This is a negative experience and extensive rant.
TL;DR version - after experiencing and expecting a level of reliability from consumer bluetooth headsets (Plantronics, Jabra, etc.) hearing-aid offerings are total garbage. Specifically - the Starkey Muse i2000, combined with their Surflink Mobile 2, paired with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
Background - my hearing loss, while binaural (like just about everybody) is heavily biased to the left due to a childhood illness. I grew up trying a couple of analog hearing aids - they gave me an increase in volume in the left while not really increasing intelligibility. And as I wore glasses as well, the over-the-ear style basically drilled a hole in my head by noon. So - I quit wearing them. So my last experience was with monaural (I believe Beltone) about 22 years ago.
Now…I thought I’d try something new. Since insurance was covering - I gave it a shot. There’s a local Starkey dealer with a good rep so I that’s who I’m trying. This adventure started in April. What I really wanted - was the “ultimate” bluetooth headset experience. And silly me - I figured bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, costing several thousand dollars, would several orders of magnitude better than consumer-grade headsets in the $30-$100 range.
I was fitted with dual aids - even though the loss on the right, while measurable, is relatively minor. Of course, this didn’t bother me since I wanted the right side anyway for phone conversations. The dealer didn’t really discuss it with me - but he selected the RIC style for me. When I was surprised, since I had in fact been asking about CIC, he said these were “better” - and also the only way to get the amount of amplification I require.
I then found out how the bluetooth offering works. Turns out, at the time of this writing, there is no bluetooth-enabled hearing aid (to my knowledge). The dealers are less knowledgeable about the whys - after doing some research myself I found it’s due to battery life (bluetooth is apparently a power hog constantly in communication). That’s why the manufacturer’s have a bluetooth bridge/relay of some sort. The problem is how they implement it - again, I’m speaking exclusively to my experience with the current Starkey product, though I have no reason to believe there’s much difference elsewhere.
The “Surflink Mobile 2” is Starkey’s bluetooth bridge. This is a device about the size of a pocket pager (anybody remember those?). This contains two radios - one bluetooth, and one 900mhz to communicate with the hearing aids. Here’s where it gets fun. The unit has a touchscreen - a resistive touchscreen. That means it operates by pressure - not like the modern capacitive touchscreens of cellphones. That means if it’s in your pants pocket…the screen buttons can very easily be pressed. When you don’t want them to.
I have no idea what bluetooth version this thing uses - it’s certainly not 5.0 and may not even be 4.0. I do know I have constant sync problems with it both as a bluetooth device to my phone and as the link to the hearing aids (keeps dropping). And since that happens mid-call…
For phone microphone there are two choices - “Just Talk” uses the hearing-aid mics, or there are mics built into the Surflink. However - it turns out the “Just Talk” option yields very poor results, particularly outside, as they obviously have nothing on Plantronics/Jabra/etc. when it comes to wind noise reduction. They’re also muffled. The Surflink mic is slightly better - but requires the device be worn on a lanyard around the neck, exposed above-not-below the shirt. And it’s still poor quality.
There is no Android app available to control this thing - so it needs to be accessible for it’s various functions (particularly hanging up!).
The basic feeling you come away with is Starkey has no interest is providing bluetooth-enabled hearing aids; rather they threw together something just to say they had a product - and given their target market (those 65+) they figure the technology overall is still alien enough that they don’t have to worry about meeting the expectations of a younger, more tech-savvy group of users. I know they could do better, from a hardware, firmware, and software standpoint - even before bluetooth 5.0 was available (and I just tried a $30 pair of bluetoth 5.0 headphones - wow!). But they obviously don’t want to.
My summary - I’m going back to my dealer (as I have been every couple of weeks) - to basically return the Surflink and see if there’s any other adjustments he can do to make the hearing aids functional…as hearing aids. Then I’ll get a proper mold for a Plantronics headset for my right ear - and then I’ll have the choice between using my right hearing aid for movies/conversations or using my phone. Since I’m on my phone for business most of the day that won’t be much of a sacrifice. I would have liked to have the stereo connection - but it’s obviously not going to happen. After three months, two replacement sets, multiple calls to the factory - I’m not going to waste any more of my time and I hope this helps others to lower their own expectations when it comes to this use case. This would be an example of the difference when people pay out of pocket vs “free” (via insurance) - if I had paid the $8000 myself for these I wouldn’t have kept them a week.