughly the size of a very small mobile phone, and has 5 program buttons, ON, OFF, volume control, treble control, and status button. There is also a LOCK button that disables all buttons (think about having it in your pocket/purse/etc). The remote also pairs with mobile phones and will send audio binaurally to the aids, and sends your voice to the phone. It has a direct audio jack for iPods, TVs, and basically any other device that can output analog audio. I am truly impressed with the remote--it was well worth $300 as an optional item.