My experiences with KS8 Made for iPHONE hearing aids

I recently purchased my first hearing aid, a made for iPHONE model sold by Costco as the Kirkland Signature KS8. My American dollars price was $1599, basically ssixteen hundred dollars. Costco also has warehouse stores in the U.K. and Australia and probably other countries as well.

The KS 8 is identical to the Signia Pure 312 7Nx. Spec sheets and manuals are the same except for the name change. Apparently Costco, which has 11% share of the hearing aid market has enough buying power to get Rexton to rebrand and reduce the price for them.

"Made For iPHONE" (MFI) means that they will stream audio from the phone as well as use the headset protocol to make calls. They can use the headset protocol on Android too, but for Android, streaming is done through the A2DP protocol which typically isn't supported by hearing aids.

On the iPHONE the MFI protocol is used -- this is a proprietary Bluetooth low-energy profile that is designed by Apple, and thus only available on Apple certified devices. For us, this means that you can hear VoiceOver through the hearing aids.

There is a tiny bit of latency with the KS8 paired with the iPHONE, but it wasn't annoying enough for me to go back to my clumsier bluetooth earpiece. With Bluetooth on, you simply go to settings-general-accessibility-hearing and pair it there -- similar to pairing a Braille display under Voiceover's settings.

One hitch was that as soon as it thought it paired, but before I could choose OK, the audio switched to the hearing aids, which my audiologist was holding, since he insisted on showing me how to pair them. Thus I stopped being able to hear voiceover. So wear the aids before you pair!

Another annoyance is that though I had the accessibility shortcut (tripple click home) set to Voiceover, it now wanted to add switching the hearing aid on and off to the accessibility menu. But I removed that so now the accessibility shortcut now only calls up Voiceover.

It is also possible to stream music, or TV or audio books through the hearing aid once it is paired. Actually once it is paired everything streams through it. For music with high fidelity, you loose some of it because a hearing aid program emphasizes some frequencies. So for me all the music sounded like it had too much trebble. But I can get the audiologist to create a separate music program for my hearing aids so music will sound more natural.

However with audio books and podcasts, especially those with lower fidelity the extra trebble made the voices far clearer for me. For example NLS BARD books mastered originally from open-reel tapes often don't have the highest audio quality and were easier for me to hear on the iPHONE with the BARD app and my aids rather than the NLS library-supplied player.

There are two apps for using the KS8. You get links to them from the KS8 user portal linked below.

They are resonably usable but not fully accessible; getting sighted help to identify the unlabeled buttons is a timesaver though not necessary. The apps are ""Smart Direct" which gives you control of the aid and "Smart remote" which lets you use your iPHONE as a remote mic. The idea is that someone speaking to you could talk in to your iPHONE's microphone and you could hear them more clearly. I do not have enough hearing loss to need this app, but I tried it by placing the iPHONE near my VR Stream, and listening from another room -- worked great. Actually iOS now has a feature called "live listen" which does the same thing, so I still have to test whether the app is actually necessary.

The Smart Direct app lets you adjust volume, balance and bass and trebble, plus switch between programs -- settings your hearing professional has configured inside the aid's firmware. It also tells you your battery strength.

Overall I'm super pleased with this purchase. You can find many online reviews that cover this aid so I just covered its use with Voiceover here.

Some links:

The place to get the manuals and how-tos from Costco:
http://www.ks8userportal.com/

Blog post about the new aids with many comments.
https://hearinghealthmatters.org/blog/2018/costco-kirkland-signature-8-h...

KS8 review:
https://www.hearingtracker.com/hearing-aids/kirkland-signature-costco-8-0
https://www.retirementliving.com/reviews/costco-hearing-aids

Information about hearing support from Apple:
https://9to5mac.com/2017/12/18/airpods-hearing-aid-accessibility/

Apple's support page for using MFI hearing aids:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201466

Forum: 

#1 FYI

One huge disadvantage of hearing aids from Costco is that if you ever need servicing, you have to go to a Costco. The programming is locked so you can't go to any other hearing centers if you have problems. Also, after 2 different pairs of hearing aids, one from Resound and now one from Oticon, I've found that the apps for the aids aren't necessary. I can do everything through the built-in iOS support. And, you may want to consider allowing the triple-click home to do both voiceover and the hearing aids. I find I use it all the time, and if I want to turn VO on or off I just use SIRI.

