Lively 2 Pro Hearing Aids

NOTE: Throughout this article, I refer to Lively and the Lively 2 Pro hearing aids. Shortly after I bought my new hearing aids, Lively joined with Jabra to become Jabra Enhance. The Lively 2 Pro model is now the Enhance Select 200. The Lively team remains intact, and the hearing aids themselves are unchanged.

I just ordered a new pair of ears.

I’ve had hearing loss for some years now. How many years is a guess, since the loss is gradual and slow, such that I didn’t even notice it at first.

I’ve written about this before in my post “Now Hear This.”

I’m at the point now that I’ve lost an entire octave at the top of my piano keyboard and understanding conversations is harder. I miss too many words and struggle to understand what’s being said. My brain hurts.

Lively 2 Pro rechargeable with charging case

And I’m far, far from alone. About 30 million of us could use a little assist in hearing, yet the majority don’t have hearing aids and aren’t even considering them. One reason is the prohibitive cost of hearing aids. On average, a pair will set you back $5,000, and it’s a rare health insurance policy that covers hearing aids (Medicare does not). Hearing aids had to be prescribed by a professional audiologist, too, which ain’t cheap.

October 2022 marks the beginning of a new era in hearing aids. The FDA has now authorized a new class of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids, which should be adequate for a lot of cases and much, much less expensive.

BEWARE cheap “hearing assists.” Legally, they can’t be called hearing aids, since that’s a recognized class of devices governed by the FDA. You can get a wide range of assists that “look” like hearing aids, but most just raise the volume. Louder doesn’t necessarily address the problem.

I’ve seen movies at an IMAX theater where the volume levels were downright painful, but I still couldn’t understand dialogue in a lot of situations. If you’re at a bar or a wedding, you know that the cacophony of voices around you makes hearing someone across the table impossible. Situational hearing varies. A good hearing aid accounts for this by dimming background voices and focusing on the voice you want to hear.

I’ve been looking at Lively. (NOTE: Lively is now Jabra Enhance. Same people, different name.) I’ve been ignoring their TV ads for a couple of years, but Wirecutter just listed them as “Best if you’re new to hearing aids.” And I like their set-up.

An online hearing test helps to identify the problems. It won’t replace a professional audiologist, but it’s a good starting point. The Lively (now Jabra Enhance) pros adjust your new hearing aids before they’re shipped, according to the results of the online hearing test, and they should make a great improvement from the first day of use.

As time goes by, I can talk to Lively audiologists, who can then adjust my hearing aids on the fly through the connected app.

With a tap, I can switch between all-around setting, crowded room (restaurant, bar), listening to music, or outdoors (filters out wind noise). Each of these quick settings has different buttons to enhance different sounds or filter them out.

A handy little 3-band equalizer is available to adjust bass, midrange, and treble.

I can also adjust each hearing aid separately. Over time, I can work with Lively audiologists to fine-tune my hearing aids to my personal hearing weaknesses.

Also, take note, I can return them within 100 days for a full refund if they don’t do the trick.

I ordered the Lively 2 Pro model (now Enhance Select 200) which tucks behind the ear, runs a wire into the open dome hearing elements inside my ear canals. A good number of various tips in large, medium, and small are included. These work via Bluetooth with the cellphone app and can even serve as streaming headphones for music and audio from my phone.

The small hearing aid tucks behind the ear, with only a wire showing.

And if you have an iPhone, these will also function as your phone headset. (For Android, I still have to use the cellphone’s microphone.)

Of course, the Pro models are rechargeable and come with a case that will recharge the hearing aids if I’m away from home. In fact, the case is good for three full charges of these hearing aids, which is plenty, even if you can’t get to an outlet. They also include cleaning and maintenance tools.

Charging cord and block included.

So. How do they work? Right out of the box, they help me hear normal conversations. Boosting the high end frequencies fills in the parts of speech that I’ve been missing. Of course, this will take some getting used to. If you wear glasses, you remember when you first had them – they could be a bit disorienting. Same with these hearing aids, which let me hear the high end that I haven’t heard in years. I would describe the sound as super-crisp. Not tinny, but sound now has an edge to it. Wood floors creak. I can hear my slippers hitting the floor with each step. My pants swish as I walk. Little things like these that I forgot existed are back in my world now.

