First a brief introduction: I am what hearing care professionals call a very experienced hearing aid wearer: from the age of twelve I learned to live with hearing aids. Because I and my career as a consultant want to continue for many years and I love music, I am constantly looking for ways to hear better. Fortunately, I have been able to make many improvements in hearing aids over the past three decades. In recent weeks I have tested the Oticon OPN S so that you can read how I experienced these high-end devices as a hearing impaired.
Hearing care professionals are always very happy with me as a customer because I can indicate exactly what I can and cannot hear properly. (And because, when I notice that if I really hear better, I buy two new hearing aids :-) Correctly adjusting hearing aids is a profession in its own right. Much more complicated, for example, than with glasses. I can write a whole blog post about hearing aid settings, but to give an impression: have you ever heard a spectacle wearer say that they can see fine at home, but that everything suddenly looks too overwhelming on the street? Or that if she sees more than five people at the same time, she suddenly no longer sees who is who, so now I’ve been asked to blog about my experiences with new devices. Not an advertising talk from a manufacturer, or a list of all technical specifications, but what strikes me. What makes me happy and what makes me less happy when I put certain devices in my ears.
The first day On to Naarden. Head office and one of the service points of Online-HearingAids.com. Because I was going to blog about it, Jasper from Oticon was there to give extra explanation about the devices. At Oticon, too, today everything revolves around the “computer” in the hearing aid. The new OPN S devices have a fifty times more powerful chip than the previous version. As a result of which these devices can better separate different types of sound. And can strengthen or weaken separately. My experience is indeed that hearing aids in noisy environments often make one big mess of all the sound. And that it is very difficult to have a conversation, especially with several people. From my work I know that pattern recognition in image and sound is advancing by leaps and bounds (think of speech recognition and self-driving cars). It is therefore almost impossible for these improvements to increasingly end up in hearing aids. In short, I am very curious how it will all sound.
The devices were pre-set to my audiogram. The custom earpieces were also ready and put on (due to my “challenging loss”, standard in-ear speakers are not powerful enough). The testing could begin. Normally I put the devices in and while talking to the hearing care professional I try to discover what does and what does not sound right. This is always only possible to a limited extent because it is an ideal quiet environment. I always only notice the problems and possible improvements in noisy environments. On the street, in a restaurant or at a party. Until now I have collected experiences, sometimes literally in notes. So that they could be discussed in a subsequent visit to the hearing care professional. And then translated as well as possible into adjustments in the settings in the hearing aids. I was pleasantly surprised how things went very differently now. Even with my “old” hearing aids, two sound clips were played four times. I had to indicate which of the two sounded better to me. It was precisely the “difficult” situations of spoken words with a lot of background noise. Then again, but with the new Oticons in my ears. What was immediately noticeable is that I understood better what was being said. Big plus. As always, that strange sensation of the other sound of my own voice. But I know from experience that I will be used to it within a few days. And that was it. So far very positive. But when I then had a chat with the hearing care professional, I noticed that I could follow her less and less well. It turned out that those new earpieces had sunk half way out of my ears. Just press and it went fine again. It is difficult, because of course I don’t want to hear less and less every ten minutes and have to push those things deeper into my ears. So keep an eye on it, but I fear that new earpieces will have to be made. On the way home in the car, the next big difference with my “old” devices: it is suddenly much quieter in the car. Very nice. Unfortunately, no passenger with me to test how well a conversation goes.
Try some music at home. The devices are “Made for iPhone”, so they can be connected directly to my iPhone. What is striking is that I hear many details in the music, but that it sounds a bit shrill, bare. I hardly hear a difference when I put the devices in the “music” mode, but we have not tested and adjusted them at all. At a follow-up appointment, this can probably be solved quickly by amplifying the bass a little more. Another good and tasty test in the evening: eating out! A very noisy restaurant (there is even a DJ playing). Still, I like to go there because the food is so good (Miyagi & amp; Jones in Utrecht). And I have to say: suppressing the noise works very well. Understanding the circumstances goes well, but of course it cannot be compared with a quiet environment. What also helps is that I am alone at the table with my wife. Often I literally need half a word to understand her. Sitting at the table with several and unknown people in this restaurant would be a tougher ordeal. (In retrospect I should have brought my old devices with me to be able to compare better.) Chewing, talking and especially walking causes the earpieces to fall askew. I really need to get this resolved to be able to do a complete review. Summary after 1 day: Positively surprised about: Understanding people better. Have little trouble with noise. Not (yet) satisfied with: Enjoying music. Fit of the custom earpieces. The weeks after the first day: In consultation with the hearing care professional, we decide to have new earpieces made with two adjustments: a rubber-like anti-slip layer and a somewhat larger shape. Until then, I will walk with my “