This article is to share my current experience with some of the “latest” hearing aids, Oticon Opn 1 and Resound Quattro 9, both RIE and open dome for HF loss. I am looking for fellow feedback on the comparison of sound quality, particularly for music appreciation (in environment, not streamed), fidelity and naturalness of sound between the Opn system and the Quattro system.
I have to make a decision relatively soon, within the next week or so.
Is it within acceptable etiquette to request trying as many different ones as possible or is there a max? I’ve tried two so far and want to try another two. Is that typical??
I will be paying for these full price out of pocket without any third party help, and these will be the most expensive thing I’ll have ever purchased in my life (up front anyway), so I’ll really want to get the most suitable pair I can. Will really appreciate getting others’ experience, though fully understand that this will be a very subjective journey for each and every one of us.
Gadgets, apps, connectivity, etc. are of secondary interest - these are still very important but I am posting this primarily for feedback on sound fidelity and “naturalness” - again understand this is very subjective - but it’s still important to have your experience and input!
Short summary :
I was not entirely happy with Opn 1 despite its great marketing of having a “far faster” processor than competitors and the “Opn” concept. Being a tech-inclined person working in the field of acoustics, I was initially quite sold on Oticon’s marketing about its ability to process seemingly far more sounds faster than competitors (enlighten me - can they? or is this just the same for all the first tier HAs? i mean 64 channel processing versus what is the baseline? 32?). I am now trying Quattro 9 which I assume is not as new. I also have my eye on Opn S but my audi says it will not sound that different from Opn 1. I would still want to try it though.
Quick pros and cons:
Oticon Opn 1
- convincing marketing with the opn concept and powerful higher processing chip
- Good contact noise suppression
- FAR better looking, far lighter weight (less prone to damage this way i think) and less annoying of a fit with the 312 battery (thin profile)
- after many tuning attempts its sound-fidelity seems to improve
- makes me want to try Opn S
- strange machine noise floor sounding like a 500Hz buzz/spacey or sometimes an “s” hissy sound that is quite irritating - not sure if this is a unit defect. left unit particularly noticeable over right unit - Audi hasn’t addressed this issue other than trying to tune down loudness
- even after multiple tuning, noise suppression is inadequate for loud conditions, noise or music
- music program not really usable - there is noise, unnatural loudness and subjective distortion
- hopes for improved speech intelligibility in challenging environment hasn’t improved, but worsened, primarily by introducing a lot of new environmental noise that floods out/masks desirable speech signals. i.e., previously i could hear people as I couldn’t hear much HVAC noise and interpreted the background as being quiet. Now I cannot hear people talk because of all this HVAC noise. It’s like suddenly everything else became louder EXCEPT for people’s voices, like we installed this noise masking system everywhere and now I can’t hear anyone. In SOME cases, SOME female speech will be louder, but still difficult to clearly/easily understand without effort - which is what I’m trying to get at by spending this money!
Resound Quattro 9
- No annoying machine noise floor - yay!
- equal loudness in both ears
- subjectively sounds “better” overall - not sure why I feel this way because it is still tinny and “robot”/“machine”-sounding perhaps even slightly more so than the Opn 1
- not irkingly loud like the Opn 1 but this might be because we are adopting a better tuning strategy after trialing with Opn 1 which was too loud initially. It might also be because I am getting a bit more used to HA wear. But I can actually stand outside on the street with these without running for my life or putting on hearing protector ear muffs.
- Subjectively better music fidelity - sounds quite natural in some cases, but haven’t tested more cases yet
- Music program doesn’t work for speech.
- Poor contact noise suppression - i keep hearing my own hair shuffling at the back of my ears, and glasses shifting is highly irritating. Cannot lie down with these. Things have to be placed very gently or it will make jarring sounds
- Poorer form factor and appearance - not as elegant and modern looking as Oticon Opn, including parts and accessories.
- Uncomfortable fit - Larger, notably heavier, and worse fit behind my ears. Get a bit of a headache after extended use from the pressure against my head. Uncomfortable receiver tip even though it is smaller than the Opn open RIE.
Does anyone here have experience with both Opn 1 and Quattro 9? Or Otion versus Resound in general? Which one did you ultimately go with, and why?
Welcome your feedback and thanks for reading!!
Long version with lots of experiential details:
I am an acoustician and my work requires critical listening. I thought I had been coping very well up till now. In fact I’m debating whether I need such a high end device or if I should switch to Strategy B and go with the lowest prices HA I need as a barebone fallback tool, primarily for atypical speech in challenging environments. For now I am sticking with strategy A which is the path i’m on: going all out for the best and latest I can afford.
