Newby Request for Help - Phontak Audeo S/Starkey Wi

Okay, so after knowing for a number of years now, that I needed HA’s, I finally went for “the test” and was told what I already knew! I have been ‘lurking’ in this forum for awhile now - just doing research. This is my first post and request for guidance, although not likely my last as I embark on this HA journey.

I work in an office environment - lots of meetings, telephone/video conferences, 1-1 meetings, telephone calls, etc. Some social settings with background noise, etc. I am also an outdoors sort - fishing, hunting, camping and hiking. I know that I have been missing much of what is on TV or at the movies (the jokes just are not funny when you cannot even hear them!).

My audi has recommended that I test drive the Phontak Audeo S Smart, in either the IX (premium) or V (advanced). While I am not adverse to paying for an improvement in hearing quality or features, there is about $3000 difference between the two. Never having HA’s before and not knowing what I haven’t been (or should have been) hearing, will I be able to distinguish an improved sound quality between these two models? I guess I could try both in different situations and see.

The other make she suggested I could try was the Starkey Wi (which has features comparable to the Phontak IX). I am somewhat reluctant to try these as I understand that they are somewhat newer and she admitted that she has not fitted any, as yet. Does anyone have any comparisons to the Phontak IX vs. the Starkey Wi?

Thanks for any help offerred, as I am trying to make up my mind what HA to try first.



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You should go with the Smart IXs. I’ve pretty much have the same lifestyle and business setting as you (I’m an exec at a large IT company, very active lifestyle, meetings, cell phone, conference calls, etc).

I went with the Audeo Smart S IXs last fall and they are simply awesome. They are particularly good for noisy environments and for use with cell phones and other bluetooth devices. For someone with the complexity of your needs, you really should spent the extra $$ and get the latest technology. IMHO, the new Spice aids represent the latest technology and they are leaps and bounds better than most of competing products.

Have a look at the thread entitled “Phonak Spice” and you can see all the notes that I posted during the first few months of use.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.


I work for a national company that dispenses Starkey hearing aids. The region where I work has 54 stores, and within those stores are numerous hearing professionals and receptionists, along with some trainees working to become hearing instrument specialists.

The company that used to own stores in my region recently went bankrupt and they were fitting exclusively Phonak hearing aids. As is common for hearing aid companies, they fitted all of their employees who had a hearing loss with free top of the line hearing aids.

When the company went bankrupt we bought it, rehired all the employees, and fitted them with Starkey product. Since Wi was not out then, it was the non-wireless version of the same RIC system.

I have met four people on my travels who have a hearing loss, and switched from the best Phonak had to offer six months ago, to the second best Starkey has to offer (it was best at the time), and they have discovered a substantial improvement in sound quality, hearing in a background noise, and clarity of sound. Not one of them had any reason to lie to me, as I am not their boss, they don’t have to kiss up to me!

I recently tested a Wi on one of these four people, and he said that the improvement was just as dramatic as the one he had experienced before, when he replaced his Phonak aids. The binaural spacial mapping that takes place when the aids can do parallel processing and exchange important information about the sound landscape is being described by those people we have tested it on as like hearing in ‘3D.’

We also upgraded various Phonak patients who had recently been fitted to the Starkey line, and I’ve yet to meet one that was not impressed by the change.

I can also tell you that in demonstrating the Wi system during the open houses the results have been amazing. From a commercial standpoint I’ve seen my sales figures improve 30%, and the percentage of people opting for the more expensive product just to get Wi markedly higher.

I know some on this forum will claim I have Starkey bias, which I freely admit to, but what I have just told you is my personal experience as we directly compare Phonak to Starkey in multiple states with multiple people.

Finally, while Wi might be ‘new’ the core technology used is tried and tested and has been very successful since it was launched over a year ago. Starkey has a lot of experience with wireless technology, having worked on a 50/50 research project with ReSound to make first generation wireless technology. When the project was complete Starkey decided not to take the product to market, as it wasn’t up to the standards they wanted. So they worked on the second generation, this time alone, and this is where the Wi was born.

