Positive OPN Review

Don’t know if @Volusiano has seen this, but this is a really positive review of the Oticon OPN (from here in the UK):

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Thanks for sharing this, Glucas! I’ve never seen such a review with in depth analysis of 2 different noisy restaurant settings before. It would have been helpful if the reviewer had shared his audiogram in the review so we have a better idea of his type of hearing loss, although he did say that he has severe loss by age 43 now and he’s been wearing HAs for a long time now.

The bit about plates banging and chair scraping not sounding uncomfortably loud is interesting. I think it shows how the Balancing module works on noise sources that have a precise location, using null directions to attenuate noise sources that are localized between speech sources.

Similarly with the comment about how background noise can be heard but not overwhelmingly loud and has some clarity. It looks like that’s the result of the Balancing module at work, subtracting the noise signal (as picked up by the back facing cardioid mic and modeled as noise) from the main sound source (as picked up by the omni-directional mic), resulting in noise that still can be heard but rebalanced and attenuated to a more pleasing volume level. I think the clarity bit on the noise as mentioned by the reviewer is simply because the noise is just attenuated but can still be heard at lower volume so it seems to project a sense of clarity just because you can hear it and it’s not totally blocked out so the reviewer doesn’t get a sense of occlusion from not hearing it.

The bit about having to ask a speaker behind him to repeat what was said is also consistent with still being able to hear speech from the back because the Voice Activity Detector recognizes speech in the back and preserves it by freezing the Balance and Noise Removal module from treating it as noise and removing it. However, because the Balance and Noise Removal modules are frozen from action at that moment in time, the voice from behind is not balanced and removed of noise so it may not sound as clear as the voices in the front, prompting the reviewer to have to ask the speaker to repeat to him again.

Glad it was interesting Volusiano. There was a follow up post as well to that review:

Thanks for this second article as well. What this author said about how the sound representation by the OPN is initially confusing and overwhelming and to give the brain time to adapt, I definitely did experience this overwhelming sense of hearing too much (more than I was used to with my old HAs), and it did take me a month to adapt. What I would also add is that it would help if you embrace this change and have a positive attitude about adapting to it. I initially had a negative attitude, thinking why the OPN couldn’t block out all this extra sound that I didn’t want to hear when my old HAs seem to do a better job at this. But once I realize that it’s a different paradigm and embrace the new sounds as a positive thing, eventually my brain did indeed adapt.

But what he said about speech from the rear is also presented but at a lower volume is not consistent with what I experience, or how the OPEN Sound Navigator white paper said. The white paper mentions a Voice Activity Detector designed especially for the purpose of not blocking out speech from behind or on the sides, by freezing up the Balance and Noise Removal modules from removing this speech from the rear. So there’s no indication that speech coming from the rear is reduced at a lower volume, neither from my experience nor from the white paper. I’ve driven in a noisy van (as a driver) and am still able to hear speech coming from the second rear bench in the back of the van, un-attenuated. The impression of a lower volume, if any at all, might have come from the fact that speech from the rear triggers the Voice Activity Detector into freezing the Noise Removal module from doing its work, therefore giving the impression of lower volume maybe due to less clarity.

The author tried to explain the OPN’s unique noise reduction strategy by briefly mentioning directionality and the null. Instead, it could probably be better explained by saying that the key difference in the OPN approach to noise removal is by using a back facing cardiod mic to create a model of the sound in the back and on the sides. This is very important because it treats this “model” as “noise” so when combining it with the main omni-directional mic that picks up everything 360 degrees, the noise sources from this noise model can be nulled out (attenuated) from the main omni-directional source. Basically it mimics the noise cancellation strategy that a noise cancellation headphone uses because now there’s a clear separation between a desired sound source (from the omni-directional mic) and an undesired noise source (from the back-facing cardiod mic).

The author is not remiss to mention that this strategy of doing this kind of a noise modelling and noise cancellation approach is only possible because they built a brand new hardware platform that can handle the processing at a high enough speed. So instead of going bottom up and asking what kind of processing can we do if we use an existing hardware platform, they used the top down approach and decided on how they would like to attack the issue and do processing the way they want to if there’s a sustainable platform that is not a limiting factor, then set out to build a brand new hardware platform from scratch that can deliver the capability to handle the kind of processing they want.