Part of this exercise is also determining how much real hearing benefit I would get with the various types of HA I am trying, and getting the best cost-effectiveness ratio. I also understand it is good for my brain to regain those signals again.
I am quite young to have my type of hearing loss based on the typical hearing loss stereotype. My brother also has hearing loss, though he suffers a completely different kind, but he gave me the courage, contextual info, and guidance to even try the HA and be an informed consumer, so a big thanks to him for getting my feet in the water!!
I have a deep plunge in the high frequencies (dive from normal level or zero dB loss starts about 2500Hz and goes steep down into severe loss beyond 7000 Hz).
I am also an amateur musician and have had subjectively “good ears” all my life (picky ears when it comes to music and sound in general, despite the high frequency hearing loss) thus it was difficult to come to terms with the reality of my hearing loss condition. I have been generally able to cope with it well and have relatively good ears considering the condition, until very recently when I have to work with VERY soft spoken, and highly accented speech on a regular basis.
I have had a lot of trouble with accented speech and speech in noisy environments. I would get annoyed or even angry thinking people were mumbling and purposely soft-spoken. I also notice that even in noisy environments, softer-spoken people would consistently speak at 3-6 dB below background noise level (where one’s voice would still be audible to a normal hearing ear, but not easily intelligible). Even when people raised their voices, this wouldn’t help as it would generally be just at or slightly above background noise level. I still could not understand them, and as they got louder they just got even more unclear. For me to understand them easily, they would need to be 5 to 10 dB above background and speak slower if they have a heavy accent. That requires significant effort all around and puts a huge strain on relationships. In other words, for HA to work for me, they have to not only augment the speech signal they need to really really reduce the bg noise. Or, I am just asking HAs to do what they aren’t really supposed to do, and the difficult situations I am perceiving are in reality, difficult for normal hearing as well. This is a possibility.
Another condition that irritated me before HA was when I cannot understand female presenters in a large conference room, thinking they were poor presenters. Perhaps they weren’t projecting their voices enough, but it probably was not THAT bad for people with normal hearing.
Do normal hearing people have difficulty with soft spoken folks and accented speech???
At a famous opera house in a famous city, I had once thought the architectural acoustics was poor because of very poor speech intelligibility of the performers. When I complained of it, a few other people who overheard me instantly complained of the same. Thinking back, I’m not sure if the opera house actually was difficult to understand speech in (due to architecture making the sound muddy), or if all of us who complained had some degree of hearing loss.
Anyway, finally realizing these issues were at least partially due to the HF loss was quite enlightening for me.
I started trying Oticon Opn 1 about 1.25 months ago with very high hopes, thinking I’ll instantly be able to understand every accented and soft-spoken colleague and no longer needing to sit in the front row for lectures. Because my hearing in all other bands is still very good and I have very good coping and speech comprehension mechanisms in general (100% speech comprehension unaided during hearing test + good at general guessing), the hearing aids’ initial tuning (which was already dialed down from my prescription to allow for beginner’s comfort) made things way too loud and subjectively really noisy for me, and thus worsened, rather than improved comprehension.
Upon putting on the aids, speech was quite tinny and robotic (machine-sounding) for me. Audi and I tried to tune it down a bit to mitigate this condition. The tinniness that tinges everything, particularly speech, improves sometimes with different tuning, but will resurface with some other tuning, and resurfaced again later when i switch to Resound.
Unfortunately for the first month at least, with Opn 1 my speech comprehension declined whenever there was any bit of background noise. I can hear a LOT more noise in the environment, so even our typically quiet office became noticeably noisy for me, while the speech signals mostly remained at the same level; in other words, speech got drowned out or “masked” with the new influx of noise. Urban traffic-filled streets and restaurant environments became jarringly loud and unbearable, and I find myself losing even more ability to comprehend speech. At noisy events, I went from sometimes being a little left out of the loop unaided at a party, to becoming totally immobilized and astounded from the intense cacophony at loud gatherings with the HAs on (though already volumed-down). My noise sensitivity worsened and I kept turning down the volume on my HA or muting it altogether, sometimes ending up catching myself having a great conversation while the HA is on mute, but unable to hear or concentrate when the HA is on. I met with my audi regularly over this time frame and we tuned it down about 4 times.