And, of course, I can talk with my wife without the occasional “huh?” or “eh?” or “what?”

On Day Two, I left them in for almost the entire day. At times, I even forgot I was wearing them, until I crinkled a snack wrapper or made lunch with clanking dishes and the sound of an iron skillet hitting a glass stovetop. All of these sounds were previously muffled, now crisp and clear. I’m anxious to try them out in a crowded setting with loud conversations.

On Day Four I got my wish. A small family gathering with people talking over each other. I was able to listen to and understand multiple speakers at once, almost as if my hearing was not impaired. A couple of folks remarked that I was talking more than usual, actually joining in the conversation. Before, I would sit quietly and just listen. I was always able to hear voices, I just couldn’t fully understand what they were saying. That’s over. I found that switching to the “restaurant” setting on the app helps. I guess that any venue where multiple people are talking at once is going to need this “crowded bar” setting. It really makes a difference.

I just had an orientation appointment booked with a Lively audiologist. She took her time going over the operation of the hearing aids, the cellphone app, and care and cleaning of the hearing aids. At one point during the Zoom meeting, she measured the wires going into my ears and offered to send slightly longer ones. I described the sound of the high frequency sounds I was hearing (crinkling a paper bag was painful), and she sent an adjustment to me while we were talking, helped me download and install the adjustment through the app, and sounds became much better immediately. I also said that I’d be seeing a local audiologist for a proper hearing exam and she walked me through how to upload the resulting audiogram to Lively, so that adjustments can be made according to the audiogram. And, finally, if I need to reach out to Lively at any time, I can call, use the app, or simply text.

So far so good.

I’ll add to this product review over time. If you’re thinking about getting help with your hearing, see an audiologist, talk about a hearing exam. But don’t put it off like I did (for too long). It will make a big difference.

If interested, see

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ripple effects

The World Wide Web became generally available in 1993-94. This was when my family became AOLers and remained happily so for years. At that time, we had a Windows 3.1 computer with a 2400 baud modem. The sounds of that modem dialing into AOL will forever be etched in our memory. This is also when I began upgrading computers. Two upgrades, in particular, were almost miraculous: a new 14,400 baud modem made connecting to and enjoying the internet a whole lot better, but doubling the internal RAM from the typical 4MB (yes, megabytes) to 8MB was like getting a wholly new, laughably fast computer. And that extra 4MB of RAM cost over $100 at the time!

The 1990s and 2000s were decades of quick and impactful techological developments. Internet access through cable or fiber optics spurred mad growth in the web. Where “wasting bandwidth” was previously almost criminal, it was now encouraged. And just as I went through a series of digital cameras in those years, so, too, I bought a series of ever-more-capable computers and laptops.

I seem to be a fan of HP computers. Their desktops and laptops have served me well, even if I found a sudden reason to upgrade every 3 or 4 years. But things seem to have slowed lately, and there are fewer compelling reasons to buy a new computer.

So I’ve been using an HP Pavilion Slimline desktop computer (6GB memory, 1TB storage) for some time now. I bought this to be the repository and backup for the other computers in the household, as well as the anchor for the household WiFi network. That terabyte could easily handle two laptops and my daughter’s computer and still have plenty of room left over for the music library and my thousands and thousands of digital photos. I also have a networked storage drive with a 3 terabyte capacity as a redundant backup, because, as everyone with a computer knows, computers eventually fail.

