Oticon OPN - does it live up to the hype?

How that the dust has settled, does Oticon OPN live up to the hype about better understanding in noise ?

What is the consensus of opinion ?

Isn’t the real claim that they provided added comfort for the user – translating to better understanding in general?

The claim, as I understood it, is that it does not rely on directional focus in groups, leaving all incoming signals as open. I don’t think that means they are not and cannot be directional. But the claim was that it leads to better understanding in noise. I believe they said 30% better understanding over the previous model - Alta Pro.

I’m planning on trialing them soon so I’ll let you know after I do.

Ok - thanks. Look forward to the feedback.

One of the things I can tell you after wearing these for nearly 3 months is the non-directional speech-in-noise is good in theory, but in practice there are some issues. Since they amplify all speech, they don’t determine who I am speaking with. At my office, I sit across the cubicle from one person who might be on the phone and while I’m trying to converse with someone else I’m getting both voices amplified. With directional aids, I believe they amplify what you’re looking at. So in theory it’s nice to not have to look at someone precisely to focus on their voice but, I find that the OPNs are amplifying voices I’m not speaking with and this adds to my struggle with speech-in-noise. Also at work if the copy machine/printer is going, I cannot converse with someone sitting near it so they’re not exactly filtering out those extraneous noises. Since I wear open domes, this may be the noise of the copy machine just getting in naturally so not necessarily the aids’ fault. Unfortunately with my low frequency hearing loss, if I don’t use open domes/molds, I don’t get the natural mid and high frequencies that I hear well. So I would think that someone wearing a more closed mold or dome could probably answer this question better because open domes will allow for sounds to enter both naturally through the ear canal and also through the aids’ receivers.

cheers for that feedback. On the last point you make, it goes to show that the HA manufacturers haven’t worked out yet what is actually speech V ambient noise. There are all kinds of claims, but a Phonak rep that I met a couple of years ago admitted that can’t yet determine, from an incoming signal, what is speech and what is not. On the first point, I guess that means that directionality still has it’s uses, even if Oticon are going down this open signal route.

I’ve had mine for almost 3 mo. The only issue is I hear everyone in crowd at same volume. Although I am able to understand and follow the conversations. My audiologist created a setting for one on one conversations and that seems to be better. I haven’t asked a single soul during this time to repeat themselves. So I don’t know what the hype has been but I will never give these up.

Interesting. Thanks. What were your previous aids ? Did you have more difficulty with them ?

You can also check hearingtracker.com. They have hearing aid reviews there. There are 11 user reviews for the OPNs.

I’m a newbie when it comes to HAs and the Oticon OPNs are the first HAs I’ve worn. So I can’t tell you how they compare to other HAs.

I can say this: I was interested in the OPNs specifically because I’m a math professor and in class my back or side is often (usually) towards the class so that I can write on the board. The main problems that I knew I was having before my hearing was tested last April were figuring out which student had asked a question in class and understanding soft-spoken students when they were speaking to me in class. In other words, the main problem I was dealing with before HAs was in understanding speech that was clearly directed at me when I was not in a position to be looking directly at the person speaking to me.

My audi and I are continuing to tweak the settings on my OPNs, but things are quite promising at this point. It is easier to hear soft-spoken students regardless of whether I’m facing them. And I am catching more questions when my back or side is to the class and I’m understanding those questions better than before HAs. I’m still having problems pin-pointing which student is asking the question when my back or side is to the class, but as I said, my audi and I are still tweaking the settings.

I’ve had the OPN for 2 weeks now, and 5 fittings so far. The last 2 fittings were with an Oticon rep present with my audi.

Does it live up to the hype? Well, yeah, kind of. But then I think maybe they hyped it up a little more than it needs to be.

What threw me off initially was that I was stuck in the old paradigm where background noise is suppressed using mic directionality. You basically let sound through from the front using the directional mic and suppress all other sound around you. The HA doesn’t actually really know what’s speech and what’s noise, it’s just suppressing sound sources statically based on directionality.

So I was expecting the OPN to be able to suppress background noise similarly as claimed, but I didn’t see it happen. It was letting all sounds through, background noise included. Even the Oticon rep told me that it should suppress background noise, and they tried a bunch of different settings at the fitting (in order to implement the background noise reduction), it still didn’t reduce any background noise for me. It did not impress me that the rep thought it should work but could not get it to work.

