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.

20 comments:

kim said...

Your hearing history sounds similar to mine. I'm in the process of looking at new aids-- was very impress with Costco prices. I'm currently wearing a Siemens, and learned Costco carries the Rexton made by Siemens. I'm so borderline and really close to getting a CI, so don't want to spend an arm and leg on another pair of hearing aids. I have too much hearing loss for the open fit and I'm not sure I trust the audi at my local Costco--who seemed to be pushing that last time I went in.

I know what you mean about having to learn to hear with your new aids each time. Also I've noticed when there's a new drop in hearing I always feel deafer for a few weeks until I get better at lip reading. Have been going thru this for over thirty years.

Aaron said...

Kim, trust me, you will NOT be able to go with an open fit. Even with the more powerful 55dB receiver and a *double dome* closed dome, the feedback circuit was having to cut so much off that the gain was not high enough for my loss.

I seem to lose about 5-10dB every 5 years for the last 25 years. So being at 85dB now, I really think this is the last set of hearing aids I will have. Hearing aids are truly wonderful when your loss is mild or moderate, but the disadvantages of hearing aids get so severe when you loss is really high.

I imagine my choice 5 years from now will be total ASL, or CI and ASL. I am very glad I've been taking ASL classes for 2 years now, and plan to take the 3rd year class in September.

kim said...

Yeah-- I've taken ASL too, but trouble is only two family members have taken basic ASL and no friends have taken it. ASL is great for those who grew up Deaf with family members and friends sensitive to their needs. For those of us with acquired deafness it's a different story,

I'm profoundly deaf in many speech tones, but have great low tones. The hearing aids just aren't cutting it at this point. I wear my pocket talker at work more and more. Last year I qualified for an experimental hybrid. I'm seriously thinking of getting that eval again before purchasing another pair of aids because I know my hearing has gotten worse since last year.

But I've been putting it off-- the first time I've EVER put off getting new aids. I'm bookmarking your blog. :-)

Aaron said...

I am teaching my wife ASL and my 2 kids also (my baby's hearing is like 60dB already so I find it crucial to teach him ASL). I figure an added bonus maybe someday my daughter with normal hearing can be an interpreter if she chooses.

Through my classes, I am getting more involved with friends who obviously are either learning ASL or are Deaf or part of the local Deaf community. Even if I get a CI, it is important to remember that at the end of the day I am still Deaf, so I will make decisions with that in mind.

I wish you luck whatever your choice. I'm wearing my old ears today to give my sore ears a rest. new molds are never comfortable right away...

limey said...

I currently wear Siemens bte hearing aids which cause sores in my ears. I was shopping in Costco and saw the display that they had on hearing aids. I made an appointment and was really impressed with the tests that the audiologist performed, my other doctors never did them. I ordered these new hearing aids but they won't arrive for about 2 weeks. These aids were a lot cheaper than the ones I've bought through my audiologist, I feel as though I've been ripped off in the past. I wasn't always hearing impaired, I was in a car accident that was pretty bad, not my fault. 3 - 6 months after the accident I suffered with constant ringing in my left ear, eventually I lost the hearing totally in this ear. 2 years ago I lost the hearing in my good ear and now have to depend on hearing aids, it's been frustrating to get adjusted. No hearing aids will really ever sound natural, hopefully these ones will do a better job. I haven't been able to use my cell phone, or listen to music and trying to listen to the tv or movies is a joke. I don't want a CI because its just a magnet with wires that's drilled onto the outside of your skull. Hopefully technology will improve and I really hope this hearing aids will be an improvement for me. If not I won't be keeping them.

Jacqueline said...

I just got my Rexton Cobalt hearing aids from Costco yesterday. Have had a profound hearing loss all my life (60 db range, both ears). My ear canal is small and i have been unable to use the in the canal aids in the past, I have always relied on lip reading, closed captioning and family members and fellow employees who automatically translate for me if i look confused. so far it is great they fit in my ears and everything makes noise, keyboards, walking, paper rustling and miraculously some people actually make noise when they speak instead of just moving their lips. Hee hee. I just loved the Costco hearing aid guy here in Alaska (Joe on dimond) not pushy at all and real helpfull i would recommend costco to anyone. just my two cents

Anonymous said...

