Hearing and soft speaking voices and health issues


There was a time when I could sit in a meeting, or a lecture while carrying on a conversation with other persons near me and never miss a thing in any. And I could listen in on conversations going on across the table or behind me. As things began to deteriorate I had ignore one and focus on the other. Simultaneity was gone. Then I found I could no longer isolate and competing voices of sufficient volume became noise that I could no longer deal with. It kept me from hearing anything but jumbled noise.


I feel that way now too


This is a huge area that is open for education. I feel like I tell family members day in and day out that the effects of hearing loss are not simply that everything is softer, and yet they are constantly surprised. There is also a significant population of people with normal hearing who have various levels of speech-in-noise difficulty, and it is seems to be a common outcome of concussion that tends to be dismissed.

I’d like to see more public discussion of the effects of hearing loss generally, more public recognition of the value of good acoustics and reduced noise pollution, an increase in restaurants and other social settings that are communication-friendly, and for goodness sakes a reduction in the drive towards open-concept office spaces.


Again, respectfully, yes and no. Yes it does in the sense that it balances out the soundscape and filters out the noise ONLY while speech is going on. But the almost instantaneous second that speech stops, the noise is there for you to hear.

You can define noise filtering at many levels. Seems like your definition of noise filtering is that any kind of processing is considered noise filtering. My definition of noise filtering is that as long as I still hear every sound there is around me when there’s no speech, then it’s not noise filtering.

Maybe if we can be clearer and not say noise filtering, but use the words noise blocking and speech cleaning, then we can have a better discussion about how the OPN is different in a more convergent fashion.

The bottom line is this. When I first started wearing the OPN, I was GREATLY annoyed by having to hear all kinds of sounds around me, because I was so used to the noise blocking done by all my previous hearing aids. I was also overwhelmed in noisy places as well due to all the noises I wasn’t used to hearing before.

My audi had NO idea how the OPN is different so she never set my expectation up properly. She even had the OPN sales rep attend my fitting because I complained to her that I still heard all the noise despite all her adjustments, but he was clueless as well. This is the part where I chuckle because people on this forum seem to give Oticon too much credit for clever marketing. Even their own sales rep is clueless.

I was almost set to return the OPN because they weren’t blocking out the noise like I was used to expect, and I was even led on with false expectation by my own audi. But I decided to educate myself and read up on it because I couldn’t believe that such a new and premium priced hearing aid could be so lacking. So people on this forum can accuse Oticon of clever marketing all they want, but it’s because of their explanation of the open paradigm and their white paper explanation of how their speech cleaning is done that I came to a proper understanding of what to expect of the OPN and set myself up for a positive adaptation experience.

While I agree that the OPN does do a lot of things to help with my hearing (otherwise why pay a premium for it?), no audi can tell me that I didn’t have to go go through my own brain hearing adjustment phrase to get used to hearing ALL the sounds again, and get used to learning to filter out the noise and focus on the speech, because that’s what I had to do through my own personal bonafide experience.


Good lord.


I’d wondered about that very thing! I wore the Opns for almost a year before trading them in for my current Phonak Audeo B-Directs. Try as I might, I simply could NEVER EVER hear speech in anything but a totally quiet setting. Maybe there IS a brain/hearing connection that I was not able to train.

It also irks me that Oticon is always beating its chest about “brain hearing” and “natural just-like-normal-hearing-folks-type hearing”. For folks like ME who are simply unable to distinguish what anyone is saying around me when wearing Opns, it made me feel like a dumb donkey. I think ultimately, hearing is not unlike art: what appeals to a person is highly individual.

By contrast, with my Phonaks, and - especially when streaming - I hear better than folks who are not streaming. Now if I could just get BTE aids to work this good in super noisy places where I’m not able to stream into my aids …

Well, life would be GRAND! :slightly_smiling_face:


This what I am expecting from all of my reading


That is the key. You found a brand of HA that works for you in the majority of situations. I know there’s been lots of dialogue here on the technology of Opn vs other HA manufacturers, and given the MANY people here who swear by Opns I can’t help but think there’s something physically different about my own brain/hearing connection.

