Starkey Muse with Bluetooth - doesn't. Period

bluetooth
android
starkey
hearing-aids

#1

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.


#2

You should not have connection problems with phone or hearing aids. There may be something wrong there. I haven’t used Starkey so I don’t really know what to expect there.

I have used the Resound Phone Clip+ and the Rexton (Signia) Smart Mic (Streamline Mic) and while I have some design complaints they both connect solidly to what they are supposed to connect to.

It is like the Bluetooth connection is an afterthought. It is not a state-of-the-art function for any hearing aid manufacturer, but I do use mine several hours a day. They get a good sound into my hearing aids and I use them in Webex meetings. I could not really function in my job without the Bluetooth hearing aid equipment.

I also use them for music streaming and the Rexton/Signia has a better sound than the Resound Phone Clip+, but, the Resound will connect to two devices at one time and is a little more rock solid in its connection.

If you are a new user and have high frequency loss you are not used to hearing the high frequencies as much, so it will sound tinny to you at first. It gets much better when your brain has time to adjust.


#3

I don’t understand this rant at all; all of the big 6 manufacturers have direct bluetooth to HA functionality with iPhone/iPad. And they work just fine for most folks (I love the direct streaming to my Siemens Nx’s). Starkey doesn’t have a great reputation these days; why not try different HA’s (Widex, Siemens, Oticon, etc.)??


#4

I have used bluetooth with samaung s9 phone, tv, tablet and my starkey latest aids for years. Takes some learning to understand pairing. Play lots of music from my s9 to hearing aids when on long trips. Works great.


#5

I’ve had Phonak hearing aids with a iCom device for bluetooth or cable connection. This was properly more than five years ago, but I didn’t use it because the bluetooth connection was unstable. I’ve had it send in for repair, they tested it and replaced the neck loop, still the same. Also the same on the next pair of hearing aids…

I’m getting the new Phonak Audeo B Direct B90 in a few weeks thanks to the health care in my country it’s all free. I hope the Phonak will be great, but really what i get the direct model for is the ability to use the phone as a remote.

It’s important to have realistic expectations to the hearing aids. The primary function is to help understand speech in challenging situations. Bluetooth is not a easy protocol. It consumes more power than any other wireless communication on hearing aids, and even then it might not be as stable.

However you should be able to get proper connection and acceptable sound quality with bluetooth calls. It is really odd you had so many issues.

I hope you find a solution that works for you someday :slight_smile:

Like the others who have responded i would argue that you should be able to find an acceptable solution among the hearing aids from the big six.

In regards to the form factor: I’m sure you would be able to get them in the ear style if you wanted to. However I don’t know how that plays with your insurance coverage.

Well this got a bit long, but I hope its useful for somebody out there.


#6

I got the Starkey Muse IQ i2400 last week but havnt managed to pair them with my iphone 6s with the latest update.
I also have the Surflink 2 which also refuses to transmit to the HA’s
I have an appt with my dealer tomorrow who has supposedly been in touch with Starkey (CAN) so we shall see how it develops from here.
Also tried to pair with another 6s also and Iphone 8 without any luck so I doubt the problem lies with the phones.

0


#7

I have Muse as well and gave up on Bluetooth (honestly I gave up on it even before). My preferred use-case is holding my phone to my ear. So I switched back to ITE from RIC and my Samsungt S7 is fine. No issues, just like a typical human being. I also use headphones (over the ear) so the ITE works well for that too. One thing for sure I like about the Muse is the huge range 900MHz gets you compared to 2.4GHz (I’m not talking about bluetooth, just their built in streaming and wireless control). Bluetooth classic is a horrible platform.


#8

I, too, sadly await the day when hearing aids actually also give us full range high fidelity sound.
My Resound 3D Lynx are better than my 5 year old Oticon units.
So I hope.

Currently, HA manufacturers haven’t seemed to tip to the idea that we want Westone studio monitors as well as speech discrimination.

I predict that it is coming. We are all demanding it.


#9

An update after a visit to the dealer.
The Starkey Muse IQ i2400 is unable to pair with the iphone. Only the Halo iQ™ and Halo 2™ models will pair to the iphone.
My Audiologist gave me the Muse model as I had spoken to her about the possibility of moving to the Blackberry Key2 phone which runs on the Android system.
As far as the Surflink 2 It does connect to the Muse IQ i2400 aids. I needed to press a key on the remote in order to connect.
As far as the sound quality is concerned I am quite satisfied with it. I connected with the optical connection using an optical splitter so that the sound could still connect to the sound bar.


#10

At the time of the phone conversation I think it is suitable with using the bluetooth tool :slightly_smiling_face: `


#11

I have the muse i2400 and the surflink mobile. I put a Bluetooth adapter in my desktop and use it to connect to my hearing aids all the time. Especially if I’m watching video with speech that I want to make sure I understand, and also later at night playing video games to keep from annoying people. Stream the game sound to my Hearing aids. I’ve also put the surflink on table in front of tv. It really amplifies the sound and makes things much easier to understand.
My only wish is that the Surflink was smaller so it would be more convenient to carry it around, but overall I’ve been quite satisfied.


#12

Hi Russ,

That’s odd. The Surflink Mobile is pretty small. Smaller than a cell phone.

I really like mine too. It’s the best for speech recognition.

db


#13

Not everyone is an iFan.