Audiologist's Review of the Phonak Lumity hearing aid

It’s official– Phonak has launched their new Lumity line of hearing aids, a step up from their previous Paradise line. We were able to try them out and wow! Phonak has really outdone themselves this time around. The main focus for this platform is speech understanding, particularly in background noise. Background noise continues to be the number one issue for individuals with hearing loss.

Phonak Lumity Models

The Phonak Lumity line consists of exclusively rechargeable models: Phonak Lumity R, Phonak Lumity RT, and Phonak Lumity R-Life. 

   

 Each model comes in 4 different tiers– the top tier Lumity 90, followed by the Lumity 70, Lumity 50, and the bottom tier Lumity 30. Some of the new features in the Lumity line are only available in the Lumity 90 and 70 tiers, and as you go down in technology level, less features and customizations are available. As a rule of thumb, we always suggest going with the highest level of technology that you can reasonably afford so you can be sure you aren’t leaving any benefit on the table. In terms of hearing performance, there is no significant difference between the Phonak Lumity R, the Phonak Lumity RT, and the Phonak Lumity Life. The only difference is that the Phonak Lumity RT comes with a telecoil inside, which makes it a little bit bigger. If you go to public venues such as churches or theaters that are equipped with a hearing loop, a telecoil is an amazing feature to have inside your hearing aids, as it will allow you to stream the audio input of the public venue directly into your ears through your telecoil enabled hearing aids. The Phonak Lumity Life comes with extensive waterproofing, which does make it a bit bigger as well and requires a different charging case from the other Lumity devices. The waterproofing is well worth it though, as it allows you to have the peace of mind that your hearing aids will not be ruined by water.


Bluetooth Capability

 As is the norm with Phonak devices, the Phonak Lumity line is Bluetooth compatible with both iPhone and Android devices. The Phonak Lumity devices can pair with up to eight devices for streaming and allows for two active Bluetooth connections at the same time. This way, you can stream from your phone and then later when you want to stream from your laptop, there is no need to turn off the Bluetooth on your phone first.

With Phonak Lumity devices, you can stream any sort of audio, anywhere from phone calls to music, podcasts, audiobooks, and even YouTube videos. Another great feature Phonak offers is the ability to customize the streamed audio in the programming software, both for speech and music media inputs. This way, so long as your hearing care professional knows what they're doing, they can customize the streamed audio to your liking. If you have open domes on your hearing aids, keep in mind that when streaming music, the low-frequency bass tones are going to roll out of your ears through the open venting. This may make the music sound flat. To overcome this, a great solution that Phonak offers is their ActiveVent receivers. These receivers allow for open venting during speech, but when you are streaming music or in a noisy environment, the vents snap close and trap in those low frequency sounds, allowing your music to sound more rich and full. 

Phonak Lumity hearing aids allow you to be completely hands-free when speaking on the phone. When you receive a phone call, you can answer it by double tapping on the side of your ear or by simply pressing one of the buttons on the back of the hearing aid. The hearing aid microphones will pick up your voice during the call and send it to the person on the other end of the line, and when you're ready to hang up, you can simply double tap your ear or press the push button once again. Keep in mind though, if you don't have a particularly powerful voice, the hearing aid microphones might not pick up your voice very well and the person on the other end of the line may have trouble hearing you. Unfortunately there is no way to turn off this feature when you are streaming phone calls through your hearing aids, so if this is an issue for you, you will still have to hold the phone up to your ear or use speakerphone. 

The Phonak Lumity hearing aids also allow for motion sensor hearing, which is where the hearing aids use motion sensors to sense if you are moving or stationary so they can configure the microphones accordingly. This is also what allows for tap control, which can be used not only to answer and hang up phone calls, but also to start or pause streaming and to activate your voice assistant.


Rechargeability

The Phonak Lumity line uses lithium ion rechargeable batteries, which are more reliable than previous batteries used in rechargeable hearing aids. The Lumity R and RT models both still charge through charging contacts on the bottom of the hearing aids, while the Lumity R-Life uses inductive charging, so you don’t need to worry about maintaining the battery contacts. All three models will give you all-day battery life, and if you stream for 4 hours a day you will still get 16 hours of battery life. If you find you need more than that or forget to place them in the charger the night before, 15 minutes in the charger will give you three more hours of battery life, and they can go from completely dead to fully charged in only 3 hours.