The experiment I use during the fitting is simply go out to my car and turn on the fan inside the car to max level. With my old HAs, I can tell the fan noise gets suppressed as I cycle through the normal mode (fan noise suppressed a little), max NR mode (fan noise suppressed even more), and music mode (no NR on purpose, and therefore fan noise is loud).

With the OPN, there’s only 1 mode and that mode doesn’t suppress the fan noise. The audi also gave me a directional mode, but that mode doesn’t suppress the fan noise either. In fact, the directional mode adds a small low frequency floor noise that’s annoying. It’s actually the same HA floor noise I used to hear from when I was wearing analog hearing aids years ago.

BUT, I tried to just start talking to myself while inside the car with the fan on max (wished I had somebody else in the car to do the talking instead). Lo and behold, I could tell very clearly that the fan noise gets suppressed during my speech. As soon as I stop talking, the fan noise reappears. I think that’s the ahah moment for me. It looks like the OPN does suppress background noise, but ONLY if there’s another sound source competing with it (speech in this case). Again, not impressed that the Oticon rep didn’t understand this difference and sent me on a wild goose chase with all the different settings trying to make it happen.

But if you think about it, this is consistent with the new OPEN paradigm. In this paradigm it lets all sounds around you come through. I think it doesn’t really know or can actually differentiate what’s noise and what’s sound, really; at least when there’s only a single sound source available. If that happens to be what we consider “noise”, it’d still let us hear it. But as soon as there’s another sound source come through and compete, it looks like it starts to analyze both sound sources, and somehow decides what’s sound and what’s noise, then dynamically suppress the noise and enhance the sound while both sources compete.

THIS is the breakthrough here, I think. It has some analytical smart with the help of extra power/speed to figure out somehow through algorithms what’s noise and what’s speech when there are competing sound sources present. But apparently the algorithm is still not smart enough to know (like a human does) what is REAL background noise and what’s not, in order to implement a static background noise suppression. But then that’d be a subjective human decision anyway because what’s background noise to one person may not be considered background noise to another. So there’s ambiguity in trying to come up with that intelligence anyway. But it doesn’t have to decide. When there’s no competing sound sources, just let the sound through, noise included. That’s the basis of the open paradigm anyway.

So now it also makes sense to me why the marketing keeps touting that noise suppression is so fast that it can do it even between words in speech. Apparently it can do it and it does it, although it may not be apparent to you because your brain is already trying to focus on the speech and suppress the noise itself, so the HA actually just helps suppress the noise between speech for real to help your brain sort it out even more.

What this new paradigm does is to help your brain process sound more like how a normal hearing person processes sound, by letting you hear everything and let your brain learn to tune out what you don’t want to hear. The extra help only comes in when there are competing sound sources vying for your attention. In this case it will help and try to tip the favor toward better speech understanding by dynamically suppressing noise. You may end up noticing that you can understand speech better without really knowing why, because you may not notice as much that noise is being subtly suppressed because you’re too busy focusing on the speech.

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I think your understanding of this claim (better understanding of speech in noise while still opening to all incoming signals) is correct and very astute. After trialing the OPN for 2 weeks now and finally coming to an understanding about how the OPN handles noise dynamically (also effectively but subtly) as I’ve experienced for myself first hand, I think that OPN did achieve this claim. I can’t quantify whether the number is 30% or whatever. But I have good speech understanding even in a noisy environment. But what needs to be clarified is that it still remains a noisy environment when speech is not present. Just less noisy when speech is present, but you probably won’t notice the less noisy part because you’re too busy noticing the clearer speech part.

In other words, in this new paradigm, noise reduction is dynamic in an omnidirectional setup, while with the old paradigm, noise reduction is static in a unidirectional setup.

I am shopping for my first set of HAs. My audi recommended Oticon Alta2. However, I really like what I have found with the Oticon OPN HA. I ride a bicycle and I have a lot of trouble hearing cars behind me. A HA that filters road noise would not be the best fit for me. I am encouraged by what I’ve read about the OPN from the members of this forum. One major thing I’m not sure about is whether the OPN will be a good fit for me considering my degree of hearing loss in the higher frequencies. I spoke with my audi about the OPN but I’m not sure she looked at my chart.