Yes, an audiogram would’ve been a good point of reference for the reviewer’s glowing comments on the Opn. The review is dated THIS month, so maybe he’s got a newer pair of Opns than mine, from last December? All I know is that with MY audiogram, and perhaps the fitting itself, I was simply overwhelmed with NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! using the Opns.

I also had several experiences at doctor offices when I was simply unable to hear the attendant over the roar of the HVAC or even a mammography machine! That kind of background noise was not diminished even in my “noisy place” program. It was incredibly frustrating!

I may be old school or just incapable of getting into the concept of being bombarded with noise and sorting through it to distinguish speech. That is another reason I’m glad to swap these Opn aids for the Phonak Audeo-B’s I’m in trial with.

I REALLY wanted those Oticon aids to work, having read about all the razzle-dazzle top-down hoo-hah taken into account in their development. But the reality for ME was just a very stressful, sub-optimal listening experience. On top of which NO streamer for the Samsung (which commands 4 out of 5 cell phone sales worldwide!). I simply had to take a stand and not back down: These Opn aids are NOT ready for prime-time Samsung users like me with my hearing issues.

Sour grapes.

This could be the inexperience of the fitter, or on the other hand, the 1st fit algorithm of Oticon. I say this, because recently I had a bad experience of a terrible fit for my Phonak Virto V70 aids. I had to ditch my audiologist and go with a more experienced one. After three attempted fits later, I managed to get them more or less where I wanted them. Just my 10 cents.

^^^ Totally empathize and understand the importance of FITTING. I’ve been going to my aud-guy for a decade now, and even tho he goes the extra 10 miles for me, he’s no rocket scientist. He’s as good as it gets in my area tho, so I’m glad to have him as a resource.

I also returned multiple times to have my aud-guy fine-tune my Opns. And yes, they did really good in a completely QUIET environment. Plus, they had better coverage for things behind me than my current Phonaks - an issue I hope to look into on Tues.

But all that said, the second article on Opns … I have to slap my forehead. The same spiel about US having to learn to adapt to an overwhelming sound experience, get USED to it, get our dumb BRAIN working, like if we couldn’t adapt we’re some kind of dufuss?

And the so-called SPEECH enhancement, even in a casino mobbed with NOISE, commotion, jangle of COINS, the BAR, all that colorful LIFE going on around us, we should be able to detect what someone is saying at a card table 30 feet away. I know I exaggerate, but I could not even understand speech from a person facing me at 3 feet away! I’d see their mouth move, but could not read lips, and the speech frequency was utterly overwhelmed with the ambient noise. Again, it could just be my own hearing loss and addled brain here. But then the capper of NO streamer for Samsung.

I finally asked myself: “Should I pay $6 grand for a pair of aids that make it impossible to distinguish ordinary human speech, overwhelm my brain with NOISE and confusion, do not stream at all with a critical tool like the PHONE, and seem to almost laugh at my flaws and inabilities to adapt?” Madness. I’m turning these in.

My listening experience with the Phonak Audeo-B is already VASTLY better than with the Opn, after a single adjustment. Granted, these aids are now a year newer than my Opn miniRITEs. But still … I simply don’t get what all the hoopla is over the Oticon processing model. I just want aids that improve my hearing, are reliable in many conditions, stream on the phone & TV and … take a size 13 battery! (another flaw of the Opn, with 312’s)

Yes, I rant.

Oh dear. Not a positive experience. It’s good you have an alternative with the Phonaks.

Everybody’s hearing loss is different, and it sounds like your loss seem better served with the directional noise reduction setup of traditional hearing aids than with the open paradigm setup of the OPN. It’s not really about the brand because I remember you said that your Oticon Alta Pro that you had works much better in noise for you than the Oticon OPN as well. And it seems like the Phonak Audeo-B Direct works better in noise as well due to its directional noise reduction setup (I assume that this is the mode your Audeo-B Direct is in since you said you only hear in front and not much in the back).

So I’m glad to hear that your audi lets you trade your OPN back for the Audeo-B Direct at no cost even after 8 months. At least you know now that you really gave it a good try so it’s not for lack of effort at all.

This goes to show that the open paradigm may not be for everybody.

Yeah, I agree with this Volusiano. I didn’t mean to say that the Phonak was a better brand or anything, it is about the paradigm as you say. I have a pair of Oticon NHS hearing aids, and if I’m being honest, the sound quality is superior to the Phonaks. Unfortunately in this case, 1Bluejay has had no luck.

