Phonak Paradise: First Impressions

Sound Improvements, Tap Controls, and Better Bluetooth

Abram Bailey, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

19 August 2020

I’ve been wearing the new Phonak Paradise hearing aids for a little over a week, and I’ve learned a lot about their capabilities and limitations. I think I’m finally ready to share my first impressions! Before I get to that, here’s a little background on the new Paradise hearing aids.

Building on Marvel’s Success

Back in 2018, Phonak introduced Audéo Marvel—the world’s first universal Bluetooth hearing aid. Marvel was an instant best-seller for Phonak, with over a million hearing aids sold in less than a year. Two years later, Marvel is still the #1 most-viewed product on HearingTracker.com, and one of the most talked about hearing aids in Hearing Tracker’s hearing loss community forum.

But there’s always room for improvement. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Phonak has chosen to build on the past successes of Marvel with the new generation of Audéo hearing aids—Audéo Paradise—by offering improvements in sound processing, speech enhancement, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Welcome to Paradise 😉

Audéo Paradise offers all of the crowd favorites first introduced in Marvel. You’ll still get universal Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free calling, lithitum-ion rechargeability, a full suite of wireless accessories, and more:

  • Stereo Bluetooth streaming - Streaming from iPhone, iPad, MacOS, Android, Windows, and any other Bluetooth-enabled audio device.
  • Hands-free calling in stereo - True hands-free calling from Bluetooth-enabled phones and VOIP services like Skype.
  • TV Streaming - Paradise can stream directly from Bluetooth-enabled TVs, and can also stream from the Phonak TV Connector accessory.
  • Rechargeability - Paradise provides a full day of hearing aid use from a single charge.
  • At-home adjustments - Paradise hearing aids can be adjusted remotely by your hearing expert.
  • Moisture protection - As with most Phonak hearing aids these days, Paradise hearing aids have a high IP68 rating.
  • RogerDirect™ - Direct streaming from Phonak’s popular Roger remote microphone accessories.
  • PartnerMic™ - Clear audio streaming from a remote microphone via Phonak’s AirStream™ technology.

The Paradise product lineup looks a lot like Audéo Marvel too. On the surface, the form factors are almost indiscernable from the previous generation, and Phonak is continuing to offer two rechargeable models (one with a telecoil and one without) and two models that use disposable batteries (the telecoil model uses a 13 battery and the non-telecoil model uses a 312 battery). It looks like Phonak has chosen not to reproduce the 312 telecoil model offered in the Audéo generation.

Paradise Modes

The New Phonak Audéo Paradise Models

So what’s new in Paradise?

Aside from bringing all the best features from Marvel, Paradise introduces 6 key upgrades when compared to Marvel:

  1. More Bluetooth connections - Paradise can pair with up to 8 Bluetooth devices and have 2 active Bluetooth connections. This makes switching between your two favorite devices much easier. Marvel only offered one active connection.
  2. Tap controls - You can double-tap the Paradise hearing aids to accept/end phone calls, pause/result streaming, and access voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
  3. Motion sensing - A new ultra-low power accelerometer detects when you move and adjusts the hearing aid microphones and noise cancellation settings.
  4. Clearer speech in quiet settings - A new “Speech Enhancer” feature amplifies the peaks of soft speech to provide clearer speech when you’re in a quiet environment.
  5. Improved noise cancellation - Phonak is introducing “Dynamic Noise Cancellation”, which is an automated spatial noise cancellation system that works in combination with a directional beamformer microphone system.
  6. PRISM sound processing chip - The new chip offers double the memory and enables better Bluetooth connectivity.

My experience with Paradise

Phonak sent me a pre-launch pair of Paradise hearing aids to test out, and scheduled a remote hearing aid session with one of their audiological staff members to walk me through the new app and hearing aids. The app setup and Bluetooth pairing was super simple on my phone, and while there was a little lag on the video chat with the audiologist, the experience was smooth overall. I was ready to go in no time at all.

My Paradise Aids Inset

My Paradise hearing aids and paired iPhone

Audio streaming and hands-free calling

My first test was to stream some music from my phone via Spotify. The connection was rock solid, but the sound quality was so-so. I consider myself an audiophile, and vastly prefer the sound of my $10 Panasonic earbuds over any hearing aid when it comes to music listening. I chalk that up to the tiny speakers used by hearing aids and the fact that my ear canal is left open (all the bass leaks out) with receiver-in-canal hearing aids like the Paradise.

I’m a huge podcast fan, so my next test was turning on an episode of the Future Ear Radio podcast. The hearing aids did a great job there, and the sound quality was completely adequate for podcast listening. I did get a few notification sounds from my phone interrupting my podcast from time to time, but I never bothered to change my preferences and deactivate those (the Phonak audiologist did tell it could be done).

