In February, I tested the new Widex BEYOND 440 hearing aids for two weeks. It is truly a remarkable hearing aid, that will suit many people. Here is a breakdown on BEYOND, it is a little long but stay with me – especially when I talk about how you can personalise and control your aids.
BEYOND is a Receiver In Canal (RIC) device, with a very sleek form factor. It sits on the ear very well, and in my case could not be noticed by others even with my short hair. I wear reading glasses and had no issues wearing the BEYOND with my glasses. As far as style, cosmetics and comfort go, the BEYOND is up there with the best.
The BEYOND offers 2.4GHz wireless connectivity, a new wireless protocol adopted by the hearing technology industry. This wireless protocol enables BEYOND to communicate directly with any iPhone* or iPad. It will soon work with Android devices.
Other manufacturers such as ResoundGN and Oticon have 2.4GHz hearing aids too. I have used the Oticon OPN before to take phone calls with an iPhone 6S, and it was impressive except I found the call would occasionally drop out in one ear or the other. It was a little off-putting hearing the phone call shift from ear to ear. The Widex BEYOND was perfect on the phone. The call stayed in both ears clearly and connected to the phone immediately without delay. Comparing the two hearing aids, I found the Widex BEYOND superior to the Oticon OPN when it comes to managing phone calls.
With the 2.4GHz technology, you can also stream music, movies and podcasts directly to the hearing aids – like a wireless headset. I was able to set tone and volume of the sound to suit me in a specialised listening program – it took me less than a minute to do this. I listened to a podcast while running on the treadmill at the gym and it sounded fantastic – not quite as good as a headphone, but better than other hearing aids I have tried to stream with.
The Widex BEYOND is built upon Widex’s excellent UNIQUE sound processor platform, therefore it has excellent pedigree and is available in four performance levels, from basic to premium: BEYOND 110, BEYOND 220, BEYOND 330 and BEYOND 440.
The BEYOND 440 I tested boasts a suite of binaural processing technologies that delivers better speech understanding in noisy situations and the microphones are far more resistant to wind noise artefacts than the UNIQUE model.
What I found most striking was how clear and natural it sounded, even when I was at the beach where it was not only windy, but very noisy with hundreds of children screaming and adults conversing at Nippers training.
The most remarkable thing I found about the BEYOND was how I could personalise it to suit me. The BEYOND iPhone app allows the wearer to truly tailor the settings for their needs. I was able to adjust the tone control settings and volume control settings to suit the environment I was in. I could also adjust what direction of sound I wanted to focus on – very handy at dinner conversations. When streaming audio to my hearing aids from my iPhone, I was able to set how much of the outside world I wanted to hear at the same time.
But what I enjoyed the most was being able to save my personalised listening programs and then giving them a geotag. A geotag tells the hearing aid what listening program you want to use for a given location. In my case I geotagged a listening program for my gym and one for home. When I arrived at the gym my BEYOND hearing aids automatically switched to my specialised gym program, and when I arrived home it swapped back to my home program. This feature may not be for everyone initially, but it will certainly be appreciated by a lot of people as you get more use to your hearing aids. I can imagine people setting up a geotag for the movie theatre, a church program, a restaurant program or maybe one for the office.
The Widex BEYOND has the best battery life out of the 2.4GHz hearing aid available. Competitive products will provide 115 hours from a 312 sized battery, where the Widex BEYOND delivers 175 hours – a third more battery life!
Personalisation is what makes a good hearing aid great! We all have different listening needs, and no two people want the same from a hearing aid. This is where I think Widex have got things right with BEYOND. The BEYOND exceeded my expectations in its ability to be personalised. Overall, it is a great hearing aid that looks good, sounds good, feels comfortable and has excellent battery life.