Phonak Rechargeable vs Battery-Operated Aids

The October 2022 thread on this topic was closed as it did cover a lot of general ground, but my post here is unique to the PHONAK brand of Lumity Life rechargeable aids vs their battery-powered Marvels.

I’m posting this new thread cuz I feel there are always people coming here with purchase decisions to be made, whether they be Oticon vs Phonak (or other vendor), or rechargeable vs battery-operated aids. I wanted to summarize my last week’s experience and the lessons learned, as I am both an owner AND user of Phonak Lumity Life rechargeable and Marvel battery-powered aids. I’ve asked my previous AND new audiologists to please forward a copy of this post to their Phonak rep in the hopes that it can get to someone in Product Development faster than if I mailed a letter to Customer Support.

PHONAK LUMITY LIFE HEARING AID CONCERNS:

I have real concerns about Lumity Life rechargeable aids as a long-term solution, and am disappointed that new Phonak releases are no longer battery-powered.

Rechargeables are more expensive for users

Phonak is missing an important market of users who prefer disposable batteries. For users like me, who require a pair of backup aids, these rechargeable aids require a LOT more cost and care to ensure they charge up the day they’re needed. I would never have opted for a rechargeable aid if Lumity Life was available in a battery format. For less than $50, with my usage of batteries I get over 1.5 years of power from just a couple boxes of batteries at Amazon. By comparison, the cost of a charging base is $175.

Rechargeables have more reliability issues

The fact that my primary pair of Lumity Life rechargeables no longer hold a charge after just 4 mos of use does not compare favorably with battery-operated aids that run for several days on a single pair of batteries (not just several hours), are easier to store for backup use, and far more reliable for day-to-day use. The only issue I had with my Marvel aids was when each speaker failed once while under warranty.

Rechargeables have critical performance issues

The other huge issue for users is the OS requirements on our cell phones. No one informed me that Android 13 was necessary for longer battery life of my rechargeable Lumity Life aids. I bought a second pair of these aids because the first pair only gave me 12-13 hours of use each day – not enough to take me from waking up to going to bed at day’s end. In mid-January 2023, I learned of the critical importance of OS on a hearing forum – not from Phonak – even though Phonak passively posted an announcement on its website listing cell phone make/models that would need Android 13 OS to achieve optimal battery life. After spending an entire day searching for and downloading Android 13 (a highly complex process), my Lumity Life aids now deliver 17.5 hrs of normal battery life per day. I really didn’t need that second pair of Lumity Life aids at all because I have a working pair of Marvel battery-powered aids that I could’ve used as a backup.

Rechargeables are a challenge to trouble-shoot

When rechargeable aids fail to hold a charge, the cause is more complicated to diagnose than for battery-powered aids. Recently, I experienced rapid battery drain and confusing signal lights on my aids. So I had 2 chargers and 2 sets of aids to swap back and forth to see where the problem was. Again, sub-optimal vs Marvel battery-powered aids which can be tested by changing the battery only. (I am still experiencing charger-related issues independent of my installing Android 13 on my cell phone.)

Phonak’s customer communication needs improving

Phonak has a database of users via the serial numbers on our hearing aids. It should be an easy matter to send us an email advising us to have firmware updates as needed. Instead, users have troubling and inconvenient issues that require immediate action. We are left to scramble for an immediate appointment and potentially be left for days without functioning hearing aids.

Phonak’s claims of being “waterproof” are misleading

I learned from my first pair of Lumity Life aids that NO contact with water is the best strategy. The speaker is the weakest link, and even though the BTE unit is hermetically sealed, I ended up killing a pair of new Lumity Life aids thinking they were actually waterproof. The marketing message is simply not accurate – not the text with the accompanying photos or website videos that show active people actually IN the water (pools, kayaks, pouring rain, etc.,). Credibility is damaged when the marketing message does not equal the user’s real life experience.

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Here is the footnote you left out that goes with that asterisk

Footnotes
*up to 50 cm

It’s severely deceptive of Phonak to use that word and that photo, and to put the footnote so far down the page. Then again 50 cm depth is very little water pressure, and says to me that one shouldn’t dare splash them. I rate the BS level of the ad on par with lite beer and diet soda.

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OK, let’s all keep it civil… Complain all you want about products and services, that’s what the forum is here for…

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@AbramBaileyAuD: Thank you for providing us with this Forum, Abram. (And thanks for stepping in here!)

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Another tip for rechargeable users … only learned today from my HEARING husband!

He said he’s noticed on a couple occasions that something is making a “feedback” sound inside the charger - it’s happened to both of the Lumity Life induction chargers. When he lifts the lid, the “master” aid is blinking red. He gives the charger a rattle and maybe that seats the aids better? Cuz the “feedback” sound goes away.

I was told that it’s not necessary to turn my aids OFF before putting them in the charger, but I always turn them OFF first, then insert them in the charger and give them a wiggle to seat them. I’d also noticed that when lifting the lid, the “master” aid would sometimes be winking red … but without any aids IN, I can’t hear the feedback sound.

So I think it’s a good idea to really wiggle those aids a bit when putting them in the charger. I always wait to see that they are winking before closing the lid, but by day’s end when I put them in the charger, either the master aid would be completely off with NO lights winking (while the other aid would be winking green), or they’d both be winking yellow if nearly drained.

Just wanted to alert folks that if the aids aren’t seated right, they may never be charging up to the top … and that would affect the day’s battery power.

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@1Bluejay: I’m going to be muting this thread … nothing here for me except the same old, same old. I hope you eventually get your many woes sorted out!