So when compared over and over again, in my personal experience in the past six months I have not seen anyone with a preference to the Phonak product. So I got to tell you, in my opinion, the Wi is better. This is not to say if you never tried the Wi, you would not be happy, but if you compare both, provided your practitioner knows how to program the device properly, I think the Wi would be the clear winner.


Any word on when we can expect Starkey to release the portable wireless device for pairing Wi hearing aids to Bluetooth phones?

Even though I was disappointed with Phonak’s Naida and Exelia hearing aids, I plan to trial Phonak’s Ambra/Audeo S because several users on these forums have reported how well they have performed in distinguishing speech from noise during challenging listening situations - which is the most important criteria for me. I do not know of any other hearing aids on the market that offer suach extensive binuaral synchronization features such as stereo zoom and zoom control.

I also plan to trial the Widex Clear Fusion once it becomes available later this year because I still consider my old Widex Diva’s my best hearing aids for speech in noise, better than my current Oticon Epoqs. Widex also offers the most comprehensive set of wireless peripherals for their Clear family of hearing aids with the shortest latency and the least battery drain of all the hearing aid companies.

When I was at the product launch in Vegas last month they said that they have a neck loop available now, which is a bit old school, I grant you.

By the summer, they will have a more elegant Bluetooth interface for cell phones.

The reason Starkey did it this way is because they believed that the ear to ear communication, and very fast no pairing required stereo streaming were a priority. They wanted to attack some of the inherent problems of first generation wireless technology.

Bluetooth really doesn’t lend itself well to all the applications desired for hearing aids, so that’s why they went with 900MHz technology instead.

I applaud your courage. Before I found this forum I was in serious depression about my hearing loss, and I still am to a degree. I’ve had high frequency loss since high school, and I have been expecting to wear hearing aids at some point, which is now here. Even still, it can be depressing. There are so many encouraging experiences shared here, I am to the point where I can’t wait for this process to speed up and for me to get where I can hear what I’ve been missing–despite knowing it’s not always an easy process, or perfect. It’s kind of ironic. :smiley: Best of luck to you!

Mohajir, I am going to be trialing both the Ambra and the Wi. And i think you have hit on what may be the key in determining which unit to select: Phonak’s binaural directionality - stereo zoom and auto zoom vs. Starkey’s other very useful features, e.g. advanced feedback reduction, waterproofing, and TV wireless capabilities.

Every time that i buy hearing aids, though, it comes down to what sounds more natural to me. And the one complaint about Phonak that i hear is that they can sound tinny.

Apparently, the third brand you mention, Widex, has had a fervent following based on their somewhat unique propensity to mimic natural sound. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will wait till the Clear comes out - it could be months from now - so i will be trialing the Ambra and Wi.

If XCT is right, and that the natural sound of the Wi is superior, i may well go with them instead of the Superhero like capabilities of the Wi in a crowded room.

I was a bit depressed about the idea of wearing HA’s, but I’ve made my peace with them. Being a gadget keep helps; for me, I concentrate on what’s gained rather than what’s lost - better hearing of voices, of course, but also the streaming of music and phone calls via Bluetooth. Surprisingly enough, my kids are thrilled that I have them - not only because I don’t “say again” them constantly, but because some of the features are kind of cool. Indeed, my 12 year old (somewhat to my chagrin) proudly points them out to her friends!

I think you have an interesting point about hearing aids and the younger generation.

I am seeing more and more baby boomers, and the concept of this next generation of younger patients coming to see me is that they are more concerned about hearing than look. When I started in the 90s, the people I was fitting would bend over backwards and pay double just to hide them. Now the RIC is the standard.

Manufacturers are wiseing up too. Hearing aids used to be ugly and functional. Now they are in vibrant colors, and are being designed by actual designers for aesthetics more than just function.

I had a 31 year old patient recently who got some aids that look like the Starkey Wi, but without the wireless component (wasn’t available then). Although the black (Onyx) color made sense because of his dark hair, he told me he picked that color because it looked cool and that ‘electronics should be black.’

