Complaints of the ears and difficulty hearing are the top two conditions treated at VA medical centers. The number one complaint is tinnitus (or ringing of the ears), while loss of hearing is number two.
Hearing loss is so prevalent among members of the Armed Forces that the medical specialty of audiology was created specifically to treat veterans returning home from World War II with hearing loss.
Loss of Hearing Among Veterans
It's easy to understand why loss of hearing would be such a common complaint among veterans. After all, during combat soldiers are often exposed to explosions and other loud noises.
In 1957, 71,000 veterans were being treated for hearing loss, up from 15,000 only 10 years before. Fifty-two percent of all combat soldiers experience hearing loss which, at best, is moderately severe.
The bigger and louder that guns and bombs become, the more likely that soldiers who are exposed to them on a regular basis will suffer some sort of hearing loss.
Fortunately, the Armed Forces have recognized the threat and taken steps to prevent current and future soldiers from damaging their hearing in the line of duty.
Prevent Further Hearing Loss
Such measures include the use of suppressors for service weapons to reduce the noise when they are fired, as well as providing military personnel with hearing protective devices, such as earplugs and noise-attenuating helmets.
As interesting as these new technologies are, however, and as important as it is to prevent further hearing loss to the extent possible, it is also important to treat those whose hearing has already been damaged. Frequently, this requires the use of hearing aids.
Phonak Hearing Aids
Pros and Cons
Why Phonak hearing aids? The Phonak Audeo B-Direct B90 is a trailblazer in the field of universal Bluetooth compatibility with cell phones and hands-free calling.
As a result of incorporating these features, however, some other desirable features may have fallen by the wayside.
Sleek, Diminutive Design
The Phonak Audeo B-Direct is a RIC hearing aid. Like other RIC hearing aids, it has a sleek, diminutive design that sits snugly behind your ear, unseen to most of the rest of the world.
It uses size 13 batteries and has a water-resistant Nano coating. It comes in nine different colors, including velvet black, chestnut, sandalwood, and beige.
The Audeo B-Direct has a feature called AutoSense that automatically changes the volume appropriately when transitioning from a loud to a quiet environment, or vice versa.
Other hearing aids have a similar feature but are sluggish in making the accommodation.
Audeo B-Direct B90 also Features
The Audeo B-Direct B90 also features tinnitus relief, noise reduction, and WindBlock specifically to reduce the amount of wind noise in particularly breezy conditions.
Apart from these more traditional features, it is the Phonak hearing aids connectivity that makes it truly unique.
The Audeo B-Direct B90 was the first hearing aid developed for wireless connectivity. With its Bluetooth compatibility, it can connect to virtually any cell phone, even those not considered smart devices, as long as they are equipped with Bluetooth.
Not only does this mean that the audio from your phone is transmitted directly into your ear, it means that you don't even have to touch your phone, or even be in the same room with it, in order to receive or reject calls, because you can do so with the push of a button on your Audeo B-Direct B90 hearing aid.
Due to the Bluetooth technology, the hearing aid also functions as a microphone, so you can communicate over the phone completely hands free.
With the extra TV connector accessory, you can also stream audio from your television or stereo with your Audeo B-Direct hearing aid.
This means that you can set your own volume on your hearing aid according to your own comfort level without having to annoy family members by raising the volume on the television itself.
Hearing Aids Extra Accessory
Be aware, however, that this is an extra accessory and not included with the hearing aids.
With that said, it is important to note that only audio from phone calls can be streamed from the phone to your Phonak Audeo hearing aid because it lacks A2DP support.
This means that you cannot stream audio from web content. For example, if you're watching YouTube videos on your phone or streaming music, you will not be able to stream that audio directly to your hearing aid.
Keep in mind that if you qualify for VA benefits, you will not have to pay full price for your phonak hearing aids. You should consult a VA representative to find out exactly what benefits you are entitled to receive.
Again, if you are eligible to receive hearing aids through the VA, you are strongly encouraged to do so, only buying from private retailers as a last resort.
This is because hearing aids are priced per ear, and a premium hearing aid like the Audeo B-Direct B90 can cost at least $$$$ each. Equipping both ears will cost you $$$$ altogether.
Even if it takes a little more time, it is worth it in the long run to save such a significant amount of money on new hearing aids by getting them through the VA.
How the Phonak Hearing Aids (Audeo B-Direct B90) Compare to Similar Models
The following brands and models of hearing aids are also available to qualifying veterans, for free or at a reduced cost, through the VA. Prices are included as a reference only. Any accessories mentioned can be assumed to be available at additional price.
