Sound World Solutions contacted me via my blog. Over email, they told me more about their product and asked if I’d being willing to try it. They have been selling their hearing aids/hearing amplifiers in India and the Philippines but they recognized the need for affordable hearing aids in the USA. Their website states their mission as: “to create and deliver high quality, affordable hearing devices that allow people to rediscover the power of connection, no matter what their geographic location or economic circumstance happens to be.”
I agreed to try their hearing aids because I have many people come through at work who simply can’t afford hearing aids in the $3,000-$6,000 range and are seeking help financially. We have a list of funding sources at work that gives about 10 possible sources for adults. Our resources list places for easy credit terms, the Starkey “Hear Now” program (bless them), and places like United Way and the state vocational rehabilitation program for those who are at work or want to work. Most of the people I see, however, are older people on fixed incomes who really, really want to hear because they know they are missing all kinds of sounds but can’t afford the prices. The look at our funding sources and I tell them to try the Starkey program because I know they do good work.
Sound World shipped their hearing aids called the “Companion” to me. They came in a zippered protective case, a charger cord (no batteries), 3 different sizes of domes for the ear canal and a cleaner tool.
Here’s a picture comparing the size to my tiny Siemens.
There are some people who would be turned off by the size of the hearing aids but I was delighted because I had more room to decorate them! Before I charged them, before I performed the hearing test and before I put them in my ears, I decorated them with Duck Tape. My husband couldn’t believe I wanted to do that before heading out into some noisy environment to check them out. I have a tendency to show off my hearing aids and I was NOT going to show them off plain black.
You may remember a post of mine from a year or so ago trying Harris Hearing aids. I was excited to have more control over what I hear through a phone app although something fell through in process and we were never able to pursue the project.
Sound World is the same way. Their hearing aids are Bluetooth (part of the reason why they are so big I’m guessing) and connect right to the phone. I found their free app in the Apple Store downloaded it with no problem. I turned on the Bluetooth option on my iPhone and proceeded to take their hearing test which turned out similar to the one I have from the audiologist office. (For those without a smart phone, the hearing aids can come already programmed and ready to go out of the box.)
The domes with the Harris hearing aids screamed because I need a lot of power being in the moderate/severe hearing loss zone. The domes with Siemens hearing aids screamed until I got custom-made molds so I kind of expected the same thing with the Companion. If I powered them up while trying to put them in, I had feedback but if I put them in and turned them on, I didn’t have the screaming and that’s doable. I occasionally have a chirp if my hand gets too close to the hearing while fiddling with my hair and that’s not so bad either but I’d like it not there at all. Another cool thing about the Companions is the wire that connects the hearing aids to the domes/speaker goes in and out of the hearing aid itself to its self adjusting. Look at both pictures of the hearing aid decorated to see the difference in wire length.
There are 3 programs or settings: everyday, restaurant and entertainment. On my phone app I can choose the setting or I can change it through the buttons on the hearing aid.
Likewise I can adjust the volume on the hearing aid or through the app. Even better, with the app I can adjust the treble, the mid ranges and the bass through the equalizer. I like that. A lot. Today’s world is all about options.
Last week I tried the hearing aids in a health fair for work. It was a big test for these hearing aids in a large lunch room loaded with 300 people, with bad acoustics and someone on microphone trying to override all the noise. My boss took off her cochlear implant and then eased back into the noise with low volume which shows how harsh the noise was. The Companion hearing aids did well in that environment, separating the speech from the noise well enough I could cope. Noisy settings are the number one complaint for hearing aid users.
They only lasted an hour. I thought I had just charged the hearing aids but on reflection it had been a week (time flies when busy). The charge generally lasts about 18 hours and should be charged once a week with light usage. I was really surprised to get an hour out of them in such a bad environment after a full week of no charging. I need to set a day every week to charge them since I’m a light user changing them out with my Siemens.
Why do I change them out? Because the Companion doesn’t have a T-coil as of yet and I am around looped environments enough which is my favorite listening system. I prefer that above all others because within a loop I feel like a normal hearing person. I also use neckloops at work to show clients how to use them so I need my T-coil hearing aids to make sure the devices work. The company has T-Coil on their list along with trying to get the size of the hearing aids down which might be good too.
The other issue I seem to have is keeping dome in the left ear. It works its way out continually and I have to poke it back in. I know from past experience this causes irritation and pretty soon I have a sore so I asked if they made custom molds for people like me. They do.
Supposedly I can pair the hearing aids to the TV streamer but I have yet to try that option. I’ve been watching TV with captions since the mid 90’s so it’s a hard habit. Depending on the movie, I still need captions to understand dialogue even with a steamer so it’s not a big bonus for me. It connects to my phone for music but I haven’t tried it for talking on the phone yet. (I’m phone shy because it can be a big struggle.)
For the first time my hearing aids talk to me. I’m not sure how I feel about that but at least I know what’s going on.
“Connected.” For Bluetooth options in my phone.
It’s a male voice. I might have to name him, any ideas for names?
I gave them another color today for their debut.
Overall I would recommend these hearing aids to people who have a moderate or less hearing loss who can’t afford hearing aids out of an audiology office. Why not a severe/profound hearing loss? Because my moderate/severe hearing loss requires a lot of power which creates feedback. If I have some feedback, what will it be like for someone with a bigger hearing loss than mine? I think it would work fine for someone with my kind of hearing loss provided they are experienced with hearing aids and can work it but for someone totally new to hearing loss it might be a bit frustrating. If it’s a moderate or mild hearing loss I think the aids will work fine and not have a lot feedback issues.
Some hearing aids are better than none and these are certainly affordable and usable. The website says one hearing aids is $449 and $735 for two hearing aids. They don’t have all the bells and whistles (they tell me they are working to have more options in their hearing aids and making them smaller is a priority) but they do have the basics; noise settings, volume, connectivity through Bluetooth. Bonuses include not having to buy batteries and being able to make self adjustments through a smart phone. Thank you World Solutions for letting me try your hearing aids.