:chair::chair::chair::chair:

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To avoid this, you can program the HA so that it does not turn on automatically when it loses contact with the charger during the night.
This can be programmed in the MyPhonak app, or at your Audi.
Of course, you will have to turn the HA on every morning. But it will never again scream into the charger and therefore be empty in the morning.
And make sure that in the morning the HA LED is permanently green or at least flashing green.

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Well hearing aid companies don’t want to sell you aids and never hear from you again.

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“waterproof…” I’m not going scuba diving with my aids, or lap swimming. Rechargeable aids ARE more water resistant than disposable battery aids. I’m still not wearing mine, all la-de-da, in the rain without a hat. I’m not wearing my aids in the shower. But it could happen that I forget and go into the shower with my aids on. Or one falls into my morning coffee. I live in a humid area. Electronics don’t like moisture–hence, we use dessicant containers or other drying options. All of this makes me happy about my rechargeables. But I haven’t had any of the issues that Bluejay has. Mine have been easy peasy and trouble free. so I like them better than my old disposable aids. So far! I get that some prefer disosables and wish companies would provide the option. I wonder if this would increase costs to the manufacturer?

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Excellent piece of advice sterei! I can ask my audi to do that when I get in to see her on Thu. I’ll share the info with my hubs, and he’ll be glad to know that’s possible, too. Ah, the things I DON’T hear without my “beans” in! :slight_smile:

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Thanks @1Bluejay for an informational read on your experience - very interesting.

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Maybe … but could also INCREASE sales!

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Early this week I needed to choose new hearing aids. My audiologist has a preference for Phonak but I discounted them due to the low runtime for the rechargeable aids with no disposable option. I ended up ordering Oticon More 1.

This was definitely one sales opportunity lost.

bravo!!! thanks for trying to send that note to them.
I suggest that you print a copy, or write a similar letter, and send my old fashioned registered snail mail to phonak’s CEO. That way the top is sure to see it.

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I’m not so sure I buy that. I’m assuming you write that based on teh same reason I’ve read other people have…stating that the battery door is the weak point in non-recharge aids. When I open the door in my Marvel m90-13T, everything in there is potted and sealed. The only exception is the contacts and so other than corrosion on those contacts I can’t don’t understand how the internals are any less protected. The circuit boards are all coated and as I understand it that is the waterproofing method.

LOL! You are on my page alright. I really think I should. Granted CEOs have that “gate-keeper” who gets the mail. But what have I got to lose?! :smile:

Right now, Phonak is offering great connectivity through the use of classic Bluetooth at the cost of battery runtime (and perhaps long-term battery lifespan, as the “extra” usage to support classic Bluetooth has got to take more of a toll on long-term battery life). Hopefully, (within our lifetimes?), Bluetooth Low-Energy Audio will catch on, and then rechargeable battery runtime and longevity will be much less of a problem for Phonak and all the other HA OEMs who employ it.

I might have gotten the Lumitys if they had a better runtime. But my experience with rechargeable Quattros was that you enjoy a great runtime when they’re young, not so much after the HA’s have aged several years. Perhaps 1Bluejay’s letdown with “overusage” through Android 12 is indicative of what a Lumity user might expect after 4 or 5 years of hard use. But my Quattro experience led me to get a disposable battery-powered aid to hopefully enjoy good as new runtime every time I pop a new set of batteries into the HA’s years from now. I think, eventually, there will come a point, as has arrived for desktop computers, that frequent upgrades every few years will be less needed and less desirable as the technology will have plateaued, but we’re probably a few generations away from nirvana. When HA technology has finally evolved, the importance of a longer HA lifespan just to avoid blowing thousands of $$$ every few years will increase, at least for me, if I’m still around. :smile:

P.S. The good thing with Phonak used to be that cost wasn’t as much of an issue as one could get the Costco equivalent of Marvel or Paradise at a relatively affordable price in the KS9 or KS10, especially with medical insurance. Since the KS10 imbroglio and Phonak’s parting of ways with Costco, cost will be more of an issue down the road, at least for acquiring Phonak aids, than it was for a lot of folks previously.

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The MFi aids I got 10 years ago were Bluetooth LE. I believe ASHA is Bluetooth LE too.

Phonak seems to be the only major brand insisting on using Bluetooth Classic. The reduced runtime led me to order Oticon aids.

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Ever heard of Clark Howard? Was (is?) a consumer advocate on radio and TV. He used to often advise doing this for customer service issues that were not getting resolved. Yes they have gatekeepers…but whoever your audiolgist is going to send it to, if they even do is probably AT LEAST four or five levels away from that gatekeeper. And given the fact that we lowly customers don’t have a channel to connect with anyone with phonak corporate, that tells me they are big on having their gatekeepers! I suppose the idea is that it has a much higher chance of at least getting summarized and presented to the person that will actually do something about it and if it’s certified letter then there’s a paper trail and it’s harder to say they never saw it.

I’m currently a Marvel M90-13T wearer and I pretty much will NOT be buying rechargeable for my next set…which I will probably be needing maybe withing a handful of years I suppose… I’ve been happy and while i might take a cursory glance at competition when the time comes…I’d pretty much just buy whatever phonak’s latest model is equivalent to these without much thought at all… that is how happy I have been… but if my only choice is recharge… then ok, Oticon, what do you have for me? Resound, how about you? And if I strike out all around I’ll be looking at e-bay. That’s how strongly I agree with you.

I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe in 5-10 years or something they will have improved the whole battery life and charger situation and I will reconsider…but as it is now… Not a chance.

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I believe @jim_lewis is talking about LE Audio, which is a different standard and different protocols, it’s the “New” standard in all things Bluetooth @ssa has the low down on this.