I’ve been told that I have nerve-type deafness that also affects my balance. So perhaps it is this same nerve path that is responsible for my brain being incapable of “re-learning” how to hear speech in noise?

It’s just a HOLY GRAIL for me: find the optimum pair of aids that actually emphasize speech frequencies to overpower ambient noise. Instead, nearly all aids do just the opposite, and many of us find ourselves struggling to distinguish what’s being said in that relatively narrow spectrum of speech frequencies in a SEA of ambient noise.


And if you’re at a table in a room full of tables and all the ambient noise is others talking how is it that only the individual with whom you are conversing gets “cleaned” so to speak?

It seems to me that it would be a particularly difficult task for a hearing aid to discern between someone directly across from you with whom you’re speaking and a person next to them taking to the person next to you.

Hold on a second. In the first quote you indicated that the aid was filtering, cleaning, blocking, whatever and here you say that your brain is doing the filtering. And if you’re hearing all the sounds only when no one is speaking why does that need filtered? Ambient noise is exactly that, noise. What is the benefit of hearing it?
Ambient noise is nothing but a loud droning in the background that can be ignored until it interferes with hearing the people you want to hear. The OPN is processing in order to make speech in noise intelligible. Speech is enhanced and noise is muted. Substitute whatever word you prefer instead of muted, nothing is changed.


Nothing I said above should be taken to mean that the OPN is not a fine instrument that is very effective for some people.


You brought up a good point, Mark. I don’t think that I ever said that ONLY the individual with whom you’re conversing gets “cleaned”. I only said speech in front gets cleaned. So you’re right, if there is another table behind the speaker you’re trying to hear talking loud enough to catch your attention, not only the speech of YOUR speaker, but the speech of the other person whom you don’t want to hear, both get “cleaned”.

The same if there are two people sitting in front of you, one is conversing with you, and the other is conversing with somebody else at your table. Both of their speeches will get cleaned. This is the part where your brain hearing has to learn to focus on the person you want to hear and ignore the other person next to them but not conversing with you, because like you said, no hearing aid can help you discern the difference. On top of that, no hearing aid can predict when and whom you want to listen to. One minute it can be the front person on the left, the next minute it’s the front person on the right. Only your brain can do the choosing and picking.


This is my last post on it. There is considerably more to hearing loss than damaged ears. I can still hear a male voice well enough to easily converse one on one without my aids. No aids no problem. But add in another voice or two and I’m in dire straights. The open paradigm with its brain hearing schtick may be effective for those that have no trouble isolating voices but is meaningless to me. I need as narrow a focus as possible and as much environmental muting of noise as is possible in order to hear in complex environments. “Brain Hearing” is a marketing slogan that sounds good to those for whom it is effective,


The benefit of hearing ambient noise is that what is noise in one moment can be desired speech the next moment. You may be at a restaurant and listening via beam forming to the person in front of you and all of a sudden your waiter approaches from behind asking how everything is. The moment the waiter speaks up, it becomes desired speech and not part of the babble and ambient noise in the back anymore.

To address the second part that I put in bold above, the difference is that noise is muted only very quickly while the speech is cleaned of this noise while speech is going on. But the instance the speech stops, the noise returns. So it’s as if the noise never left. When I first started wearing the OPN, the focus in my brain was too much on the noise, and I was so overwhelmed by it that my brain didn’t know how to focus to find the speech in this overwhelming̣̣ noise. Over time, I (or my brain) learned to tune out the noise and find the speech. And when I found the speech, it’s already cleaned up by the OPN for me, so I have an easier time understanding it.

Jjust like you said above, “ambient noise is nothing but a loud droning that can be ignored until it interferes with hearing the people you want to hear”. In the case of the OPN, it continues to be a loud droning all the times, but when there’s speech in front, the OPN prevents it from interfering with that speech.