I bought a 20″ Samsung monitor with that PC, and later upgraded to a 22″ Samsung. The latter had a resolution of 1440×900 resolution, which was just fine. I “processed” a lot of photos on that machine and it was up to the task – until I bought the Canon EOS 80D digital camera. This new camera spits out JPGs at a whopping 6000×4000 size and high definition video at 1920×1080. Naturally enough, I’ve been lusting after more pixels. My 15″ laptop display is 1920×1080, the big flat-screen televisions are 1920×1080, so I wanted to upgrade the monitor for my desktop. A higher resolution monitor was definitely on the wish list.

on the spur of the moment
adjective: spur-of-the-moment
on impulse; without planning in advance.
“I don’t generally do things on the spur of the moment”
synonyms: impulsively, on impulse, impetuously, without thinking, without planning, without premeditation, unpremeditatedly, impromptu, spontaneously, on the spot…

Without really thinking, I saw online and instantly ordered a Samsung 28″ (HUGE on a desk) monitor with 4K UltraHD – a native resolution of 3840×2160, or four times the number of pixels of the 1920×1080 screen on my laptop. In digital camera terms, I was going from 2 megapixels to 8 megapixels! BestBuy had it delivered the next day.

But when it arrived, I found that I had no way to connect it to my PC.

My first mistake – not checking the specs on the new monitor, especially in how it connects to a computer. This one requires either HDMI or a DisplayPort connector, neither of which my PC had. All I had were DVI connectors. A little checking told me that my PC was older than I thought, six years old, built back before people like me envisioned a 4K UltraHD monitor. I guess I ASSumed that it would use a standard old VGA connector, but I didn’t even have that! My desktop had two DVI connectors, no VGA, and for sure no HDMI. I can’t even say that my old machine was capable of sending a 3840×2160 signal to the monitor.

Rather than looking for a DVI-HDMI converter and possibly “dumbing down” the signal to this new monitor, I decided that a new PC was in order, one with HDMI out and a graphics card built for 4K Ultra HD, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

My second mistake – rushing the purchase without “due diligence.”

I picked out a cheap (read: inexpensive) new HP desktop (let’s call it the “fat line”, a hefty silver Pavilion model) which did have HDMI out. My BestBuy app told me this model was not available “within 250 miles,” so I placed the order online and BestBuy, amazingly, had it in my hands within 48 hours. Now, there’s nothing I enjoy more than setting up a new computer (okay, there are lots of things I enjoy more), and what with deleting bloatware, transferring files and updating and installing programs, and then getting the thing networked and friendly with other computers in the house, it can be an all-day event. But when I hooked up that PC to my new monster monitor, the output was GLORIOUS. My photos never looked so good.

The colors and contrast on my new monitor are stunning. Side by side with the previous monitor, the new one is just much, much better. And did I say HUGE? I have room for two or three open programs, easily. Looking at my photos on that monitor is like looking at them framed up on the wall. I can see the original JPG onscreen at 50% size, not zoomed out to 25%. The screen is 28″ diagonal, or about 25″ wide, in a widescreen 16:9 format. LED flat-screens have come a long way, and prices have dropped significantly. This model retailed at almost $400, but was on sale at BestBuy for $279.99. I HAD to buy it. I had no choice! And I don’t regret it for a moment.

There were unintended casualties, though. My old version of Adobe® Photoshop (and I mean 15 years old) appeared tiny on the big screen and the fonts were unreadable. In the end, I opted to buy the Adobe® Photography Plan, which gives me the latest edition of Photoshop, Lightroom, and much, much more for a “worth-it” $9.99/month.

My old favorite game SNOOD is a goner. This little gem dates back to the ’90s, and the cavernous spaces of the new monitor have it crawling and now unplayable. I may opt for a newer version of the game, but the old one simply won’t work on my new computer. (Still works like a charm on my laptop.)

But, then… The new PC is, indeed, a lesser, “affordable” HP model. This was my mistake, buying without really doing my homework, and the new monitor actually reveals the shortcomings of the new computer. With all of 4gig of RAM onboard, opening Photoshop and Lightroom at the same time is a huge effort and things start to crawl. On a hunch, I ordered a pair of 8gig RAM sticks to install, and increasing the memory from 4GB to 16GB speeds things up A LOT. I may end up upgrading the processor, too. It’s an AMD Ryzen 3, low on the list of processors for gamers, but fully capable of displaying my photos in 4K beautifulness. This is the newer generation of AMD processors with onboard graphics capabilities – no separate graphics card needed.

With the added RAM onboard, this new PC is more than capable of showing my photos in their best light.

And this monitor is a keeper.