I have had my Rexton Cobolt 16s for almost 3 months. They were my first, and have taken a little getting used to. I bought them at Costo in Charlotte, NC, and could not be happier. Roger, at Costco has been SOOO helpful. If I want them adjusted or have the smallest problem he is always willing and ready to help. I got the remote and the transmitter. I don't use either of them very much, but I'm sure that's just me - not the instruments.
Again, the low prices don't mean much is you aren't happy with the service. For me Costco's low prices and good service just can't be beat!
And, a week ago - 2 1/2 months after I paid for and receive my "ears" Roger called and said I had a refund coming because Costco has worked out a better deal with Rexton. I went down and picked up $774 cash refund! That is unheard of! Prices go down and nobody cares that you paid the higher price - except Costco.

RTS said...

JUST RECEIVED MY REXTON 16 COBALT HEARING AIDS FROM COSTCO LAST FRIDAY JUNE 12TH. AND THE #1 PROGRAM NORMAL HEARING SEEMS TO WORK WELL. HEAR MUCH BETTER THAN WITH MY OLD ONES.

QUESTION I HAVE IS WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PROGRAMS, MUSIC, SPEECH, TELEPONE, MUSIC, OUTDOORS, ETC. THAT THEY SAY IS PROGRAMED IN THE AIDS. WILL THEY SELF CORRECT AS THEY ARE USED OR MUST THEY BE REPROGRAMED AS I DON'T SEE THAT THEY WORK NOW. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER FEATURES SOUND LOCATOR, AUTOMATIC ACCLIMATIZATION FEATUE , FEEDACK CANCELATION, AUTOMATIC NOISE REDUCTION, SOUND SMOOTHING, WIND NOISE CANCELATION, SOUND LOCATOR AND DATA LOGGING. ARE THEY AUTOMATIC OR DO THEY HAVE TO BE SET AND ENABLED TO WORK?

COMMENTS AND INFORMATION WOULD BE APPRECIATED. RTS

SkoalMan said...

I am on my first official hearing aids, Rexton Cobalt 16's. Have had them now about a month. Prior to these I cobbled togethor some earlier generation BTE Ebay digitals which helped but I knew wasn't going to be as good as the newer aids with proper testing.

The fitter at Costco, Selma TX, has been very helpful. I have been back four different times for different domes, adjustments and their normal follow up.

The fitter is trying to leave the aids on automatic which means their are no programs. I am a musician also so they have been used in difficult listening environments. The prior aids all distorted in the environment of 100dB music. These distort only slightly. I am going to go back to hopefully get these adjusted to where they do not distort at all in the music environment. I have a feeling the compression may adjust too high in these hearing settings.
These aids are invisible to others. When I mention them the person observing cannot see the small body behind the ear or the wire with the receiver going into the ear.
I paid $2,600 with two year replacement if lost and 3 year warranty if broken. I am using an open dome in my right ear so I can use the phone. Right ear is moderate severe so I can get away with the open dome. Lefr ear is severe and requires more gain so I use a modified closed dome. I have a slight pie cut out (done with scissors)because of the aggravating occlusion effect.
So far my experience has been very good. I do believe I will go back for a few more fine tuning adjustments. This experience I would reccomend to anyone.
COSTCO will test your hearing free if you are a member. There is no pressure to buy cuz the fitter is an employee an makes no commission on the hearing aid sell.

Amy D said...

How are you liking your hearing aides now? I am looking at the Cobalt by Rexton from Costco. What is open dome and closed dome? My hearing loss is steady. I am testing the same now that I did in the first grade, some 29 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I have been wearing cobalt 16s for about six weeks and I am fairly happy with them. I have some problem hearing people in a noisy environment. I have just got the RCU unit and I am a little disappointed so far. I couple it to my Iphone to listen to music either from the Iphone directly, or streamed, and the music fades in and out even if the RCU is only 2 feet from the Iphone. Anybody else has experience with this?
Ted

troylana said...

thanks everyone for the comments on the rexton cobalt...i have had mine for 1 month now...and really like them except for the plugged feeling if i push in and down to far...so i end up pulling up and out a tad bit to help that...but i sure likethe suggestion of the pie shape slice ...i will mention to my instrumentalist at costco, here in kelowna, bc canada...ours in kamloops is not staffed with anyone yet, as a result i travel 2 hours to kelowna to have hearing aid services...i too struggle with high sounds (i am about 30% down in each ear - not sure what dB that is) and am having a hard time programming the different settings...i am a kindergarten teacher so i try to have a setting that downplays the high environmental sounds, but allows children's voices to be heard....any suggestions as to where or how to set the other 2 settings???? also is it hard to get used to the blue tooth capabliltity???
thanks in advance...from canada !!
my email is troylanam@msn.com

IndyBlogger said...

