Tom Staniford: What it’s like to use my ReSound LiNX hearing aids with my Apple Watch

Posted on July 28, 2015

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It arrives at last!

It arrives at last!

I have been fortunate to own both the original ReSound LiNX hearing aids and now also the updated LiNX2 aids, which featured a number of significant innovations.

What really caught my interest, though, was the news that GN ReSound had updated their Smart App for iPhone to take advantage of the new Apple Watch.

I’ve loved using my LiNX2 aids with my iPhone, and was intrigued by how much additional flexibility and control I could gain through using the Apple Watch.

There is also the small fact that deep down I was desperate to be seen taking a mobile call while speaking into my watch, a la Knight Rider or some sort of International Super Spy…

I recently managed to get my hands on an Apple Watch and thought I’d write up this blog as a way of introducing people to this innovative new technology and giving the wider Deaf community a glimpse of how the devices work!

Carefully unboxing the new Apple Watch

Carefully unboxing the new Apple Watch

I feel it’s important to underline at this point that the LiNX2 aids don’t pair with the Apple Watch- they remain tethered solely to your iPhone.

It’s probably best to think of the Apple Watch like a very good remote control or satellite screen for the iPhone.

The bigger iPhone processor handles the actual processing, and control of the aids. This means that, as with using any of the Apple Watch apps you have downloaded, you will need your iPhone to hand.

Thankfully the Bluetooth reception stretches a few metres, in my experience, so everything seems to work ok if you have all 3 devices in the same room (phone, watch, aids). Unless you live in a cave. Which would suggest you have bigger issues.

Apple Watch in place and ready to pair with iPhone

Apple Watch in place and ready to pair with iPhone

Selecting the ReSound SmartTM App

Selecting the app from the main menu is easy; just touch the icon that resembles the volume controls of the iPhone app!

Smart App Pic 4

LiNX2 Hearing Aid Programmes

Once the App has opened you’re presented with the first of 5 screens. To scroll through the screens you simply swipe to the side (like on an iPhone). The screens you can look at are listed below, but you can also see them in the video:

Screen 1: volume of the program currently being used.

Screen 2: menu of programs available (obviously these are the programs uploaded onto your hearing aids during your set-up appointment with your Audiologist or Independent Hearing Specialist)

Screen 3: bass and treble levels for the programme currently being used.

Screen 4: Background Noise Cancellation volume. This option may not be possible on all hearing aid programs. As you can see in the video, it isn’t an option on the ‘All-Around’ programme I’m currently using. You can modify this with your Audiologist though.

Screen 5: As above, but for Wind Reduction- can be useful for car journeys, windy days walking or cycling outside!

Using the App in this way means you can select a program more appropriate to your situation, and then further fine-tune (within certain parameters) the volume, bass/treble mix, wind/noise reduction, etc.

Hearing Aid programs exist for lots of different situations, I only have 2 programs loaded just through personal preference; obviously you may well prefer more!

As far as I can work out, the program geo-tagging function and hearing aid locator (if you’ve misplaced your aids) are confined to the iPhone version of the ReSound Smart app- which is no great issue, as the thought of trying to navigate using a map on the small Apple Watch screen makes me wince.

LiNX2, Apple Watch and Telephone Calls

One of the major lures of using the Apple Watch with my LiNX2 was the possibility of making/receiving calls and speaking into my wrist.

It has been great testing it out, but there are a few idiosyncrasies of the system that I hope will be resolved in future updates.

The most important thing to remember when using the Apple Watch with your LiNX2 for calls is that the method of making/accepting the call denotes the speakers and microphones that will be used for the call. In short, this means that:

  • Answer or make a call using Apple Watch = Watch speaker audio, Watch microphone engaged.
  • Answer or make a call using iPhone = normal Bluetooth streaming audio, iPhone microphone.
Answering a call from your Apple Watch is easy

Answering a call from your Apple Watch is easy

Fortunately you are able to switch between the two devices, but only in one direction. If you answer a call on the Apple Watch you can then transfer the audio (and microphone engagement) over to the iPhone by simply opening up the current call screen on the iPhone.

