Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Oticon Streamer



My hearing aids are Oticon Epoqs, as I've mentioned in previous entries. The Epoqs have an optional accessory called the Streamer, which allows the Epoq user to listen to music, take calls and connect to a computer via Bluetooth. Sounds are transmitted directly to the aid.

When I was doing research on new hearing aids, Oticon was one of the first companies I saw, and one of a few who are incorporating Bluetooth technology into hearing aids. Oticon has the Streamer, while Phonak has a SmartLink system and Starkey has their ELI aids. I was pretty sold on Oticon's system myself, and happy to see that my audiologist recommended it, as well. I asked for the Streamer right away once it was determined I could indeed benefit from new hearing aids, and my (totally awesome) audiologist threw it in for free. He said typically the Streamer is around $250.

Now, currently I am using the audiologist's "demo" Streamer, which I have had in my grubby little hands for around 2 weeks now. I have my Streamer, as well, but there were some difficulties setting it up in the office and my audiologist was rightly more concerned with the sound I was getting from my new aids versus my shiny new toy. I'll be taking the Streamer back to him on Friday and hope to get mine set up properly.

While the "demo" Streamers will behave slightly immorally and connect to any Epoq hearing aids they find, the actual Streamers seem to require some setting up by the audiologist to ensure they know which aids are boss. I have tried every manner of pairing my own Streamer, but it's just something the doctor is going to have to do, so far as I can tell. Documentation on that part is slim on Oticon's web site, probably because audiologists will typically take care of it without concerning the patient.

So, my thoughts are based on a demo Streamer, and not my own. Should anything be drastically different, I'll revisit this topic after my Friday appointment.

The Streamer is slim and small, and looks like an mp3 player to most people. The buttons on front are simple and easy to comprehend. You have a volume control, a button for taking calls/working on your phone, a button for listening to music, a Bluetooth button for pairing, activating and deactivating the Bluetooth functionality, and a battery indicator.

It can be stuffed in a pocket or worn on the lanyard. The included lanyard (actually two, a short and a long) has a wire running through it which allows better connection when you're using it. The few times I've used it without the lanyard, sound has been staticky and fuzzy, so I always use the lanyard. Too bad it looks kind of dorky - and it's very obvious under a shirt, too. Typically my Streamer is in my purse unless I'm expecting a call, or listening to music, so I have to put the lanyard over my head before using it.

So far, I have used my Streamer to call others on my phone, listen to music on my phone (which has become my mp3 player), and listen to music on the computer. The latter is easy to do with an included cable that can be plugged into speakers and the Streamer. I also have a Bluetooth adapter for my computer, but I've had trouble so far activating the Bluetooth audio (not the Streamer's fault), so I use the cable for now.

I love listening to music with the Streamer, either from my phone, or online. I don't have to hunt around for headphones - and deal with the resulting pain of the headphones pressing my hearing aids into my head. Also, I can have the volume up louder than I could with headphones before others in the room can hear it. I don't even particularly need it any louder. The sound goes directly to the hearing aids, so it is much easier to hear things. I vastly prefer my Streamer/hearing aids combo over headphones or even just listening to music straight.

Phone calls have been a little trickier. I don't normally use the phone a whole lot, so I haven't had a lot of experience with that aspect, but the people I have talked to say it sounds as though I've got them on speakerphone. Holding the Streamer closer to my mouth or using the shorter lanyard seems to fix these issues. The voices of others sound clear. While I've had a few problems with words dropping out or garbled sounds, it seems to be only when they're using a Bluetooth device, too.

One con when it comes to the phone - if it's connected to the Streamer while I'm navigating menus (texting, looking for options, or playing a game), the sounds drop in and out, and my hearing aids' sound drops in and out, too. It's very annoying not to be able to text and talk to someone at the same time. I usually don't allow the Streamer to connect to the phone until I'm making a call or listening to music.

The Streamer seems to need charging every night or so. I need to use it more consistently to get a better idea of that, but it's probably a good idea to charge it overnight anyway. The manual warns about ever letting it die, and has managed to make me utterly paranoid on that front. I imagine it would need to re-pair to my phone if the battery did drop dead, which would certainly be a bit of an inconvenience. I know Bluetooth can drain batteries like nobody's business, so I was already expecting to charge any of those devices frequently.

Overall - I love the Streamer, and it's done wonders for my music-listening, and call-making abilities. I hope the audiologist is able to get mine sorted out on Friday!

