The best way to make sure that a hearing aid sounds good is to test it… and test it … and test it … and test it … thousands of times. But whose job is it to create and test the sound that comes out of your hearing aids – and how is it done?
That job belongs to the Widex Research and Development team – a group of engineers who work tirelessly to ensure that the “Widex Sound” is the most natural hearing aid sound around.
The listening test
Jens Peter Holmegaard is one of the faces behind the Widex sound. He’s a hearing aid research and development engineer who has been designing Widex hearing aids for 7 years.
We sat down with Jens and asked how he and his colleagues make sure that sound from our hearing aids is as true to real-life as it can possibly be.
And the answer is simple: he listens.
He listens to everything – from speech, to music, to the sound of a microwave. It’s Jens’ job to make sure that the sounds of your everyday life are perfectly replicated by your hearing aids.
“Our library of sounds includes everything from water running in the sink, to pork chops frying, to birds singing,” says Jens. “They’re all sounds that have characteristics that are important to the hearing aid user.”
But listening to those sounds once isn’t enough. With every small tweak or change comes a new round of testing – which means listening to those sounds hundreds or even thousands of times.
“I become very familiar with those sounds,” says Jens. “They’re often not sounds I want to hear when I get home.”
And it’s not just everyday sounds – it’s music too. A favorite test song at Widex is Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” because of its range of tones and pitches. It also has a steady bass line and a repetitive chorus – all good for testing purposes.
Creating the Widex sound
To find out more about how Widex hearing aids get their true-to-life sound, it’s important to take a step back to where the whole process begins. Developing a new hearing aid can often take five or more years and it all starts with the experiences and wishes of existing hearing aid users which are gathered and transformed into ideas for new products at the engineers´ drawing board.
For example, Widex got the idea to develop its audibility extender after realizing that some hearing aid users were having difficulty hearing upper frequency sounds. The extender moves these sounds to a lower frequency region where it is easier to hear them.
After the brainstorming phase, ideas are scheduled for development. That’s where the sound library comes in. As features like the audibility extender are created, rounds of testing begin. Sounds like birdsong, bells, and timers are used to test upper frequency sounds that the audibility extender helps hearing aid users to hear.
“It gives us a frame of reference for the hearing aid feature we are developing,” says Jens. “We listen to how this feature helps the sound in real-life situations and tweak it to make it sound as natural as possible.”
The final test
After a feature is developed, the technology is added to the physical hearing aid. But that’s not where the story ends. Hearing aids are then tested again by specially-trained sound expert who make sure that the technology is working correctly.
Hearing aids are then produced and shipped to your hearing professional, who will program them to fit your particular hearing loss.
Which hearing aid features have Widex developed over the past years? Here are just a few of the ones found in our devices:
Audibility Extender – The Audibility Extender helps people with high frequency hearing loss to hear upper frequency sounds by moving these sounds to a lower frequency region where it is easier to hear them. The upper frequency sounds are important for hearing the “softer” sounds like /s/ and /t/ in women´s and children´s voices and high-pitched sounds like the “ping” of the microwave.
Telecoil – A telecoil is a small coil inside your hearing aids. The coil works as a small receiver which picks up signals from a loop system that acts as an electromagnetic field. Hearing aids with an activated telecoil can convert this electromagnetic field into a sound signal. Only the signal from the loop system’s microphone is amplified, and background noise is shut out.
Speech Enhancer – The Speech Enhancer is different from simple noise reduction systems in that it doesn´t just dampen noise – it also amplifies speech. When we listen to a sound, we are rarely in doubt as to whether it is speech or noise. The Speech Enhancer in modern hearing aids is able to distinguish the two in much the same way as our brains do – by using the fact that speech consists of a number of varying sound components that follow each other at brief intervals.
If you would like to listen to the latest hearing aids for yourself then why not book in with Henley Hearing Centre, Oxford and test them for yourself, with no obligation. Call us on 01494 765144.
People with single sided deafness (SSD) – those who are not able to hear in one ear – can face a number of challenges, such as missing out on speech coming from one direction, and a lack of stereo hearing that reduces the perceived quality of sound. The main issue, however, is that people with SSD have reduced speech intelligibility. This is due to several reasons: the inability to separate background noise from the signal of interest, the lack of binaural summation effect, and difficulties hearing the signal of interest coming from the side of the dead ear.
As with hearing impairment in general, SSD may lead to considerable lifestyle implications. Repeatedly missing out on conversation or finding communication especially challenging and energy consuming in particular situations, heightens the risk of withdrawal, which may affect work, family and social life.
Widex CROS has been developed to meet the needs of people with single sided deafness. Widex CROS picks up sound from the side with the deaf ear, and sends it wirelessly to a receiving hearing aid on the better ear. The Widex CROS is offered in the slim design Fashion model. This allows the user to adjust the volume and turn off transmission. Due to the WidexLink technology that’s used for transmitting sound to the receiving hearing aid, Widex CROS has a long battery life. The state-of -the-art speech understanding is delivered using the DREAM platform, which has already proved to be extremely successful with our patients. All Dream hearing aid models – in all price points can be used as receiving hearing aid.
I have been looking forward to this hearing aid for a while. I feel it will be useful to have an alternative to the proficient Audeo CROS from Phonak, which is currently the only practical option for patients with single sided deafness. I have had great results from treating unilateral hearing losses this year and if the performance matches the response that I have had from my current Widex Dream patients, it will definitely be a huge success. For me the improvement in battery life is a significant patient benefit.
As part of our continuing commitment to quality standards, we are currently looking for patients with single sided deafness who would be willing to trial the new hearing aid for us. We will be conducting clinical trials from January and require patients who have SSD to take part, it is not essential that you already wear a CROS/BiCROS system but it would be useful when making comparisons. If you have untreatable hearing loss in one ear (SSD) and you would like more information about Widex CROS or would like to take part in the study then please contact Leon Cox on 01494 765144.
Dream – the new hearing aids from Widex – promise to deliver three things: more sound, more words, and to be more personal. But what exactly does this mean? And is it the right match for your needs? Patients are always looking for the best digital hearing aid, for the best performance in background noise, for the best sound quality, for natural hearing and comfort. According to my patients the results and the performance is exceptional. The Widex Dream 440 seems to stand head and shoulders above other premium aids in comparison tests. Almost all of my patients are premium level patients and therefore demand the best diagnostic service, precision fitting and quality hearing aids. So far no one has been disappointed. In objective testing conducted in our practice, patients performance on speech tests and speech in noise tests were drastically improved when fitted with the Widex Dream 44o hearing aids. We are offering free trials and demonstrations on the Widex Dream 440. We are confident that this hearing aid will out perform your existing aids and our expert fitting process will surpass our competitors, that until the end of November we are offering free hearing tests (usually £45) and free hearing aid trials to anyone interested in the Widex Dream 440.
To book a hearing test and free Widex Dream 440 hearing aid trial call 01494 765144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today!
We have finally got around to starting the hearing aid and tinnitus information blog. By connecting to our blog you can find information on hearing loss, hearing aids, technological advancements from Widex, Unitron, Phonak, Oticon, GN Resound, Starkey, Siemens and Bernafon hearing aids. Learn about changes in audiology and clinical practices. Find out about what Chalfont Hearing are doing in Buckinghamshire, London and Hertfordshire.