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The monitor is Samsung’s UE590 28″ LED 4K UHD model in black bezel, silver stand. Highly recommended. Easy on the eyes with stunning detail.

The PC is the HP Pavilion 590-P0020 with AMD Ryzen 3 2200G processor with Radeon Vega 8 graphics, 4GB memory, 1TB hard drive, in HP’s “natural silver” finish. Unfortunately, not recommended. Kick in a few hundred more $$$ and buy a better model.

Added a Logitech K800 illuminated Bluetooth keyboard. Recommended. Good weight, wireless, illuminated black keyboard.

Added a Logitech 2.1 speaker system (2 speakers + subwoofer, model 980-001260). Recommended, and speakers look really good on the desktop. Reacts well to my software equalizer.

possible upgrades per AMD:
AMD Ryzen7-2700 (Pinnacle Ridge) 8 cores/16 threads
AMD Ryzen5-2600 (Pinnacle Ridge) 6 cores/12 threads
AMD Ryzen7-1700 (Summit Ridge) 3.0 GHz, 8 cores/16 threads
AMD Ryzen5-1600 (Summit Ridge) 3.2 GHz, 6 cores/12 threads
AMD Ryzen5-2400G (Raven Ridge) 3.6 GHz, 4 cores/8 threads (45 – 65 W)

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2nd Look: 2018 Ford Escape

US News & World Report ranks the Ford Escape 8th among Compact SUVs.

“The Escape is one of the best all-around performers in the class, with sporty handling, a firm suspension system, good steering feedback, and a composed ride on smooth roads.”

Okay, but let’s see how they compare the Escape against two others that they liked better.

“Which Is Better: Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4?
The Toyota RAV4’s middle-of-the-road performance makes the Ford Escape the more engaging SUV to drive between these two. The RAV4 delivers a comfortable ride and decent power from its lone available engine, but the Escape’s athletic handling and potent available engines set it apart. The RAV4 does offer some advantages over the Escape: It comes standard with loads of advanced safety features, and its cargo area is even larger than the Escape’s. Choosing between these two is a matter of personal preference.”

Bottom line: Escape is much more fun to drive. RAV4 is better for people who don’t like driving. Yet the RAV4 is ranked 6th, above the Escape.

“Which Is Better: Ford Escape or Honda CR-V?
The Escape has plenty of cargo space and a decent amount of passenger room, but the Honda CR-V outdoes it and is the better choice in most cases. Even taller passengers have plenty of room to stretch out in the Honda’s back row, and the its cargo area is among the most expansive in the class. Additionally, the CR-V is more fuel-efficient than the Escape, and it delivers a smoother ride. If you’re looking for an engaging ride, however, you’ll prefer the Ford.”

Bottom line: Honda has more room for big people and gets better fuel mileage. But the Escape is just so damn much fun to drive… Still, the boring CR-V is ranked No. 1.

Here’s the thing: I love (live) to drive. First and foremost, I look for a fun driving experience in any vehicle. In a compact SUV, obviously space in storage and seating is primary, but if it’s no fun to drive, I can’t live with it.

The Ford Escape is a Ford Focus dressed up as a sport-ute. It is built on the same platform with same dimensions, except that it’s about 8 inches taller. The Escape retains the Focus’ European-style handling and suspension, which is so much fun in the smaller vehicle.

The Titanium edition is the priciest version of the Escape, but well worth it. This is where you get the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine featured in the exciting Focus ST model (245 HP). You also get the upscale interior and amenities that are normally included in optional packages for the lesser versions.

  2018 Focus SE Hatchback 2019 Escape Titanium
Wheelbase 104.3″ 105.9″
Length 171.7″ 178.1″
Height 57.8″ 66.3″
Width (including mirrors) 80.5″ 81.8″
Track width (front) 61.2″ 61.5″

So, with the Titanium edition Escape, you get a really good driving experience in a vehicle with plenty of acceleration, excellent handling, plenty of cargo space, and an interior environment that’s better than my own livingroom. Plus too many other goodies to list here.


See my original review of the 2018 Ford Escape Titanium here.

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