Both hearing aids are priced within a range that begins at just under $2,000 and goes up to $3,000; the price varies with market conditions and according to the retailer.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2015
The LiNX2 also offers a few more sizes. But the basic choices—an in-the-ear-canal style or a behind-the-ear version with a tube entering the canal—are common to both. Smaller hearing aids have less battery life—enough for several days—and the larger ones have batteries that last about a week.
Mixing Technology with Style
As a class, the manufacturers say, the devices represent a dramatic step forward in hearing-aid technology. Previously, hearing aids have had wireless capability but required users to wear an accessory around their necks or clipped to their shirts, which many felt was undesirable.
“There still, of course, is a stigma associated with hearing aids, and one of the things that’s so nice about these types of hearing aids is you never have to reach up to adjust [it],” said Laurel Christensen, PhD, chief audiology officer at GN ReSound. “You are adjusting your hearing aid on your phone, and guess what? Everyone else in the world is on their phone, too.”
Dave Fabry, PhD, vice president of audiology and professional relations at Starkey, said that the ease of adjustment can help avoid a common challenge for people who use hearing aids: Their hearing aids sound fine when they’re in the clinic but require additional adjustment once they are out in the “real world.”
“It represents a frustration and an opportunity for both the clinician and the patient,” Dr. Fabry said. An “important capability relevant to the otolaryngology environment is the ability of patients with fluctuating or progressive hearing losses to optimize hearing aid settings beyond the clinical environment.”
The smallest behind-the-ear styles have become the most popular, Dr. Christensen said. “They’re very comfortable to wear, and they’re very, very small, and that has become a very popular style,” she said.
Jill Gruenwald, AuD, assistant director of the adult hearing aid program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said wireless ability without a neck accessory is a big deal for many patients. “Many patients found the additional accessory useful for smartphone streaming but cumbersome to charge or wear,” she said. “Patients also felt that the accessory drew attention to their hearing aids or hearing loss. I have had more than one patient state [that] he or she is asked consistently, ‘What are you wearing?’”
Dr. Fabry said that, although it’s tempting to assume the devices are only for technophile baby boomers, some patients in their later 70s and 80s have embraced the technology. “I would say that there is some basic technical or electronic know-how required to use the iPhone features,” she said. “For patients who are not comfortable with iPhone apps or technology, they may not be able to use as many of the functions as patients more comfortable with the technology.”