I can see this being useful if you really want/need to receive a call but (for whatever reason) can’t handle your phone immediately. You could answer/make the call, ask the person you’re speaking to hold momentarily, and then make the switch.

However, it would be better if you could make this switch while also keeping the Watch microphone engaged. Or just whenever you answer a call with the Watch, the audio is always streamed via Bluetooth (and not onto the Apple Watch speaker).

I can’t think of any situation where a Deaf or hard of hearing person would prefer the Apple Watch speakers over direct streaming Bluetooth to their hearing aids, so it seems curious that this option has not been offered. Or at least I haven’t been able to find it yet! I’m hopeful we may see this independent audio/microphone control appear in future updates.

On the receiving calls and being aware of calls fronts, however, the Apple Watch performs flawlessly. Taptic (vibration) notifications are possible (and very good) in addition to audible notifications, and a simple tap receives the call. Good work ReSound!

Music Appreciation with LiNX2 and Apple Watch

Selecting your favourite album to listen to is just like on iPhone

Selecting your favourite album to listen to is just like on iPhone

The final aspect of the ReSound LiNX2’s performance with the Apple Watch app I want to discuss is musical appreciation.

As a confessed audiophile it is important to me to have easy and high quality access to my music collection, and the LiNX2 and Apple Watch are superb for this.

Unlike with calls, if you start listening to music via Apple Watch control it will still stream via Bluetooth and not the Apple Watch speaker.

This ensures the music you hear is always extremely rich and with great clarity, because the LiNX2 processors are powerful and able to handle the full spectrum of frequencies necessary for full musical enjoyment.

On a tangent, it also means that it IS possible to have full Bluetooth streaming of audio, even when using Apple Watch control- something that I mention I’d like to see for calls, above.

Easy scrolling through your music collection

Easy scrolling through your music collection

If you’re listening to music from your iPhone, or multimedia on a social networking platform, the audio is automatically streamed to your LiNX2.

As an additional benefit, you can even go on and further fine-tune the settings. Simply keep the music running, but open up the Smart App (on the Watch or iPhone, either is fine).

The program you’re shown to be using is called ‘iPhone’, and you can modify the bass/treble levels just as you would with other programs.

Please note, however, that when you stop listening to the music the ‘iPhone’ program will disappear from your program menu. Unlike with your ‘All Around’ or ‘Direct Conversation’ hearing aid programs, the ‘iPhone’ one can only be modified (or even accessed) when you are actually using it.

All the usual iPhone functions are here: Pause, skip, play, etc

All the usual iPhone functions are here: Pause, skip, play, etc

I think the best way to think of the Apple Watch is, as I stated near the start of this blog, like a satellite screen or extension of your iPhone.

There is no denying that the Apple Watch is a very useful ‘remote control’ for your ReSound LiNX2, that makes personalising your hearing experience to your situation more accurate and easy than ever before.

The end result is a flexibility, clarity, integration and hearing performance that would be impossible even just a few years ago.

Tom StanifordA large part of this performance comes down to the superior processing and power offered by the LiNX2 hearing aids, but the fact they have been developed specifically for interaction with other mobile devices raises them above much of the competition and shows they have really thought about how there are other elements to a person’s hearing experience than just volume alone.

ReSound LiNX2 are truly hearing ‘aids’ in the sense that they work so well with other devices to improve the user’s hearing experience, and in all honesty I now struggle to remember how I ever got by without them!

 

Tom Staniford is a freelance Content and Social Media Marketer, working with a variety of companies big and small! His hearing deteriorated through his teenage years as a result of MDP Syndrome, and he now has 75dB hearing loss in both ears. He wears LiNX2 hearing aids and works for ReSound as an independent consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @tomstaniford or get in touch via his website, www.tom-staniford.co.uk

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Posted in: Tom Staniford