With all the bluetooth devices and other gadgets people listen to these days, I believe that the stigma is going away. We are more accustomed to seeing people using electronics to help them in one way or another, whereas the patients who were born around World War One grew up with incredibly limited access to technology.

The bottom line is that I expect hearing aids to continue to improve both in function and appearance going forward, and the younger adult patients seem to have less resistance to using them.

Many thanks to this Forum and everyone for your advice and comments (especially JordanK). In spite of the extra cost, I have just ordered the Phonak S Smart IX for a ‘test drive’ and they should be here in about 2 weeks. My Audi says that she has fitted many of these over the last year with excellent success. I just hope that my expectations can be met and that my patience holds out as I embark on my new hearing journey.

Thanks all!


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I also work in an office environment and live an active outdoor lifestyle. I also had to come to grips with my loss at the tender age of 28, although I could have probably benefited from HA as early as 20. After I game to grips with the reality that I was missing out on life (not to mention avoiding certain situations, having anxiety in other situations, etc), I started looking at this website and realized that I was going to get tested and fitted. So thanks to all of you!

I did a lot of research because I’m a gadget guy and know technology. At first, I said to myself that I would try the Oticon Agil Pro and then try the Phonak Smart (the middle one). I ended up just sticking with the Oticon Agil Pros, though, because they’re fantastic. I was turned off by Phonak’s advertisement and “apps.” They seemed to be over-featured. With my Oticon’s, I have arguably better processing technology in a fully automatic HA. I rarely have to adjust them because they do everything themselves. I would seriously consider the Oticon Agil Pros.:slight_smile: k

The Starkey Wi aids have binaural directionality also, they just refer to it as binaural spatial mapping…

dr. amy

kjp - Please keep us informed. And consider testing more than one hearing aid, so i (selfishly) can gain from your experience. I get either the Wi or the Ambra next Thursday.

Dr. Amy - Thanks! Also, what did you make of kevmh’s post? I too just looked at Phonak Ambra website/PDF flyer and they have an enormous amount of add ons that could really get expensive. The Agil seems to have less programs and less gadgets but seem to get slightly higher ratings for sound and ease of operation. The Wi sounds similar.

The Ambra PDF flyer does though have lots of nice feathers in the photos…

I agree. Features don’t always translate into better sound or ease of use. But the Wi aids do both of those tasks VERY well, which is why I support these aids. The binaural spatial mapping and wireless communication between the aids themselves translates into better sound and less fussing with the aids. The streamer translates into ease of use. It’s a “set it and forget it” type of accessory.

That’s not to say that other manufacturers don’t have wireless communication or streamers - they do. I just haven’t seen it done as seamless as the Wi…

dr. amy

Being a Vietnam Vet, I’m eligible for hearing aids through the VA. That said, they fitted me for aids and issued a pair of Phonaks IX. They worked fine for several weeks then developed a problem. The VA exchanged them for Starkey Wi. I had them for several months but noted the sound was quite tinny. The VA made adjustments, but to no avail. So they exchanged them for the Phonak Ambra. These are great so far (have them for two weeks). The one thing I miss is that with the Starkey brand the right aid controlled the volume, up and down, while the left controlled the programs. With Phonak you can have either volume control or program control, not both.

On as scale of 1-10, I give Starkey a solid 8.5 and Phonak a 9.25.

I just ordered Phonak Naida V SP’s yesterday. I have a severe-profound loss, though, which is what Naidas are good at. Anyway, my Audi gave me the choice between the V and IX. But she said that most of her patients can’t tell the sound difference between the two. So because of this, I ordered the V’s. I have a 60-day trial through my insurance, so I can always upgrade if I need to.

I had to stick with Phonak in order to have the option of using the CROS in my left ear, in case it doesn’t work out with my insurance for me to get a BAHA implant. Otherwise I would have probably been one to try out many aids before settling!

BTW, I’m 24 and ordered purple aids and new purple molds! And as you can see from my siggy, I’m all about making my aids noticeable, lol.

you could always try the Siemens Pure’s

Shi-Ku Chishik, would like to know how much all of this cost you?