Throwing in a bit of the positives before i continue with critical feedback -
The best improvement I got was ability to naturally pick up bird chirps. That’s delightful. I could hear some bird chirps unaided but they weren’t so loud and prominent and thus I hadn’t noticed them. Now I notice them and am surprised at how active birds are around me. Also, whenever I was able to not get distracted by the negative aspects, I was able to begin appreciating that little “infill” the HA was doing for me where I could hear a fuller range of the sound from things. like the ringing/shrilly vibration sounds from metal or porcelain things touching. Door knobs. Clicky sounds, water running in old high pressure piping. The highest notes on my piano sounds louder and sharper with a gentle touch instead of just a dull knock needing much force. People’s typing in the office became much “louder” and prominent. I can hear high frequency reflections in a room when the room has hard reflective surfaces.
Back to the critical observations.
I still have difficulty with people’s speech especially soft-spoken male voices (since their voice range isn’t in my loss profile). So I don’t think my hearing comprehension improved.
Another frustrating observation with the Opn 1 was that the Opn 1 I was using (i think it was brand brand new!) had a strange machine noise floor, a buzzy electronic white noise “spacy” sound (particularly around 500Hz ish), especially noticeable whenever there is a traffic or HVAC/equipment noise source and the HAs are trying to amplify it. The left side sounded louder, at least 1.5db - 3dB louder than the left side with this weird machine noise. I’m not sure if this was a unit defect, it would be about 1-2 dB over “silent” conditions but is very annoying (a side note on dB - typically people in sound-related professions, including my own, say 3 dB is normal perceivable difference in sound level, but with trained ears, a quiet environment and specific sound signal types, people can hear 1 to 1.5 dB difference. So my ears are quite sensitive, from working in sound-critical environments, training to listen to different frequency sounds, and using calibrated sound measurement devices all the time).
Because of this weird machine noise floor, I would neurotically keep switching between mute versus “on” to try to compare the difference between on and off status of the HA, and trying to “quantify” the “benefits/improvements” I’m getting. Most of the time I end up noticing the machine noise floor and getting annoyed at it. Imagine turning the radio on with this white noise of electronics being “on”, but not amplifying any sound or music - that’s what it sounds like to me.
As mentioned I had 3 or 4 tunings at the Audi. She maxed out the noise suppression function, and tuned down the “normal” output level, while still trying to maintain adequate output where I need it most, in the higher frequencies 2000Hz+. After the last tuning, the normal volume was no longer as noisy and unbearable for typical working and home conditions. I do walk around on the streets a lot and use public transit, which is noisy. So, that is the most terrifying noise environment for me with HA. On the urban main streets I have to use ear muff hearing protectors to avoid uncomfortably loud conditions while I am wearing hearing aids (especially with trucks that have metal parts clanking and squealy wheels). This then causes me to have a lot of gadgets to have to wear and bring and manage (I typically wear a UV sun-visor, and wear glasses, and have very narrow behind-ears-space, so i have very limited ears and head real estate now with the hearing aids, glasses, sunhat, and the hearing protective ear muff – all a very ridiculous image.)
On a side note, I am also trying IQbuds Boost, at least for my commute. These are listening devices (like headphones/ear buds) with high sound fidelity and sound quality for listening from playback devices, AND have the option to either block out outside noise or to let in outside noise with augmented frequencies customized to your hearing profile intended for speech augmentation (it does a personal hearing scan for you). I was hoping maybe my level of hearing loss can be helped just by a hearing amplifier like this rather than a high end hearing aid. (Note that half a year before all of this I have tried “the bean”, an over the counter sound amplifier, and that did not work for me). Anyway hearing aids are far more sophisticated than the non-prescriptive hearing assist/amplifying devices. Price difference is 1:10+ ratio, $600 vs $7500 cdn.
I also took the Opn 1 out to a symphony concert. The dynamic range (meaning the softest versus the loudest sounds) of the music performance was really wide and moved between loud and soft extremely quickly; whenever it got loud quickly before I can adjust my HA, I would feel like I am going deaf from my HAs because it all got just so so unprecedentedly loud. And because the loudness would shock me, I wouldn’t be able to hear the soft parts immediately follow, and would try to turn on/unmute my HA again… It was a strange virgin concert with HAs (I am an avid classical concert goer and that was the first time I had HA in concert). I was frantically fumbling with my hearing aids through the concert, trying to lower volume or mute when I anticipated things were gonna get really loud, and then try to turn it back on when things got really soft, and also was trying to compare the no-HA vs HA conditions, and generally just being really busy with them. I felt like I could enjoy the music, but couldn’t avoid feeling it all sounded a bit “electronic.” Also the manual controls obviously were quite slow and laggy compared to real-time live music!! I asked the Audi afterwards she confirmed that for loud sounds the HA should technically not be amplifying any more. But sound occurs in very specific bands and so collectively there was still too much amplification even if some loudest bands weren’t getting amplified.
