It’s not a giant break-through in programming. But it’s a very different approach from traditional HA approach. And this new approach is only possible because they now finally can build a fast enough processing platform to support it.
Like MDB suggested, you should go through the Oticon forum and read through the threads in there. That’d be the best way.
But I can give you the elevator pitch on it since I’ve been wearing it for 3.5 months, and I’ve also worn the more traditional type HAs for over 20 years. Simply put, all HAs help you hear better, that’s all the same. But traditional HAs help you understand speech better in noisy environment by blocking out sounds around you and beam form to the sounds in front of you. That way you hear less surrounding distraction and can focus on what you want to hear better in front. But this comes with a price. Sometimes you want to hear more (or all) sounds around you, but directional beam forming isolates you to the front only.
The OPN takes a very different approach. It says you should hear everything around you. So it doesn’t block out any sound. It may analyze and balance, etc, but it lets all sounds through. So how do you manage noise? It says let the brain manage surrounding noise. That’s how normal hearing people do it. They say the brain can learn to tune out the noise and focus on speech (or whatever they want to hear), if normal hearing folks can do it, so can hearing challenged folks. With this approach, you don’t have to live with the trade-off mentioned above (sounds around being blocked).
So you say then how is it better than the traditional HAs? Surely you can also set traditional HAs to hear everything just the same (like in music mode). Well, the difference is that it still does help reduce noise, but in a VERY different way. It doesn’t reduce noise by blocking out surrounding sounds like traditional HAs do. It reduces noise by identifying what is speech, produce a noise model from the sounds behind and on the sides, then use this noise model to clean up the speech in front. Kinda like how headphones do noise cancellation, but much more complicated than that. You can search one of my posts that explains this in more details if interested in the HOW.
The end result is that the speech muddled with noise in front of you is cleaned up to provide more clarity to help you understand it better. But you still hear everything else around you. So you still need to train your brain to tune out the noise and focus on this speech. But the speech is cleaner.
The big hoopla is that the noise reduction approach, or more correctly, the noise-cleaned-from-speech approach (because it doesn’t really reduce overall steady state noise) by the OPN is not possible unless you have a very fast processing platform to support this strategy which Oticon now finally has been able to build in their new Velox platform. Why fast? because 100 times per second over and over, it has to go in and scan the sound environment and analyze and balance and clean up noise from speech, all in 16 separate frequency bands. If it tries to do it any slower, the noise and speech long term average will look the same and it can’t separate them out. Kinda like looking through a microscope, the more magnification, the more details you see. Except in this case, the faster it does it, the more different speech and noise look, different enough to become separable.
With this, you no longer have to live with the old trade-off and you get to hear everything. And still understand cleaned up speech in noisy places, too. In a way, this approach brings you closer to how normal hearing people do it. They hear everything, and they can still manage to use their brain to sort out/tune out/process the sounds they hear.
Is it better than HAs that use the traditional approach? Not necessarily. Is it different? Yeah, for sure it’s very different. Which approach is better? Only you can decide. But if you’re used to wearing the traditional type HAs, you’ll need more time to retrain your brain to adjust to the OPN. The OPN relies on your brain heavily to keep up and do the work it’s supposed to do to process what you hear.