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!