The Phonak Lumity line comes with an upgraded charger, the Phonak Charger Ease. Instead of the latch used in Phonak’s previous chargers, the Charger Ease simply holds the hearing aids in place with magnets, making it much easier to get them in and out of the charger. The Lumity R-Life hearing aids use the Phonak Charger Case Go, which is the same charger used by the Paradise Life devices. This charger uses inductive charging and is able to store a charge so you can charge your hearing aids on the go without having to worry about plugging the charging case into the wall. A drawback of both the Charger Case Go and the Charger Ease is their small receiver wells, which do not leave much space for custom earmolds, especially if the earmold has a canal lock or a skeleton lock.

Unfortunately, Phonak does not offer a battery-operated model in their Lumity line. While rechargeability is becoming more of a norm in modern hearing aids, there are still individuals who require or prefer a disposable battery model. The Lumity hearing aids also do not offer a CROS option, and are not likely to in the future.


Upgraded Advanced Features

The Phonak Lumity line features the newest version of Phonak’s AutoSense operating system, AutoSense 5.0. The Phonak AutoSense operating system uses artificial intelligence to detect what sort of environment you are in and automatically switch into one of up to nine customizable listening programs. This includes not only live listening situations but also streaming programs. The new 5.0 operating system in the Lumity line has over 200 different combinations of settings to optimize your performance in even more listening situations.

The Phonak Lumity line has also introduced two brand new features: SpeechSensor and StereoZoom 2.0. SpeechSensor is only available in the 90 tier premium level devices, and improves understanding for speech coming from the sides and behind you.

 When you are in a situation with lots of background noise, SpeechSensor will use its Spatial Speech algorithm to scan your environment in 30 degree segments to locate the loudest speech signal. If it is coming from the sides, the hearing aids will go into fixed directionality to pick up the speech. If the loudest speech signal is coming from behind, then the hearing aids will go into Real Ear Sound, which emphasizes the high frequency aspects of speech for improved clarity. This feature improves speech intelligibility by an additional 15%, and reduces listening effort in background noise by up to 11%.

If the loudest speech signal is coming from the front, your hearing aids will switch into the new and improved StereoZoom 2.0 feature, which eliminates the sounds coming from the sides and behind you and focuses on the speech directly in front of you. StereoZoom 2.0 is smoother, smarter, and stronger than the original StereoZoom program, which debuted in the Paradise line. The updated version of the program switches you from omnidirectional to fixed directionality settings when you enter a background noise situation much more gradually then its predecessor, leading to a much more natural transition when entering a noisy environment. It is also smarter, as it is now able to narrow the directionality based on the amount of background noise in the environment. The more background noise there is, the narrower the focus of the microphones will become, allowing for much better elimination of unwanted sounds.

The Speech Enhancer feature, which increases the amount of amplification given to a soft talker in a quiet environment, is only available in the 90 level Lumity devices. Dynamic Noise Cancellation is available in both the 70 and 90 tier levels.


Accessories

 All technology levels in the Phonak Lumity line are compatible with ActiveVent receivers and incorporate integrated Roger receivers, which allows you to connect with Phonak Roger devices. Roger technology is amazing for enhancing understanding in background noise, and includes the Roger On, the Roger Table Mic, and the Roger Select. The Lumity line also has access to the Phonak TV connector and the Phonak PartnerMic accessories.

The TV connector allows the input from the TV to be streamed directly through your hearing aids at your hearing loss prescription, without affecting the ability of anyone else in the room to hear the TV. The PartnerMic can be clipped onto the collar of someone you are speaking to in a noisy environment so their voice is transmitted directly into your ears.

Phonak has also recently released a major feature update to their MyPhonak app, which you can use to adjust the volumes and program settings in your Phonak Lumity hearing aids. You can also track your wear time and step count, as well as access remote care from your hearing care provider.

Overall, the Phonak Lumity line is an amazing upgrade for anyone looking to improve their speech understanding in background noise. It is a significant improvement from their previous Paradise line, so if you were waiting to upgrade your hearing aids, the Lumity line is well worth it.

Leslie Balderas
Audiologist

Dr. Leslie Balderas is an Audiologist at Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona. An Arizona native, she earned her doctorate in Audiology from Arizona State University. Dr. Balderas is passionate about educating her patients about Best Practice audiologic care to help them achieve their optimal hearing treatment outcomes. Outside of the office, you can find her volunteering and giving back to her community.

Brianna Cole
Audiologist

Brianna Cole is a second year Doctorate of Audiology student at Arizona State University, where she is co-president of the Student Academy of Audiology chapter. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Speech Science at the University of British Columbia. She started her career in Audiology at Applied Hearing Solutions as Dr. Cliff Olson's direct Audiology Assistant. A hearing aid user herself, Brianna is passionate about helping people hear their absolute best.

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