I wear the size 85db receiver on both ears. The OPN also has the size 100 db receivers that built into custom mold that should work for your loss. Your left hearing is not too far from mine. Your right is only a little worse than mine. I think the 100 should work for your right ear and the 85 should be OK for your left ear.

Not sure why your audi recommended the Alta2 when the OPN is newer technology. But then I don’t know anything about the Alta2 anyway. But what I know is that the OPN is great for picking up sound from behind you. I also ride an electric bike and a motorcycle and traffic sound awareness is crucial and the OPN performs well in this environment.

Thanks for your comments Volusiano. I am reading them with much interest. My only thoughts at this stage is that one of your main issues is obviously background noise. I think you need to establish whether it’s noise that you should be hearing in say, quiet situations. It may be that the previous CIC model suppressed it to such an extent that it was unnatural. Ask your partner/people around you if they can hear the fan etc, and to what degree of loudness. I am aware of a little background noise, but it is not usually obtrusive, with the phonaks. Of course, when people start talking, it is a problem, as it competes with speech. If the background noise is simply too loud in quiet situations, then I think that is unusual with digital hearing aids, even the earliest models.

I don’t think the background noise is too loud for me in general with either HAs (old or new), and it’s not a deal breaking issue with me or anything like that. It’s just that I’d come to expect how background noise has been managed in the old way and I was a little thrown off on how it’s being managed differently with the new way by the OPN. So it just took me by surprise a little bit because I had the wrong expectation of it up front and thought it was not being managed by the OPN, until I understood how it’s being managed differently by the OPN. Had it been explained clearly to me by the Oticon rep then it would have helped set my expectation properly. But it seems like the Oticon rep doesn’t understand this difference either, so he continued to set the wrong expectation to me until I had to figure it out myself.

If I really want to manage background noise in a quiet environment now (meaning no speech going on), now that I understand how it works, it’d simply be just turning down the volume on the aid to keep the noise suppressed. Like if I’m driving the car with the fan on max, or on an airplane, I can just turn down on the HA volume to cut down the noise if I want.

I had similar thinking and expectation about how the OPN handles background noise, but to my surprise it doesn’t handle it like how you and I expect it to. That’s why I said it threw me a curve ball like it did.

I don’t think there’s a switch my audi missed or anything. She had an Oticon rep present in my last 2 fittings. She also had passed along my feedback (a huge part is the lack of steady state background noise reduction) to an Oticon “trainer” (is what she calls this person) who’s supposed to be an Oticon technical support specialist who trains audi on how to do programming on the OPN. If both Oticon rep/specialist can’t figure out how to get the OPN program (Genie 2?) to suppress background steady state noise like a fan, then I don’t know what else to say.

Are you wearing or trialing the OPN, Neville? If yes and you or your audi knows how to program it to reduce steady state background noise, I’d like to how what it is so that I can try it out myself. Thanks.

High speed fan in cars was/is always a problem. I can remember it in past cars being intrusive. If you can think back to when your hearing was good, you might remember that. If you look at fan reviews on Amazon for house fans, there is lots of fan noise discussion by people that aren’t HoH.

I don’t find the speech in noise functionality to work very well for me. I tried maxing out my car fan and then having a conversation and it was obvious that the fan noise was not the least bit decreased. A couple of weeks ago I was at a deli with my boss and the hum of one of the refrigerators was so loud to me. If anything I may hear worse in these situations because everything seems to be amplified by the aids. I bought through Buyhear and they adjusted this several times initially, but I find I’m still nearly deaf in noisy situations unless the person speaks loud. I have requested another adjustment kit to try to get the noise setting corrected. If I remember correctly when I had the Trax42 for a couple weeks while my Costco aids were in for repair, they seemed to handle noise like a champ.

Does anyone know if the OPNs can distinguish between music and speech? For example I was at dinner with my wife a few weeks back and the overhead speaker at the restaurant was playing a woman singing. I don’t know if the aids would know that is something I want suppressed or if they interpret the singing as speech and hence amplify that like conversation speech.

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