As I mentioned, I have a new gadget for making phone calls when wearing hearing aids, and I promised to let you know how I got on with it. The quick answer is: very well indeed!
When worn around the neck with its loop, the Artone Bluetooth Loopset, as it is called, appears as in the photo below. The actual gadget (excluding the wire) is 6 cm (2.375 ins) long. It is much smaller than I expected and is so light in weight as to be unnoticeable as I go about.
If you have already paired a Bluetooth device to some other device, then you know what is involved. If you haven’t, then I will not describe it, but simply say that it is very easy to do and takes only a few seconds. Once connected, my Blackberry and the Artone indicate the fact by continually flashing their blue lights. The Blackberry flashes once every 4 seconds or so (not too annoying as it’s usually stowed away in my handbag) while the Artone flashes every 10 seconds. I found this a little distracting at first because the light is quite bright and you catch sight of it out of the corner of your eye even if not looking at it. On the other hand, it does confirm that the devices are talking to one another and are ready for action, and now I am used to it, I quite like it!
Specifications, though boring, are important, especially battery duration. You don’t want to be out for the day worrying that the battery will run down. The Artone boasts up to 15 hours talk-time and 380 hours standby. I think that should be enough for most people, especially as there are three ways of recharging it: normal domestic 3-pin plug, car cigarette lighter plug and USB cable from your computer. Once you have completely charged it for the first time, you can keep it topped up without harm to the battery.
Once the devices are paired, incoming calls are routed to the Artone, though your phone rings as it normally does. It also rings in your hearing aids but only if these have already been switched to the ‘t’ setting. This may be a problem if you have difficulty hearing your phone ring. When the phone rings, you switch your hearing aids to ‘t’ and answer by pressing the silver button on the front of the Artone. You don’t need to touch the phone itself. When the call ends, press the silver button again to hang up. On the side of the Artone is a rocker switch for adjusting the volume up or down. I find this very handy.
Making a call is almost as simple. If your phone has a voice-command facility, this can be started by pressing the volume control button. Otherwise, you will have to take out your phone and dial in the usual way. Once you have done so, you can put the phone away as you don’t need to touch it again. Incidentally, when talking on the phone, don’t be tempted to lift the Artone to your mouth as though it were a microphone. It picks up the sound perfectly well from where it is on your chest. I did check with the first person I spoke to on the phone that she could hear me perfectly well.
I found the sound quality very good and clear. The sound is sent straight into your hearing aids and on the ‘t’ setting, normal sound reception is switched off, reducing background noise. Even so, some environments are noisy enough to cause anyone problems hearing a voice over the phone and in this case you can bump up the volume. I find the volume at maximum just a little too loud for comfort, which is good as it means I have something in reserve for really noisy conditions.
When at home or at the office, you don’t need to carry your phone around with you. It can be left somewhere safe. This is because Bluetooth has a range of up to 10 m (depending on the environment) and if a call comes in, you can answer it using just the loopset.
Are there any problems with the Artone? I have found only two. The first is the volume control. This works by increasing or decreasing the volume in discrete steps, one button press for one step. When you press the button, the sound is cut off. It’s only for a fraction of a second but if you change the volume by several steps then you will get that many sound drop-outs. You may have to ask your caller to repeat or ask the caller to wait while you change the volume. As problems go, it’s a minor one and not something that should cause anyone to hesitate about buying this device.
The short manual is written in non-native-speaker English but I had no difficulty following it. However, this is where we find the second problem or, rather, omission. This concerns the replaceable covers. My Artone came with a black cover and in the box are three others, red, silver and blue. However, there is no indication in the manual as to how you remove the present cover and as they are plastic, they could easily break. Fortunately, I am happy with the black one and probably prefer it to the others.
The Artone is available from a number of sources and I got mine from Connevans, a company I had dealt with previously. I find them very helpful and ready to give honest advice. I ordered the Artone on Monday, paying for next-day delivery, and it duly turned up on cue.
All in all, then, I am pleased both with the Artone itself and with the level of service received from Connevans. Maximum stars and brownie points all round!