My name is Louise and I joined Hearables Online as a hearing aid user. I have moderate hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and have been using hearing aids for a number of years. Initially these were on the NHS but for the past year I have been wearing the Oticon Opn hearing aids. I put together this review to summarise my experiences with this technology and to help others in making the right decision for their hearing.
Nowadays my hearing aids are my constant companions. They are the bridges of communication into a world of sound, conversation and wellbeing. I work in a busy retail environment for up to 10 hours a day. Co-running a newly founded business involves countless customer interactions, as well as phone calls and event organisation.
With this increasing level of communication, I quickly realised I needed more than what my NHS hearing aids were offering me. I figured private hearing aids could help me cope better, and more importantly thrive, in my chosen lifestyle.
I had researched the Oticon Opn’s after seeing a promotion on social media, the main thing that resonated with me was the reduced ‘listening effort’. I was becoming increasingly tired and my health was suffering. This was due to feeling the strain of constant concentration in order to hear well and effectively. My NHS hearing aids had stood me in reasonably good stead until now, but coupled with my usual audiologist retiring, and my concerns for my energy levels, I took the steps to invest in myself.
I made an appointment with audiologist Adam Chell. I expressed my interest in the Oticon Opn’s. I also felt I wanted to go for the top of the range option i.e the 1’s. These offered many of the features and applications I felt I could benefit from.
The Trial Period
I began the 4 week trial of the Opn 1’s in January 2017. I can still remember walking down the street straight after my fitting appointment. The friend who was accompanying me spoke from some distance behind me and I answered! We were both surprised as usually that would not have happened. I knew then I had made the right decision to upgrade my hearing experience – 4 weeks later I made the final purchase.
The Oticon Opn’s are easy to wear. They feel light and they stay in place well, even without the ear grips in my case. I have open fit domes with an 85 decibel receiver to suit my hearing loss, and I chose a neutral, smart, timeless colour and there are plenty of options to choose from.
Cleaning and Maintenance
They come with carrying boxes and an additional soft case for use while out and about. The cleaning and changing tools are simple to use and I find changing the wax filters, batteries and domes easy to execute.
Battery life varies from user to user. I find I tend to get 3 to 4 days before needing to change them. I wear my aids on average 12 to 14 hours per day.
I describe the overall sound I experience with the Opn’s as ‘surround sound’. This means I don’t have to focus so intently to catch nuances of conversation. The claim by Oticon of reduced ‘listening effort’ really does come into its own.
I’m a self taught lipreader, but a full day of watching for words can be exhausting. The Opn’s now take the strain and not me! I now have what I like to call ‘peripheral’ hearing, particularly in group settings, it is life changing.
I’m currently at 80% of my audiogram prescription and I find this works perfectly for me. We have tried upping it to 90% but I found the increase in decibels in the high frequencies unpleasant. So for now I shall stay with what works.
At launch time (Spring 2016), the additional hearing aid programmes were not available and I was very keen to have the Tinnitus Support programme added. It had been one of the deciding factors in my purchase choice. I felt slightly concerned regarding the ongoing delay in release as I wanted to ensure the programme could be added successfully and used in a beneficial way.
I’m now happy to report that in June 2017 the latest firmware was added to my existing set up so I now have four programmes to choose from – and the titles can be whatever you choose them to be. Mine are…
P1 – Everyday Use – my main setting, and depending on the environment I’m in I may increase or decrease the volume manually either via the aids or the phone app.
P2 – Restaurant – for when I wish to hear the conversation more clearly over high background noise. Useful in noisy group situations.
P3 – Music – personally I prefer to use the Everyday Use programme for music as I find the music programme narrows and compresses the sound too much.
P4 – Tinnitus Relief – my main focus. There are different sounds to choose from. I chose Rain and I also liked Ocean 2. The main objective here is to use the tinnitus relief sounds to distract the brain from the tinnitus. Your audiologist will work with you to help you find the right balance.
I understand that the supporting sounds should be set at the same level as the tinnitus in order to habituate and give relief. I like it. In fact I’m going to get the Rain sound increased in my left aid as that is where I hear the tinnitus the strongest usually.
I find it works well at quiet times when I would usually become more aware of the tinnitus, and has a lasting effect when I switch back to the Everyday Use setting.
Made for iPhone. Not so much Android
On purchase, one of the selling points was the Oticon ON app and all the functions that are possible. Unfortunately, all functions are possible if you have an iPhone. I don’t. I use Android.
My main reason for using the HTC android is the excellent audio. Two speakers in Dolby stereo that make calls on speaker phone less effort. I’m reluctant to change my set up. I’m aware that with the iPhone I could then stream calls and music but I personally never stream music due to my tinnitus. I discovered the other day I may even have to change the type of domes I use in order to stream calls effectively.
I asked about the advertised ConnectClip streaming device which is compatible with Android – it will not be launched until the end of this year potentially. I really do think that the streamer could have been made ready for release at the same time as the hearing aids. Especially when making a large purchase such as this. I understand there are some issues with making the ConnctClip interface successfully across all Android providers and that Oticon engineers are working hard to rectify their side of this. I look forward to the ConnectClip being ready for users asap.
Find My Hearing Aid
The app has many features, and one that is extremely useful is the Find My Hearing Aid option, as is the visual notification that lets me know when the batteries are running low.
This is the world’s first internet connected hearing aid too. Smart systems can be connected via the IFTTT network to the Opn’s. This includes smart doorbells (a notification in your ear) and coffee makers (set it before you even get out of bed!). This kind of technology allows those of us with hearing loss to be much more independent in terms of not relying on other people so much to flag up things we may miss.
After 7 months of wearing the Opn’s I feel they are game changers. The quality of my life has improved immensely. I feel more confident in daily situations, supported by innovation and technology that has the end user in mind. For me, the only downside is the slow and staggered release of firmware and streaming devices. It is frustrating to wait. I would have liked more information from Oticon, on what would be available when, in the initial stages of their marketing as it would have helped the process.
That said, and patience being a virtue, I’m delighted I chose to embark on this new era of sound with my new and now much loved constant companions the Oticon Opn 1’s.