Resound was founded in 1943 with offices in more than 25 countries and 4100 employees worldwide. It is one of the big 6 players in the hearing aid industry and were the first to release the ‘Made for iPhone’ hearing aid with the Resound Linx. The Linx2 is the second generation of the original hearable and has ironed out the teething problems they had with the first. But where they have succeeded to deliver a great product with the RIC; they have expanded their range and introduced the world’s first custom smart hearing aid which, as you will discover, isn’t without its problems.
As with any of the leading hearing aids on the market it is full of features that are designed to optimize the listening environment for the wearer. It boasts binaural directionality II with spatial sense to assist with improving signal to noise ratios and helping with localisation. It also has a sound generator to be used by individuals with tinnitus as part of a sound enrichment rehabilitation program. Finally, and what we will mostly be focussing on today, it features 4th Generation Bluetooth technology to allow for direct connectivity to the latest Apple and Android phones (although Android users do have restricted functionality).
Being of normal hearing it is difficult for me to fully utilise all the features that are on the hearing aids and so I have broken down the review in to two segments. Part 1 is my own experience of wearing the device and testing the connectivity to the iPhone. Part 2 is the collective experience of my patients from the feedback I have obtained.
First impressions of the behind the ear (BTE) Linx2 receiver in the canal (RIC) hearing aid are that it looks and feels very high quality. It has a high gloss finish and comes in an array of colours to suit all individual tastes. I often recommend the Linx2 to patients concerned about aesthetics because, in my opinion, it is one of the better looking BTE hearing aids on the market today. The packaging is professional and not too clunky as it often is with hearing aids and so already I am feeling impressed.
I programmed a pair of premium Linx2up to match my hearing thresholds and immediately I was impressed with the sound quality. Quite often in the past, when wearing hearing aids I have been immediately hit by the artificial sound but even with the double domes I was wearing I felt them to sound natural and comfortable.
Next part was pairing my phone which was performed with ease in the accessibility option of the settings menu. I also downloaded the smart app from the apple store to fully utilise the features available with the hearing aid.
My first test was to stream from my iPhone to the hearing aids. As a pianist of over 20 years I am familiar with how a piano should sound and I also used a familiar song Tom Odell – Another Love, which is an acoustic piano track that I’m very fond of. On pressing play I was immediately impressed with the clarity the Linx2offers in comparison to the 1st Generation device. It does however feel a little too shallow and tinny at times but this is expected from a device that is primarily designed to provide high frequency amplification. There was also a strange modulation of the track which occurred on occasion which I can only put down to a wavering connection with the phone but overall the connection was stable even when streaming from my pocket.
After a week of using these as my headphones I was generally happy with them. My biggest grumble would be the extraneous noise which leaks through the double domes as it often overshadowed the music on a busy street. This could be overcome by using custom receivers but this may not always be suitable for the individual in terms of occlusion and providing appropriate amplification.
The app itself is very intuitive as well. You have full control of the volume and the programs on the hearing aid and can adjust each ear independently if you desire. It also features geo tagging which remembers specific settings depending on your location e.g. a cinema. As well as this a ‘find my hearing aid’ gadget which shows you on a map where your phone was last connected to them and if they are nearby uses a bar to show you if you are getting warmer or colder. Overall, a well thought out design which is easy to navigate.
Experience of my patients
The collective experience of my patients with the Linx2 RIC generally reflects that of mine. The main difference being that they have all been happy with the sound quality, not reporting any shallowness to the sound nor have they ever reported the odd modulation that I experienced during my trial. As such, patient feedback has been very positive and demonstrates the strength of the Linx2 RIC.
I have probably issued more of the custom Linx2 devices in the past year than I have with the RIC as people often chose this for the aesthetics and for practicality of wearing glasses. The experiences have varied considerably with each case but there have been some worrying issues with the custom products that have knocked my confidence in them.
I had one patient who had to return his device 4 times due to device failure. Somehow, the receiver kept on failing when streaming music from the iPhone. This even happened when testing it out in the room straight after I opened the packaging from the previous repair. We even tried making a whole new set of hearing aids but the same problem occurred again. As such, he ended up returning them as they were no longer fit for purpose. This does appear to be an isolated case and I have at least 3 other patients wearing the devices without reporting connectivity issues and so it is difficult to say whether the fault lies with the product or the repair/manufacturing process.
In regards to sound quality and audibility I have had quite a high return rate for the Linx2 custom products and have had to move to alternative manufacturers before they were satisfied. My feeling as a whole is that there is probably a reason this is the only custom product on the market that can offer the made for iPhone streaming and that is because it has made too many compromises.
Resound seem to have cracked it with the Linx2 RIC. It is a beautiful smart hearing aid with reliable streaming from your iPhone and is certainly one of the front runners in the hearable race. Unfortunately though, the custom Linx2 seems to be struggling and so let’s hope with the launch of the 3rd generation of Linx they will be able to resolve these issues and deliver a product in line with the quality of their RIC device.
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