Consumer & Dispenser Feedback Leads to 2G Unite Accessories

Jennifer Groth, ReSoundTorben_GrothBy Jenny Groth & Torben Groth

Open any kitchen utensil drawer and languishing in the back is likely a collection of wine aerators, garlic peelers, cherry pitters, and other gadgets that promised to make life easier for the home cook but turned out not to be all that useful. The hearing aid industry also has had its share of junk drawer items that did not prove their utility, and quietly disappeared from the market.

Consumer electronics often seem to be obsolete the moment you have purchased them, as new versions of products come out with astounding frequency. The lifecycle for hearing instruments and related products is much longer—typically several years. One advantage of this longer cycle is that more input from clinicians and users can be taken into account in renewing products.

This is particularly evident for the second generation (2G) versions of the Unite 2.4 GHz wireless accessories. In addition to feedback and ideas from consumers, changes to these accessories also reflect new functionality in ReSound hearing instruments, as well as changes in the connections to modern TVs.

Better Quality Cell Phone Conversations

New to the Phone Clip+ is the use of two microphones. To fully utilize the directional benefits from the two microphones necessitates correct positioning of the Phone Clip+ when worn. To this end, a swivel clip system has been introduced, allowing greater flexibility in placement of the device. Correct positioning for acoustic purposes will not only optimize the 2-microphone performance, it will also optimize the antenna performance due to its orientation. This leads to an improved and stable RF connection between the Phone Clip+ and hearing instruments, as well as between the Phone Clip+ and cell phone.

Other enhancements that Phone Clip+ users will appreciate include remote control functionality to adjust volume and change programs on the hearing instruments, music streaming to the hearing instruments in stereo from Bluetooth devices, and various hardware and software modifications to improve ease of use.

Finally, communication via the Phone Clip+ allows wearers to use their iPhones and smartphones as a remote control for the hearing instruments. The ReSound Control app can be downloaded at no charge to devices with AndroidTM and iOS operating systems.

A Better Television Experience

Key feedback that led to improvements was related to keeping up with technology in the fast-moving consumer electronics world. Increasingly, televisions no longer have analog output, so a converter has been necessary for users with digital-only outputs to use the TV Streamer. Therefore, the Unite TV Streamer 2 has connectors for digital audio (coax) as well as optical (toslink) signals. To make room for these connections and to simplify installation for users, a standard 3.5 mm mini stereo jack replaces the right and left RCA phono connectors that served as input to the original TV Streamer. In fact, this change, added to the design of an integrated housing and stand solution and rearrangement of other electronic components, has actually enabled a smaller housing as well.

The TV Streamer 2 also includes a Dolby Digital™ decoder that automatically downmixes 5.1 type signals to a stereo signal. This typically becomes necessary when a modern TV only outputs a digital or an optical 5.1 signal intended for a surround-sound receiver. Owners of digital wireless hearing instruments from any manufacturer have until now had to separately purchase and install a Dolby Digital™ decoder if the output of their television did not have other format choices, such as PCM stereo. The TV Streamer 2 is currently the only accessory for digital wireless hearing instruments to incorporate Dolby Digital™ decoding.

Another issue with modern televisions and auxiliary equipment, such as surround-sound systems and set-top boxes, is that they can introduce a delay to the picture, leading to the sound and the picture being out of sync. The Unite TV Streamer 2 is the only device of its kind that allows the user to add a delay to the streamed audio signal so that it aligns with the moving picture.

Better Remote Control

The updated Unite Remote Control 2 provides a larger display than its predecessor with well-defined and logical icons and a longer backlit time. It also answers users’ requests to be able to adjust the gain balance between streamed signals and hearing instrument microphones when in streaming mode, as well as the ability to mute the hearing instrument microphones at any point in time.

The first version of the Remote Control relied on AAAA batteries for power. These are replaced in the Remote Control 2 with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, allowing it to be recharged from a standard USB port (like on a laptop computer) or by using the universal ReSound wall-charger.

As with the Phone Clip+, attention also was given to improving the robustness of the wireless connection. The antenna has been relocated to the top of the device instead of around the sides. This improves the wireless link when users hold the Remote Control 2 by virtue of not shielding the RF signal emanating from the antenna with their hand. Updates to the mechanical layout encompass improved functionality and tactile feel of all buttons, the inclusion of a mechanical ON/OFF switch, and a slightly longer, but slimmer design.

For more details on the differences between the first and second generation Unite wireless accessories, read the full article over at the Hearing Review: Consumer and Dispenser Feedback Leads to Substantial Improvements in 2G Wireless Accessories

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