I have the OPN 1 and really like them, especially for restaurant-like settings. My wife was fitted with the Phonak B90 Titanium, because of her smaller ears, and she has had no end of trouble with them. After her latest return to the audiologist, we went last night to a restaurant we typically avoid because we know it is so noisy. And indeed it was - we were seated in a row of tables - to the right of me was a group of six with a baby in a carriage. The baby was quiet but the rest of them were not. Another loud group was to the left of me, and the overall volume level was very high.

Before I got HAs, a situation like that would have had me unable to understand anything being said by someone across the table from me. But with the OPN, I could hear my wife normally without her shouting. I had triggered the “speech with noise” mode, which I found helps a bit more.

My wife, though, was very unhappy. Her Phonaks, when presented with lots of loud noise, go into a mode that drops all the higher frequency - she calls it “going bassy”. Her audi had tweaked the programming to help, but it didn’t. She did try the alternate “calm” mode (the audi said that the B90s were going into “car” mode when the treble was lost) - it was better, but taking the HAs out was better still.

I find the OPN extremely natural - it’s like my normal hearing was just naturally better, and I have much less trouble in crowds/noise. We’re going to see if maybe the Oticon MiniRITE will work for my wife physically.

Thanks for sharing your experience with your OPN 1, Jonat!. Recently a forum member (Abarsanti) brought to my attention a series of Oticon podcasts by Donald Schum that I found extremely interesting to watch. Here’s the link to them https://www.oticon.com/professionals/audiology-students/education-and-information/podcast-program.

Of particular interest to me were 2 specific podcasts, one is titled “Why Is Noise So Difficult?” and the other follow up to it titled “Hearing Aid Technology and Noise”. Specific to this particular thread on OPN review, with a focus on noise in restaurants, they resonate a lot because the gist of these 2 podcasts is that when you have competing speech sources surrounding you, it’s much harder to differentiate what is noise (undesired speeches) to you and what is desired speech to you, because almost everything in a restaurant that you hear is competing speeches all around you.

The 2 salient points from these 2 podcasts that I took home with me is that first of all, it’s almost impossible to differentiate and eliminate “noise” in a restaurant environment because the noise is basically other undesired speeches around you, with very similar signatures to the desired speech you want to hear. So the traditional way of differentiating (and eliminating) noise from speech by observing the differences between the noise signature and the speech signature is pretty much ineffective in this case.

Secondly, trying to mute out the surrounding speeches to favor the speech in the front (the way traditional directional noise reduction is applied) is not really helping with clarity on the desired speech like you think it would. That is because you end up depriving the brain of its cognitive ability to gather all the information it can get so that it can do its own sorting and filtering in order to focus on what it wants to hear and tune out what it doesn’t want to hear. The point is that, believe it or not, it’s more helpful to present to the brain with all the information it can get for its own filtering than to deprive the brain of all the information and limit what it can hear only to the front. With only the muddled speech information in front, the brain would have a harder time clearing out the muddiness due to limited information. But with more information about what makes the speech in front muddled up in the first place, the brain will see the muds better for what they are and once the brain can see more clearly what is mud and what it wants to target, the brain can do the targeting much better, even amongst the muds.

So while it seems counter-intuitive in the first place, it does make a lot of sense to me. I think this is the foundation of the open paradigm. It ties back to the first podcast which sets up the basis for the issue where it explains that the loss in the hair cells makes sounds harder to be cognitively differentiated, and this ability to differentiate is what facilitates clarity. So by blocking out further information, it makes it worse rather than help. What really helps is presenting the brain with as much information as possible to help the brain regain some of the lost ability to cognitively differentiate that leads to better clarity.

Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone (not for 1Bluejay specifically), but apparently it works for a lot of other people.

Here’s another review worth reading:

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Yes, it’s a puzzle to this DAY why the Oticon Opn miniRITEs just drove me nuts. I don’t discount the factor of fitting, and I did find those aids worked very well in a totally quiet room with a single person talking to me. But that just was a sliver of my reality.

I’m not going to hold my breath on the complete refund on these Oticons. Even tho my aud-guy had assured me that we’d swap the Oticons for the Phonaks, yesterday, he sheepishly said, “Maybe we could talk about a credit on the Opns. Perhaps you’d like them as a backup pair?” >: - /

I guess I’ll have to pursue a refund from Oticon on my own, but no matter the cost, I feel that I have a pair of aids that fit my (atypical) lifestyle.