21 comments:

  1. Actually, the main reason it warns so much about letting the battery die is because fully draining a Lithium-Ion battery permanently damages it, which is contrary to older Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable batteries, where draining could help improve their charge life.

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  2. Ah that's why mine died as well. I had to replace my first Opticon streamer after it drained completly and would not hold a charge again. I didn't realize that is what caused it. I'll make sure to keep it charged then. Any idea if recharging it too often will hurt it as some other batteries? Sometimes recharing a battery without letting it drain causes a shorter charge life.

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  3. It's very annoying that it has to be charged constantly. Two problems I have: first, while the connection is fine when someone calls ME; if I call THEM, it takes the Streamer about 2 seconds to figure out what's going on--two seconds of confusion on that person's part which means every phone starts off badly.

    Secondly, I can't seem to pair it with my MacBook.

    Otherwise it's a big improvement over taking out my hearing aids and then putting headphones on that are wired to my cell phone!

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  4. Megan, I am currently trialling 2 Oticon Epoqs and the Streamer. Like you I was frustrated with the hearing aid dropping out constantly whilst playing around with the phone. I have just discovered however, that turning the keypad tones to "off" stops this. I just need to figure out how to turn off the remaining tones such as the click sound of the phone camera etc.

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  5. I've been using my streamer for about a month now and all of the sudden I'm getting tons of static with my bluetooth home phone. It's a Panasonic.
    No problem with my cell.
    I've teied relocating and everything I can think of.
    any suggestions?

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  6. Looks like it is a good device. I can see that it has a very good effect. I think I need to try to for myself. I can't wait to have that.

    hearing device Royal Oak MI

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  7. I've had the streamer with epoqs for almost 2 yrs now and it has been back to the audiologist at least once for a program update since i reported it was dropping calls. Streamer conn to phone, make call, phone says connected but can't hear it but streamer blue tooth is STILL connected. Sometimes have to attempt a call 3-4 times to get it to do right!! Now it is doing it again 6 months or so after the program update and of course now is "out of warranty" so it's my problem. I mostly thrilled with it as I can be hands free and multi task - most people think it is an ipod of some sort & I don't really care but I think some update in design is needed - maybe they should take suggestions from the ones using it!! I also don't like it to hang down from my neck every time I lean over - I have caught it on a door knob once & damaged the antenna, eating is another thing to be cautious about in case of spills, as is leaving it in a hot car if not wearing it all the time. Sometimes talking with the streamer on my neck and accidentally leaving phone in car will disconnect them & it will take 5-10 minutes to get them paired again, but overall this is not a problem. if the dang thing can be damaged by letting the batt run all the way out - it SURELY needs a warning label ON the thing, as how can one help but use it only slightly less than to have to rush home or to the car to charge it?? dumb and high maintenance for a $275 device. Imagine ipods being that way - there would be ALLOTTA griping going on because ALOT more people use those!! periodically I get a tone that tells me the blue tooth signal is WEAK but I am holding the phone while wearing the streamer & then have no choice but to use handset! no explanation of why this happens & it can happen at least 1-2 times a day if at home!

    anyone having issues standing near a microwave while on a streamer call??? If I am 10 ft from my microwave and on a call while someone uses the microwave, I get the weak BT signal & have no choice to use handset or it disconnects the call from the streamer entirely!! makes me wonder if my microwave is leaky??? No other appliance interferes with it as I can tell.

    anyone finding any online source for service? I am not having a good rapport with my care provider anymore since my insurance plan royally screwed them over on the coverage & then couldn't bill me for any portion, so out the window went that relationship.

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  8. I've had my Oticon streamer and hearing aids for almost a year now. In general I really like the connectivity between the streamer and my hearing aids. I had a software update last May which seemed to fix the tendency of the streamer to lose its connection with my phone. At that time I also had to replace the lanyard, which is actually an antenna (it's an audio inductive loop). The black connector that hooks the two ends of the antenna together (sits at the back of ones neck) came apart and I had to use tape to keep them together.

    My greatest complaint with the device has to do with its bulkiness and general lack of robustness (for lack of a better word). I'm 51, extremely active, and usually wear the streamer under my shirt 1) to keep it from flopping around when I walk and 2) to keep it from getting hooked on stuff while I move around. I understand that their implementation of the audio inductive loop technology necessitates having the lanyard setup, but I found it horribly inconvenient and bulky. I would love for Oticon to introduce something less obtrusive and more elegant. I would be the first in line for a newer version of the streamer.