Mark I have for some time now switched my Alta Pros to the music program, and I have been able to switch between conservatives in the less noisy cafes that I go to I have to also say I live in a retirement community so we by our nature are not as loud nor or the places to eat and meet as loud. But I for one do better with the music program over the default or speech in noise program I have. Now I do not have the OPN yet but will tomorrow afternoon. Then I will make my own mine up to what works or not. I will have 90 day to make my decision.


This was a much better explanation (much more accurate) than the previous one in which you suggested that the brain was doing everything better than any machine ever could, and that people just needed to be reminded of that. Calmed me right down.


I wholeheartedly agree that the open paradigm doesn’t work for everyone. I think it only works effectively for people who still have enough wide dynamic range left in their hearing to be able to discern differences and subtleties in nuances between varying sounds. Even for folks with enough dynamic range left in their hearing, there may still be other physical aspects of the hearing impairment that will limit their ability to make discerning differentiation.


If you read my post above you see that I could carry on multiple conversations. I could listen to a lecture, converse with someone next to me and listen in on others in the vicinity all at once. There is no hearing aid that comes close to restoring what I’ve lost. I don’t think it’s HA correctable. Something else is going on.

A voice from the back or side can get my attention but I’ve have no idea what they’ve said. And in most restaurants the waitress/waiter approaches the table before speaking.


Thank you for this one time endorsement. I’ll take whatever I can get from you because I highly respect your expert knowledge in the field.

What Mark was asking highlighted the fact that only the brain make the split decision on what to focus and what to filter out when there’s clear contention. No machine can read the patient’s mind to know what they want to hear. So if the machine has to make assumptions to do the filtering for you, those assumptions may come with undesirable trade-offs. THAT’s what I was trying to say. But if I didn’t say it well, then I apologize.


Dude, I agree with you all the time. :laughing: Maybe disagreements just make for more salient memories. I do get my back up when I think I am being condescended to, which I shouldn’t because I think I read it where you don’t mean it.

There is a continuum of ability in speech in noise such that one person might need a -3 dB signal-to-noise ratio while another may need a +10 dB signal-to-noise ratio. So if a signal is -4 dB and a hearing aid can give a 3 dB boost, that will be huge for the first person and their residual ability to process the sound will be more than enough to jump from nearby conversation to nearby conversation, but it will be useless for the second.

(Unrelatedly, but it just popped into my head, children with ADHD tend to have speech in noise deficits but the source of the problem is presumably not in the auditory system but in the attentional system. But perceptually, I wonder how similar it feels.)

Oticon did a cute little demonstration when I was at their research center on putting electrodes into the ear canal to measure attention. They outputted the wearer’s the hearing aid audio to the audience and asked them to call out “man” or “woman” as the user focussed on a video of a man and a woman talking. The attended speaker’s voice jumped out quite robustly. In the end, they were using an eyetracker and not electrodes, and it was just a demo of how the electrode MIGHT work if they could get them to. . . work. But before the curtain was pulled back, the demo felt like magic.


The two most recent, current hearing aids I am familiar with do that, with different degrees of success. The Costco KS8 (Signia NX 312) and the Phonak Brio 3 (Phonak Audeo B90) have several automatic environments they recognize and each environment has its own settings in the software. You can make custom adjustments to these settings.

So when there is general sound, you get that. When there are voices then there may be some noise reduction, depending on what competing sounds are there. The Phonak has a comfort environment, a noise environment, and a speech in loud noise environment and it switches and adjusts as needed, instantly, as the soundscape changes and evolves.

When voices stop the noise reduction stops.

An Oticon white paper is certainly not going to admit how advanced the competition is and I wouldn’t expect them to.

We all know a company white paper is not comparing their products to their competition’s latest and greatest, but to some un-named A, B, and C, which are probably a few generations old.