GN ReSound Linx 3D
Image via Amazon
Right away, the ReSound Linx 3D has a major advantage over the Phonak B-Direct in that it comes in multiple styles and all different sizes.
While the Audeo B-Direct B90 is only available in one style, the ReSound Linx 3D is adaptable to your needs. For those who don't like changing batteries, there is a rechargeable option.
Like the Phonak Audeo B-Direct B90, the ReSound Linx 3D has a noise reduction feature. It also has something called Binaural Directionality that is supposed to help your hearing aids function in a more natural way by taking cues from each other, rather than blocking noises coming from the back and the side the way most hearing aids do.
The ReSound Linx 3D also has Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to stream audio directly from your iPhone.
Unlike the Phonak hearing aid it will stream audio from web content, such as YouTube and apps like Facetime, in addition to audio from phone calls.
The key, though, is that this level of streaming only works with iPhones. If you have an Android phone, for example, and you would like to stream audio, you have to buy an extra accessory called the ReSound Phone Clip+.
The Siemens Nitro has more style options than the Phonak Aude B90 but fewer than the GN ReSound Linx 3D.
Whereas the Audeo B-Direct B90 has only one style, and the ReSound Linx 3D comes in pretty much every style, the Siemens comes in three of the four smallest styles which are, in ascending order, completely in the canal, in the canal, and in the ear.
The Siemens Nitro does not come in over-the-ear styles. Like the other models, the Siemens Nitro comes with features such as windscreen protection, noise cancelling technology, and tinnitus therapy.
The Siemens Nitro also has capability to sync up and stream audio from Bluetooth-equipped devices. Unlike the other models, however, it requires a separate accessory called miniTek in order to do this, no matter what the device is or who manufactured it.
It does claim that the miniTek can sync up all audio devices at the same time, including apps like FaceTime, but unlike the other two models, the Siemens Nitro doesn't have any self-contained connectivity apparatus.
VA Hearing Aids in General
Hearing aids come in several different styles and sizes. The largest behind-the-ear hearing aids are also the most powerful, but some people don't like the bulky profile that they make against the head.
The smallest hearing aids are called Invisible in the Canal. They are less powerful than the behind-the-ear variety, but they make up for it by hiding so completely in the ear canal that the casual observer may not even notice that they're there.
Receiver in the Canal (RIC) hearing aids also sit behind the ear, connected by wire to a speaker that sits in the canal. RIC hearing aids are small and unobtrusive, so that they may go unnoticed except by somebody who is standing directly behind you, and they are versatile enough to treat multiple forms of hearing loss.
What kind of hearing aids can eligible veterans get from the VA? A short, glib answer is "the very best kind."
It is more than sloganeering, however. The Veterans Administration accounts for 20 percent of hearing aid sales in the United States, and they have access to discounts and reduced prices from six of the most prominent hearing aid manufacturers, purely by virtue of the huge number of items that the VA buys.
Getting hearing aids through the VA
In other words, any style of hearing aid can be purchased through the VA, but one thing that all VA hearing aids have in common is that they are all top of the line.
Getting hearing aids through the VA is not always easy. First you have to meet the eligibility requirements, then you need to cut through a lot of bureaucratic red tape. It may be tempting to give up and purchase your hearing aids through a private vendor.
While you may get your hearing aids more quickly that way, you will have to pay top dollar for a hearing aid that may be substandard.
Whereas if you wait to receive your hearing aids from the VA, your patience will eventually pay off as you will be provided with a state-of-the-art hearing aid, featuring the very latest in technological advances.
Connectivity with Smart Devices in Hearing Aids
Which brings us to another question: what sort of features do you need in a hearing aid? Every individual case is different, and you should work with your audiologist to decide which hearing aid is best for you.
However, if you spend a lot of time on the phone, you might want to ask your audiologist about the Phonak Audeo B-Direct B90 hearing aid, which has pioneered the use of connectivity with smart devices in hearing aids.
In other words, instead of trying to amplify the sound coming out of your phone, a notoriously difficult challenge for traditional hearing aids to accomplish, the Audio B-Direct B90 connects directly to your smartphone via Bluetooth connection and transmits the sound directly into your ear.
All of these hearing aids perform their baseline function, and all are rated highly by customers. The difference is in the Bluetooth capability. If you already own an iPhone, the ReSound Linx offers more versatility and adaptability than the Audeo B-Direct. On the other hand, if you want a phone offering connectivity with different devices, the Audeo B-Direct is probably your best bet.
Phonak Audeo B-Direct B90
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