#2 Disadvantage Error

Club AppleVis Member

The disadvantage of having to take your Resound hearing aids for servicing to Cost Co isn't true. First, if the hearing aids aren't working properly, all that Cost Co does is send the hearing aids to Resound. Resound, meanwhile, simply replaces your malfunctioning hearing aids with new hearing aids and calls it "repair". This practice was made known to me by a Cost Co audiologist.

Moreover, in the US, if the hearing aids are still under warranty, and if the malfunction is covered by the warranty, the manufacturer is required to repair or replace the hearing aids, regardless of who sends them to the manufacturer. You can send them yourself.

Short of hearing aid malfunction, the only "servicing my own hearing aids have required is periodic cleaning, which you can do yourself, periodic ear wax filter replacement, which you can do yourself, and periodic ear dome replacement, which you can do yourself.

Now, I certainly don't blame he previous poster. Doubtless, Cost Co may claim that their hearing aids can only be serviced by Cost co, but that simply isn't true, even though Cost Co might want everyone to believe it.

Smile. Have fun with your new made for iPhone hearing aids! I love mine. And thank you for all those links. I'm saving your post because of them.

Bruce
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#3 Actually, I wasn't referring

Actually, I wasn't referring to repairs, I was referring to programming. If, over time, you need to have things changed, you have to have a Costco to make those changes. When I moved from the US to Canada I needed to find a new Audiologist and have adjustments made to my aids and the first thing they asked me was if I'd purchased from Costco. I hadn't, so it wasn't a problem, but I was told that if I had, I wouldn't be able to do anything unless I could get to a Costco.

#4 More thoughts

Now that I've had the aids for a month, I have discovered the iPHONE itself controls the aids better than the silly third-party apps Costco recommends. I can set it to stream to either ear or both; I can turn live listen on or off and I can check my battery level, change the program and adjust the volume and balance. This all happens either in Settings-General-Accessibility-Hearing-(name of my aids) or under a shorter menu with the tripple click home accessibility shortcut. I now have that shortcut set up for jjust the hearing aid menu, as I can call up oiceOver with Siri and no longer need triple click home to turn VO on or off.
I saw another forum post where someone said "live listen is crap" and I would like to dispute it. Of course it depends on your hearing, but for me, Live listen is wonderful. I can put the iPHONE next to the TV, radio or Victor reader stream, turn on live listen and get housework done without needing to turn up the other audio devices. Live listen works as far away as forty feet, and I can stream to just one ear if I need to still hear my environment with the other ear. Of course I have garden-variety age-related hearing loss which is pretty mild; perhaps live listen doesn't work so well for those with more severe loss.
I also discovered when I returned to my audiologist with just a few program adjustments she made streaming more comfortable, removing the latency and dropping the streaming volume. At first, the volume kept adjusting with the level of environmental noise; she was able to disable that feature so that I can adjust streaming volume manually. The aids still auto-adjust the volume of the environmental noise based on how loud it is, but now they don't keep turning the iPHONE's volume up or down.
I also requested more programs for the aids: Costco likes to give you just one labeled "Automatic" and I convinced them I wasn't a senior with dementia and could handle the technical complexities of changing programs. So now I have four: the automatic, one for filtering out loud noise, one for hearing sound in all directions which is great for safely navigating and one for listening to music. I find I can easily hear my phone plus a person standing in front of me with the automatic program and with the program they call 360 I can accurately hear traffic and other noises binaurally that are important for safely moving out in the world, while still listening to Voiceover.

#5 thanks for sharing!

App Developer

Thanks for sharing! I don’t want to offend anyone. I hope nobody takes it that way. I can’t help but to compare getting hearing aids to buying a new car. The people are always super nice and accommodating, but I honestly feel like their only goal is to sell hearing aids. They even push the test drive. If I go in with a set I already own, they tell me about how much better the models are they sell. If I shop around, all I hear is how much better their clinic is than the other place and how they provide more. I even had one audiologist say, “Let me take to the manager/ owner, to see if we can get you a better deal”. I understand this is business, and they are there to make money, but I have never felt this way when visiting any other type of medical professional. It makes the whole process feel very confusing, frustrating, and shady. I’m currently trialing https://audiologyisland.com/ and have been told that they are the best