I usually listen to podcasts while riding my bike back on forth to the office. Instead of using my normal $40 wireless earbuds (TaoTronics SoundLiberty 79, which I love), I substituted in my new Phonak Paradise aids. And now that I’ve had the experience of wearing the hearing aids on the bike, I don’t know that I’ll be able to go back to the TaoTronics. The hearing aids made it so much easier for me to hear both my podcast and the cars and people around me, making me feel a lot safer on the road.

I took a few phone calls while wearing the Paradise aids. In general they behave as you would expect modern Bluetooth earbuds to behave. You can answer a call with a simple double tap on the aid, and when you’re done, streaming resumes on the music or podcast you were listening to before being interrupted. Phone calls are clear, and everyone I spoke with said my voice sounded good on the other end. I was even able to take calls while riding my bike. Unfortunately, the sound got a little weird when I did that (some occasional popping sounds and echoey-ness), but it was good enough to carry on a conversation, and amazingly there was no wind noise to speak of, for me or the person on the other end.

Voice assistants via double tap

Using the new double-tap control, I was able to activate Siri on my iPhone and Google Assistant on my Android phone. This was extremely helpful when I was riding my bike. One of my favorite voice commands is “Hey Google, fast forward 30 seconds”… Great way to skip an ad on a podcast! Unfortunately, I was not able to test Siri on my MacBook Pro, and this was due to my complete inability to pair the Paradise with my laptop. Well, I was able to get the hearing aids paired, but unfortunately, they would not stay connected, and so I was not able to test audio streaming, phone calls, or Siri from my aids, yet. I am working with Phonak to figure this out (it is probably user error).

Phonak Paradise Double Tap Demo

Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions by clicking on the three small dots.

Hearing in background noise

Given the current circumstances with COVID-19, I was not able to give the hearing aids a hardcore stress test in a noisy public space, like a restaurant or bowling alley. However, I was able to wear the hearing aids at home with my two young children rampaging up and down the halls, screaming and laughing maniacally. The Paradise hearing aids seemed to handle the situation better than any hearing aids I have worn to date. The noise didn’t blow my head off, and I was still able to hear my wife from the bedroom on top of the kids. Given that experience, I suspect they would perform just fine in a restaurant.

Using the new myPhonak app

The new myPhonak app works much the same as the old myPhonak app. Regarding the remote control features, you’ll find the familiar three-band frequency controller for bass, mids, and treble, a volume control, noise reduction and speech focus control, and a control for decreasing loud sound or increasing soft sound. With the new Paradise aids, Phonak has improved the Speech Focus slider, stating that the slider “will now reduce noise from behind and sides whilst enhancing speech from the front.”

Myphonak App

The new myPhonak app

The app provides a number of other features that were included in the previous app, like real-time remote hearing care supported by live video chat, access to battery status and wear time, a hearing diary, and custom program settings.

Using the app, your hearing provider can now even test your hearing through the app, using a feature called AudiogramDirect. This relatively new feature was demonstrated to me during my remote care appointment, and it should prove to be extremely useful for those patients who are trying to keep their distance during the pandemic.

Rechargeability, battery life, and the charging case

Phonak says the hearing aid batteries should last 16 hours, including 4 hours of Bluetooth streaming and 4 hours of TV Connector streaming. For my own personal use, I found the hearing aids easily lasted all day, and I probably streamed audio and calls at least 6 hours a day. I did accidentally kill the hearing aids once by forgetting to turn them off and leaving them in the unplugged charger overnight. I mistakenly assumed they turned off automatically when placed in the charger.

Regarding the charger itself, it’s not my absolute favorite. The hearing aids don’t magically pop into the cradle with magnetism like many of the wireless earbuds I’ve used. So it can be a little fiddly getting them securely in place. Thankfully, there are some green flashing indicator lights to let you know when you’ve done it correctly. The hearing aids don’t come out of the charger super easily either, so you’ll need to hold the case with one hand and grab the hearing aid body (not the wire) firmly to remove from the charger.

Other observations

I was able to pair the Paradise aids to an iPhone and Android phone simultaneously and easily switch back and forth without having to turn off Bluetooth on the other paired device every time I wanted to switch devices. So the new dual active Bluetooth connection feature does work as advertised. Given the COVID-19 situation, I haven’t had much chance to test out the motion sensing feature, as most of my interactions are in my home or office, where I don’t walk and talk as much. With that being said, most of my experiences with these hearing aids were quiet conversations with my wife and family, and I could definitely notice a difference in clarity while wearing them.

Bonus Video from Dr Cliff, AuD

Dr Cliff covers the new Paradise hearing aids in a great deal of detail in his latest YouTube video. If you enjoy the video, be sure to subscribe to his channel.

Phonak Audéo Paradise Hearing Aid Detailed Review | The Marvel Only BETTER!

Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions by clicking on the three small dots.