I’m not a dealer, not a seller, but just an old-fart with 75 dB of hearing loss at 2 KHz. I have a host of Phonak products including two Versata M’s and Two Exelia Art Micro (Still trying to find out what the “Art” added, other than frequency translation - anyone know the difference between Exelia and Exelia Arts?). Anyway, I have 3 MyPilots, 1 KeyPilot, 1 Icom and Sony Bluetooth Transmitter/Receiver (switchable) and my trusty Icube. Don’t ask - it took a lot of work and bribery, but well worth it. I researched all the manufactures, tried some Mickey Mouse America Hears for a week and settled on Phonak’s CORE technology. I like Oticon as well, but they are much less innovative and cutting-edge.
If I were buying outright this minute, I’d go with the Exelia Art M. I like the volume lever on my Versatas and they do a terrific job in all ways, other than one less program, frequency translation and manual zoom. The problem with the Exelia Art Micros is when you find yourself wanting volume control without a controller in your pocket - like out in the garden. I just select the most appropriate program, but sometimes that still lacks and the slightly larger size would be well worth the accompanying volume lever.
I have approximately 45 different profiles I have designed for my devices. I just set up a new client each major change and put the date in as the name with the actual birth date year so it doesn’t vector to junior settings. I honestly can’t see how anyone can get the most out of any of these without programming them for their own needs. Putting the audiologist in the middle as one more variable is just the same as the story about telling 10 people a short tale, one to the next. At the end, it hardly resembles the original. The “middle man” who does not hear as you do is the same - like steering the car with the rear view mirror at times.
That having been said, ask in advance how your audi feels about 30-50 visits to fine tune your Exelias. My opinion is you will need it to optimize them. That having been said, once optimized, what a product and what technology! I even load different profiles when I go camping, flying or a major change in environment for a day or more. It is absolutely great to have the control.
The Keypilot is great, but only if you need the small size - otherwise buy the MyPilot. The Icom is the lower power 10 meter/30 ft Bluetooth Class 2 (2.5 mw), so it comes up a bit shy on distance, but still good for same room audio. Even a class 1 (100mw) transmitter on the other end won’t help the lower power of the ICom when maintaining lock and communication, so plan on 30 feet in free space and you won’t be disappointed. I can often get 40-50 feet around the house, floor to floor, but it is variable and not consistent.
Don’t forget ALL Bluetooth devices you use with your Phonak Icom and Bluetooth system must be compliant with the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) (Bluetooth profile). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth_profile If they aren’t, you will go nuts wondering why they won’t pair or pair properly with the Icom. Many Audi’s don’t even know this little issue which is why they will try to sell you a Bluetooth device they know will work. This is the one I use and love, the Sony HWS-BTA2W Bluetooth Transmitter and Receiver. It can function as either the transmitter to your Icom or as a receiver from another Bluetooth transmitter. For a couple of bucks less you can get the same with transmitter only – spend the extra! The Sony is also suppose to pair with up to 10 devices simultaneously so a (A2DP) compliant headset should work at the same time your Icom is feeing your hearing devices.
The largest problem I have found is the audio phase lag out of some of the new digital TV’s audio output port. The TV actual speaker is delayed from the audio out port by 50-100 milliseconds and you hear that difference as an echo. Of course, turn the local speakers on the TV off and you are good to go.
Finally, if you make your purchase contingent upon having a programmer of some nature, you’ll find an audi who will see fit to understand you are not only a patient, but a customer first. That comes with a big Caveat - programming these takes a lot of understanding of many disciplines and if you aren’t familiar with dB, Bluetooth, logarithms, frequency distributions etc., self-programming will just confuse the daylights out of you. There are just too many necessary areas of knowledge to understand how to get the desired results based upon your hearing loss or curve vs. how to adjust the devices to reach your goals. Do find an audi experience with Phonak. It took me about 60 hrs to become familiar with it all and I am an EE with audio frequency design experience.
One last thing – why the neck loop? Basically, the neck loop is a single turn primary of a transformer that uses your hearing devices as the other side or secondary of the transformer – normally the telecoil or other internal wire-wound – inductor etc. Phonak and many others users this patented technology (not theirs) to keep the power drain on the hearing devices low during Bluetooth and programming operation. Actually, it’s a rather elegant approach to the issues of power and RF around the body. Hearing device current drain still exceeds normal levels, so if you have problems, PUT IN FRESH BATTERIES to do any of this – that is the first troubleshooting step. If you have further interest, Google “Hearing Aid Hacking”.
Good luck - Current Phonak Products Rock When Programmed Well, but it take lots of time by you and/or your audi !