The main impression in my first few moments or days of each wear/ each tuning was that things sounded quite tinny. Audi would tune it so it was okay at her quiet office then when I leave her office it would get bad again. I would get surprising cat-call type whistles from merely blowing off dust on something, or get spooked off my feet when I flush the toilet or use anything metal, or wince from our old house’s squeaky taps. Under good conditions, after half a day to a few days, that intensity with the squeaks and tinniness (robot voice) would subside, not sure if it was my brain or the HA’s own magic inner workings since after all, the Opn is supposed to have the most powerful computer and advanced software.
After a few days from the 4th tuning, I think i began to like and get attached to the Opn 1. I think using the ear muffs on the streets or just not wearing HA in loud environments (and using hearing protection) really help too. I am still unconvinced I have any help in understanding heavily accented speech, and I still do poorly in loud restaurants with multiple speech circles going on. I feel subjectively that I actually do worse with the HA than being unaided in such conditions. Previously I would be able to at least hear people who were close to me. But with the HAs, I get so overwhelmed with the intensity of all the background noise that I wouldn’t understand ANYONE. My attention gets suckered into fighting the jarring, overwhelming cacophony and loudness of everything.
Because of this I am hesitant to have to drop 7000 ~ 8000 ($CDN) on them… yet.
I just swapped the Opn 1 for the Resound yesterday. While the Resound also has tinny and “artificial/electronic” sounding higher frequencies, it wasn’t as jarring to me as the Opn. And best of all it didn’t have the 500Hz machine noise floor white noise/'spacey" sound. I practiced playing classical piano with the Resound today on the music program (too bad didn’t get to do too much of that while I had the Opn1) I think I am able to adjust my piano-playing to avoid it becoming too “tinny” - I could play softer and have it sound great. Because of the absence of the machine noise that was present in the Opn which distracted me, with the Resound I am able to focus on relearning the sounds I hadn’t been able to hear before. Even if things sound slightly artificial, it didn’t frustrate me as much to use them. I can again hear the metallic shrill sounds of the piano and of brass instruments. When unaided, my piano had sounded to me more “wood-like,” a bit “duller,” smoother, more mellow, and more comforting, — not as brilliant, metallic, energizing, and dynamic as with the HAs on.
I will look for opportunities to take Resound to boisterous restaurants and events to see how they work there. Also will need to really test Resound with listening to people talk, like soft-speakers and accented speakers.
I am learning to appreciate HAs.
So far, I am quite torn - Opn 1 has much better form factor (it is far prettier and sleeker in every way than the Resound), is lighter and thus easier to maneuver, fits better behind my ear (tho both don’t fit that well and fight for space behind ears with my glasses - the Resound is worse), has far better contact noise suppression, a nicer phone clip, and more comfortable in-ear piece. The con is its strange machine noise and a bit unnatural high frequency interpretation at times. I would want to try the feedback suppression and contact noise suppression of the Opn S. I also hope perhaps there was a defect with that pair I tried on, or the weirdness, loudness and awkward sounds could be further helped by tuning.
The Resound doesn’t sound as obtrusive. The Audi tuned it to something similar to my last tuning with the Opn 1 - so I am assuming the tuning isn’t the issue here. The Resound doesn’t have that weird white machine noise. Amplified higher frequencies are noticeable and tad artificial but tolerable and slightly more natural than Opn1 to the point where I can more often forget it than I forget the Opn 1. With the Opn 1 I will forget I’m wearing them physically due to form factor and weight; Resound i can forget them because environments sound more natural but the form factor will irritate me. Resound has terrible contact noise also and i constantly hear my hair and my eyeglasses whenever I have the slightest movement. This also makes lying down very noisy so I cannot wear them when lying down.
I like the Resound app better in terms of program control.
Resound has a bit more lag than Opn when it comes to controls and connection. This takes getting used to. Overall both HA contols have some lag so it is not possible to time things to sync perfectly with real world. Best if it’s all done by internal processing and no manual work is necessary to circumvent the whole lag issue. and that’s what I had hoped to achieve with Opn’s faster processor but in this case I’m not sure if either are up to par.
I have written long enough and so if you have made it this far down, thanks for your time.
Look forward to reading and participating more here.