I recently got the Starkey S series 11 iQ BTE with a 50dB RIC hearing aid and here is my initial experience with the aid. I was hit by the 1964-65 fetal rubella epidemic and am totally deaf in my right ear and have mod to severe sensorineural loss in the left (fairly dramatic drop from 50dB at 1Khz to 75dB loss at 2Khz and then recovering slightly which makes fitting a little more challenging).
The very first time I walked out of the clinic, I was pretty impressed. I was able to hear consonants pretty well (but not the letter “f”). Even in a noisy church hall, coffee hour after the service, it was comfortable enough that I didn’t have to pull it out or turn it off (which is what I always did with all my other aids).
I definitely would like to explore the compression and kneepoints at 2K where my hearing is the worst.
But after a day or so, I started to notice that sounds were warbly or amplitude modulated, especially if I whistle a steady 1Khz tone, it sounds like a telephone ringer or a cricket. This is, apparently, a side effect of the Purewave Feedback Eliminator working really hard with the rubber open-canal earboot.
So I called Starkey for advice and they said to:
- Reduce the MPO (Max Power Output) at the high frequencies
- increase the compression ratios
- Reduce the gain at 4Khz and higher
- Use an occluded rubber earboot
- As a last resort, turn feedback eliminator to “STATIC” OR “OFF”
So I went back to the clinic and did steps 1, 2, and 3. But we also slightly turned up the gain 2Khz and higher. It was still warbling but I noticed that if I was in a meeting room and kept my heard perfectly still and did not smile or respond to others, I could hear the teacher and not have it warble on me. But the moment I smiled or moved some part of my body, the warbling would come back until it settled down again. Most annoying. When I am outside, it is hopelessly warbly so I turn it off (everyone sounds like opera singers).
So I went back to clinic and got a large occluded rubber earboot and got the Purewave Feedback Eliminator set to “STATIC”. Even with this setting there aid still warbles but not very often. If I jam in the earboot so I get an airlock, then the warbling stops, but I lose some hearing that way. Some days are better than others… One day I put it on and it cooperated wonderfully for the whole lecture (minimal warble) and the next day it just whistled and whined all the time so I pulled it out and put it away. I know the ear canal is not a fixed unchanging shape so hearing aid shells should be made of something flexible that can compensate for subtle changes in canal shape (maybe a thin membrane in the shape of the shell that can be slightly inflated with something not acoustically transparent for a perfect fit everytime). As expected, after a few hours, the earboot caused pain or irritation so I could not wear it all day unless I jiggled it around every fifteen minutes to relieve the discomfort.
So I went back to clinic and got an impression to make a more comfortable occluded ear piece. The audie said it had to have a vent so I’ll probably have to block it with a spitball when I get it to stop the whistling. But this will be the first earpiece I’ve tried that is flexible and rubbery so that should be fun!
- It appears to have enough gain to allow me to hear the letter “f” and “th”.
- So far the compression is enough to make it possible to wear all day with that much gain.
- with the higher gain, I can just barely hear my fingers rubbing on a piece of printer paper.
- Can just barely hear myself make the letter ‘f’ in “fish fry” or “french fries”
- Hafta hold down button for five seconds to turn mute the microphone. When I want to turn it off, I want to turn it off NOW!
- Each time I went to clinic, I had to remind them to activate the muting feature. The software apparently does not remember previous settings (but it must remember my audiogram, right?). So definitely a bug in the software.
- Starkey Purewave Feedback Eliminator produces a 10 Hz amplitude modulation for all incoming signals. When I whistle a steady 1Khz tone, it sounds like a phone ringing. Very noticeable amplitude modulation or “chopping” effect.
- It started to make my tinnitus more noticable. Just like when you get off a boat after a while the ground feels like it is moving, the chopping effect of the aid made my tinnitus chop or warble as well. Fortuantely, it stops when stop wearing the aid for a day or two.
- The battery door is placed such that it very uncomfortable to open the door while wearing the aid. If it had a simple, plain old SPST switch, I would not need to contort my hand into strange positions to turn it off NOW!
- Don’t like the BTE because the hair touches the microphone and makes annoying sounds. But I’m not sure if an ITE, ITC, otolens has enough power for 2Khz.
- If people cough, still blows my ear out so I probably need to reduce MPO or increase compression.