The aids themselves are the Widex Clear 440 RIC (C4-PA) with an open fitting.
I also have the RC-DEX (small remote control) and a TV-DEX for wireless audio streaming. As soon as the M-DEX (Bluetooth streamer) is released in the UK I will be getting one of those too.
This package came to £4,000.
Widex USB Link – for home programming – another £95.
The audiologist has been extremely helpful. Not only does he provide a very good level of service but he also has time to spend with you to get the best out of the aids.
He works with the surgeon that did my stapedectomy. He was also happy to supply the Widex USB link for home programming. My desire for this option is no reflection on the audiologist services he has provided. It is simply that I felt that some changes needed me to be able to test them at home.
Incidentally the surgeon has a similar high frequency loss to myself and uses the same Clear 440s. This was a pretty powerful recommendation to me as he has free access to any hearing aid.
For home programming I have installed the Widex Compass software (v5.1.) This is used together with the Widex USB Link for connecting the aids to the PC. So far I haven’t made any changes to the aids (I only got the link yesterday) but I have tested the link and it is very simple to use. Simply start Compass, detect wirelessly connected aids and it takes you straight in to the fine tuning section of the software. Its good to have control over the fine tuning of the aids.
Before purchasing these aids I trialled a pair of Widex Passion 440s. I do not have any experience with any other latest generation aids.
These are the first open fit hearing aids that I have worn and they are extremely comfortable. The aids themselves are tiny so I do not feel them resting on my ears. The domes in my ear are also pretty comfortable and easy to forget about. It did take a little experimentation with dome sizes and tube length to get such a good fit.
The amplification calculated from my audiogram was initially quite low so needed to be generally turned up.
Overall these hearing aids have a very clear, natural sound. They are definitely a step up from the Passions in terms of clarity and natural sound. Unlike the ITE aids I wore prior to my stapedectomy I am not so aware that I am listening to the world through hearing aids. Things instead simply sound sharper (I have a high frequency loss) and clearer.
Speech in noise is pretty good. I find that I can make out speech even in very noisy environments such as loud bars. I notice that in noisy environments like shopping centres I can understand people’s conversations as they walk by. I have also tested the aids using Phonak’s Media Player. I find that I can understand speech even in the very low signal to noise ratio (SNR) samples – something that I cannot do without the aids.
Sound location (identifying where sound is coming from) is very good.
As well as the default Master program I also have TV, Music and Zen+ programs.
The TV program greatly increases high frequency gain for low volume sounds and reduces gain for high volume sounds. I find this program very useful for quiet speech in quiet environments. It is much more effective than simply turning the aids up. However it is too harsh/sharp for use in noisy environments.
I never use the Music program.
The Zen+ program has proved to be beneficial when my tinnitus has been loud enough to affect my sleeping. Basically it plays gentle “piano” tunes together with a background hiss of “pink” noise.
The RC-DEX is a small remote control that is quite useful. Now that I have the aids set up pretty well I rarely use it. I think that if you are often using a remote to change a hearing aids program or volume then the aids are probably not set up very well for you.
Yesterday I received the TV-DEX and have to say that this is a fantastic piece of kit. You have a base station that attaches to your TV together with a small streamer that you wear around your neck. The sound quality is pretty good – it sounded slightly better if I turned the hearing aid microphones off. At first it felt rather unnatural having the sound directly in my ears rather than coming from the same point in the room as the TV. However, after about half an hour wearing it I completely forgot that I was listening through the aids. It is great not to be fighting with the wife over the TV volume. It would be fantastic if Widex could increase the range between the base station and the streamer. The base transmitter has a claimed range of about 10 metres and this figure appears realistic. This means that it will not transmit through solid walls – although it did work in the room directly above the TV. It would be great if I could listen to music around the whole house. This should be feasible as there are digital cordless headphones with base station ranges of up to 100m that will work anywhere in a house. The range from the streamer to the aids is very short – about 2 to 3 feet. I found that if I had the streamer at the end of the maximum length of the supplied cord and I turned my head as far away as I could the aid furthest away from the streamer would start to lose connection. This appeared to be less of a problem if I made the cord shorter and wore the streamer higher up my chest.
In quiet environments certain sudden, sharp sound e.g. cutlery hitting a dinner plate, cause feedback in my right ear for about a second. I may use a frequency analyser to determine what frequencies triggers this and reduce the gain in quiet environments for this frequency. I could re-run the Feedback Manager but this could cut the gain generally and I do not want to change the sound too much as I am generally very happy with the sound from the aids.
Not really an issue but something to note - sometimes the wireless communication between the aids is interfered with if my head is close to something electrical. (If the aids lose connection to one another they start to say “Partner check.”) I notice this when standing on the train if my head is too close to the fluorescent lights or if my head is near a TV e.g. when plugging in the TV-DEX. Note that this has no effect on the sound from the aids just the wireless link between them. If it was an issue I can turn off the Partner Check warning.