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  9. Hi . I am using the Oticon Duals with the steamer, and all i can say is wow, hearings aids sure come a long way.Most of the time i can not feel these duals in my ears . its so cool to finally hear my ipod ,,cell phone and even the air plane movies again. the only down side is the steamer antenna is very delicate. but im hearing things i havent heard in ears lol i mean YEARS ,,, i never knew we had crickets in my back yard lmao ,, Mark Anthony Teaneck NJ

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  10. I tried the streamer for classical radio over the web while working at the computer. I have in-the-canal. The streamer was awful.

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  11. I've had the epocs and streamer for over two years. Lots of problems when I had a "Palm" phone but as soon as I changed to Blackberry all the connectivity problems, static, and clarity were resolved. I strongly suggest trying before buying phones etc.
    2nd I use the streamer with the remote microphone in the evening after having it on for my phone during the day. I've also had a problem with battery life and now carry a Voxred portable charger. I got mine at buy.com for about $ 9.00 and it works fine.

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  12. Anyone have experience with the Streamer and an iPhone ?
    My Agile Pro hearing aid are new.

    I haven't coughed up the $250 for the streamer but it's way tempting.

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  13. I really like the way the streamer works, and it is great for listening to music connected to my PC via bluetooth. I'm using it with Acto Pro hearing aids and connectivity is usually better than people described here, even without the antenna. There are some issues though that I think are quite annoying, especially since they could be easily solved with current technology.

    1. No on/off switch. I do not use the streamer all the time, only for music and phone. Since I feel my phone ringing, I don't need the streamer on all the time. This is related to

    2. battery life. Normal smartphones manage 24 h with WIFI and radio. 5 h is all they could do? It would probably last longer if it would be possible to switch it off when not needed...

    3. size. If it was as small as, lets say, an iPod shuffle, I could clip it to my shirt, it would not look as dorky, and it would most likely solve the connectivity issue many people have mentioned (which I noticed gets better if the streamer is not moved to much, for example when I clip it to my shirt under a jacket instead of on top of the jacket).

    4. the microphone. I would be happy to use my cell's microphone, which is much better anyway. there should be a way to set this up

    5. not a major issue, but it would be great if I could configure the streamer myself with a computer program, similar to a cell phone

    Don't mistake me, I think the streamer is a good device which improves my hearing aid experience a lot. However, it could be an even better device if these issues were solved. And I agree with the person who said they would have been solved a long time ago if this were an MP3 player of phone which is sold on a larger market

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  14. Thank you. We are considering buying a streamer and at least the mic. However our audiologist is NOT awesome and does not offer a demo unit... even in the office. She just expects us to buy it sight unseen and hope it works. Your blog and all of these comments have been helpful for us. Thanks, Grandma Tillie

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  15. My audiologist is pretty good too, but she wasn't awesome enough to give me a free streamer either.

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  16. I had a first generation Streamer paired with Oticon Agil series hearing aids. The streamer had trouble holding any kind of real charge within a couple of months (which was not so bad as I was using it primailiry for watching TV and I could plug myself into the wall to charge while watching). After a year and 11 months of it died for good. I am currently looking for the streamer PRO, Oticon claims it has better battery life. Overall I hope they reduced the connection time when pairing with a phone, the first generation was too slow to use in an office setting (it would go to voicemail before I could speak with it).

    No demo units but my adiologist is good about returns within the first 30 days.

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  17. I purchased one of these units for $219 at http://hearingaccessories.ca/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=58

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  18. What's the difference between this Streamer and the Streamer Pro?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ganesh, thanks for your question! I took a stab at answering it here: http://www.hearingsparks.com/2013/11/whats-difference-between-streamer-and.html

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  19. I have streamer 2.0 with agx9. I enjoy the idea but my streamer hurts me. My audiologies never head of this happening and doubt there is anythign that can be done. I can feel the pulsing throught the cord into my neck ( on predominate phone call hearing aid side) and if i tuck this into my shirt or bra to move it out of the way while working and wait for a phone call i can feel it in chest or breast. My streamer did heat up once after i accidentally let it die down the battery ( I didn't know until this thread) and one of the lanyard cords needed to be replaced, i stopped using because the reaction to my skin and the streamer was extra pulsing and overheating. I found that if i lie in bed and turn my head, a part of my cheek will magnitize and drop to the cord. It took a long while to find that as i don' t listen in bed much. Anyone else noticing physical issues? I doubt i am alone but sure feels like it. my audiologist isn't really believing this does it.

    the idea is great, the technology is not up to it yet. IMO

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