Starkey’s new Evolv AI brings direct connectivity to a true CIC
Direct connectivity has been a large area of growth in the hearing aid industry over the past 10 years. This has resulted in real world benefits for hard of hearing individuals. These include significant improvements in speech understanding on the phone, clearer speech signals while watching TV, better hearing in groups and noise through external microphones and finally, the ability to stream music and podcasts directly through the hearing aids. Starkey is one of the first companies to bring this technology into a true, completely in the canal (CIC) model of hearing aid. With the launch of this product, we were excited to get one of our “invisible hearing aid” product testers to try it out and provide some feedback on thier experience. Here is what we found out:
- Direct connectivity in a CIC size
- Smallest hearing aid with these features
- Excellent sound quality
- Easily adjustable through Smartphone app
- Still larger than IIC models – not invisible
- Removal string (Bluetooth Antenae) is a little long
- Bluetooth connection can be intermittent when moving around
Fit & Size:
The comfort of the Starkey Evolv AI devices that were tested was excellent. They were very comfortable to wear all day long and for an experieinced IIC/CIC user, they did not give the feeling of a plugged ear. As for the size, these are on the mid to large CIC size, so not truly invisible. They were definitley larger than our tester’s personal preference of an “invisible” style such as an IIC or a Lyric extended wear, but we do understand that the added technology needs to be placed somewhere.
Despite the hearing aids being quite small, the removal string remains a little more visible than other similar products. This is because the removal pull cord doubles as the Bluetooth antenae and needs to stick out of the ear enough to allow a consistent streaming signal. Due to this, we are also not able to bend them to tuck them out of the way in the ear.
Sound Quality & Features
The sound quality of the Starkey Evolv AI CIC is great and the ability to change/edit hearing modes through the mobile application is incredible and very unique for IIC/CIC models. Through the app, you are able to tailor the hearing aid settings for different environments such as watching television, listening in noisy rooms or in quiet settings. This ability to adjust settings can be a huge advantage and going back to other CIC and IIC hearing aids is one of the things that we missed the most.
Edge mode is a new Starkey feature offered in the Evolv AI where when activated, analyzes your listening environment and activates significantly more noise reduction. Using a built in accelerometer in the hearing aid, this feature is activated by a quick double tap of the hearing aid making it quick and easy to activate.
The ability to use Bluetooth for streaming audio is one of the biggest benefits of the new Evolv AI CIC. The pandemic moved a signifcant number of our day-to-day meetings from in person to virtual, making Facetime, Zoom, Teams etc. part of most of our lives. This new direct connectivity technology allows the audio to be streamed directly through the hearing aids offering a significant improvement in sound quality and speech understanding. These hearin gaids are also great for listening to music, podcasts and videos on a mobile device. The sound is actually very good with an ample amount of base which can sometimes be missing from some devices.
The default settings for the Bluetooth streaming of telephone calls had the sound much lower than other audio streaming. During our test, the phone volume always had to be turned up to maximum in order to hear comfortably. This could be adjusted through the software, but seemed strange that phone calls were so much softer than other audio streaming.
As mentioned above, the streaming quality was excellent while stationary and in close proximity to the phone. With that said, things broke down during activity. Whether it was running or cycling and trying to stream music, the signal would frequently cut in and out. The distance you can move away from the phone was also fairly limited. You need to stay extremely close to your phone in order to keep a strong connection during streaming. Even though we mentioned that the removal string stuck out further than we are accustomed to for a CIC, it is still much deeper in the ear than behind the ear models which are the gold starndard for hearing aid streaming. This likely leads to the limitations found when streaming. It should also be noted that the Bluetooth signal does not bend around the body very well and keeping a phone in a pant pocket while walking/running has been known to cause some connectivity issues with other hearing aids and even Bluetooth headphones that we have tested.
In the Evolv AI CIC, Starkey has created a much needed product which nicely balances the advantages of direct connectivity with a very small design. Please feel free to contact us should you like more information on this product, or are interested in organizing a two week trail for yourself.