I just got my Cobalt 16 from Costco yesterday. This is my first aid. Tests show that I have "remarkable" hearing right up to 2kHz, where it rolls off sharply after that - in both ears, but right is slightly worse. Not knowing what to expect, I ordered one aid for the right to see what it can do.

Last night was a remarkable experience - hearing the birds in a tree made me stop and stare for a while...

I'm an engineer and one of the things I did last night was sit in front of a frequency generator and try them out. I notice at certain pure frequencies it "chirps". Around 3kHz is the first... I've not looked into them technically yet - can anyone else confirm that this happens, or tell me why it would happen?

Worried said...

Limey, My husband was in a severe car accident. He is going more deaf by the day and the ringing in his ears is constant. Did any doctor give you a reasons for your problems or a diagnosis?
I would appreciate knowing if there is a diagnosis.

ClientMagic Software said...

I have a 5 year old Costco Aid by Interton. I cannot hear women's voices on TV, my wife sometimes(this is a good thing at times), or my young grandkids. I cannot drive a car with the window down because of the noise. I am active and do sweat and get the aids wet sometimes. They have been sent in 3 times because of this, all free. Are the Rexton's fairly waterproof, how good is the TV Blue tooth, can women's voices on programs be understood clearly

SkyPilot said...

clientmagicsoftware- the aids these days are probably different from five years ago. it is all digital and all programming is done on the computer. I have had my hearing aids now for a little over two years. I have changed over from the domes to molds. The bluetooth works really good with the molds, or seems to. Sometimes it is a bit of work getting the Siemens bluetooth to pair with the phone (Android) but it is worth it to me. My Aids are on automatic and they apparently automatically adjust when in windy conditions and wind has not been a problem. I would imagine any aids would suffer if you get them too wet, though i have forgotten them when in the shower a few times they have never been immersed in water.
I believe with any fitting it will take time either to get used to the new aids or settings. I am not particularly picky but I bet I have been back once a quarter for settings changes. Alone for the bluetooth I have had 3 or 4 additional visits.
From what I have read HA's only last 5 years anyway. I would go get some more of the new generation. Take your wallet with you.

Aaron said...

I've had very good luck with my Rextons so far. The Bluetooth for TV and movies is GREAT! I also plug the bluetooth module directly into the sound board at church and that works really well also.

Given my advanced loss (85-90dB) it's pretty remarkable how well they work for me. The problems associated with 85dB are much more difficult to deal with than when I had a lesser loss (say, 50dB).

I expect to replace mine about every 5 years, max. This is my third set since 1998, but I also need to upgrade to more and more powerful models as my hearing fades. I had a CIC in 1998, then an ITE in 2003. I had to switch to BTE and the most powerful receiver in 2009.

Best of luck, whatever you decide!

SkyPilot said...

Aaron-
I used mine at church a few times using our monitor system. As I play and we use a click the latency of the bluetooth was killing me so I went back to being hard wired.

Rebecca Kavel said...

I'm glad to hear amazing reviews on the Rexton Cobalt 16. I find it safer to own a hearing aid than to undergo a CI immediately. I hope everyone who has tried it has had a wholly positive experience using it. I'm planning to buy my grandma one soon.

Anonymous said...

I was very interested in reading all the comments posted here. I purchased the Rexton Cobalt aids in mid 2009 from Costco. The folks at the hearing center did not set the aids up correctly and later a different Costco hearing aid center made the corrections. In addition, when the price went down I was not notified. Neither the local center nor the Costco "headquarters" were willing to do anything about the approximate $1000 difference. Finally the Cobalt does not seem to have a telecoil or if they do, no one seems to know it or how to activate it. Overall it has not been a good experience either with the aids or Costco.