Sunday, February 6, 2011

Phonak Audeo S Smart IX Hearing Aid Review

Please note: This is just one person's experience. It may not be typical.

They just didn't work. A pair of Phonak Audeo S Smart IX hearing aids costs over $6,000 with the remote control, Bluetooth control, and TV sound adapter. They were the most expensive of the four brands of hearing aids that Sunshine has tried, and it's safe to say that they worked the least well. A very experienced, highly competent, certified "hearing instrument dispenser" readjusted them several times in repeated visits over a period of six weeks, to no avail.

Speech recognition was the problem, not only in groups of people but in normal conversation with just one person. There was enough volume, but Sunshine couldn't distinguish the words, describing the sound as "both muffled and echoey." Interestingly, when those same aids were connected to the television through Bluetooth, the sound was crisp and clear, speech quite intelligible. It was only when acting as regular hearing aids, with sound coming into the microphones, that the words were indistinct.

Phonak has launched a new sound-processing technology which they call "sound recover," in which some of the high frequencies are actually shifted to a range that is within the hearing ability of the wearer. The technician tried turning that off, turning it up, changing the response curve, nothing seemed to help. I'm thinking that the "sound recover" technology may be a great idea, but we never found out because something else was wrong with the hearing aids, both of them.

We returned them and got the money back, less Phonak's $50 "shipping charges." Humpf - $50 to try aids that had no chance of working. One final insult from Phonak.

So far we have actually purchased four (4) pairs of aids, all using open-fit "receiver-in-the-ear" (RITE) technology, in our quest for better hearing for Sunshine, who has a straightforward, flat, 60 dB loss:
  • Bernafon Verite 9, from Costco: These work fine for Sweetpea and me (see Post1 and Post2) but alas, not for Sunshine. Returned;
  • Phonak Audeo S Smart IX: Returned;
  • America Hears Liberty SIE, from Sam's Club: Good speech recognition, still in contention, but no Bluetooth, and WE ALL LOVE Bluetooth. A blog post review is coming; and
  • Unitron Passport Moxi: Good speech recognition, still in contention, good Bluetooth but more than twice the price of the Sam's hearing aids. A blog post is coming.
Observe at least a dozen trips to hearing instrument dispensers so far. For a while, as we tried the Bernafon and Phonak instruments, we wondered if anything could ever match Sunshine's scruffy old aids, much less improve on them. Now, though, have two sets of aids with better speech recognition and the more comfortable open-fit RITE technology. One even has Bluetooth.


  1. thank you for the advice. stefanie

  2. are you still using the Bernafon hearing aids? I had a similar experience with the Phonak and the Resound (both top of the line over the ear models) and as soon as I tried the Bernafon Verite, the sound was much more natural. More importantly, I talk a lot for a living and with the other models I heard my voice in a sort of unnatural way. But with the Bernafon, it sounded great. I just ordered a pair and they will be here next week. But I am interested in which hearing aid you ended up with.

  3. Yes, two of the three of us are very happy with the Bernafon Verite. I especially appreciate the Bluetooth, which I use for TV and cell phone.