In March we attended the 2019 Oticon DRIVE where Oticon officially launched the Oticon Opn S hearing aid.
Hosted inside the historic Twickenham stadium the day kicked off with some testimonial videos of individuals that have seen significant benefit from original Oticon Opn hearing aids. Alistair Tait, managing director, kicked off the day with a warm welcome followed up by Mark Collins, national sales manager, who outlined the schedule and the goal of the DRIVE.
The majority of the DRIVE targeted independent businesses to help us to deliver better care to you, our readers and clients. However, they also had some key updates to their portfolio which is what I’ll be focussing on today.
Oticon Opn S hearing aid
Alison Stone, audiology training manager, introduced the Oticon Opn S, which apparently breaks a law of physics. For the record, it doesn’t; but what they have done is work towards reducing feedback on their hearing aids with their new processor.
Leading up to the product itself we were asked a question, ‘What are the limitations of directionality?’. The main limitation they highlighted was closing down life. Hearing aids in their present format don’t know what we are listening to. This means the hearing aid might amplify the conversation to your left instead of the person you are trying to engage with on your right.
To try and overcome this the original Opn was introduced to try and keep the users environment as ‘open’ as possible. They have since improved on their original portfolio by introducing the S range.
What makes the Oticon Opn S range different?
They have introduced a new Open sound optimiser. This is an ultra-fast proactive technology. It samples the amplified sound 56000 times per second and is the most effective feedback cancellation system they have ever developed.
What is feedback cancellation?
Feedback is when a hearing aid whistles or squeals. It is ok for a hearing aid to do this when it is outside of the ear but as soon as it is in position you should no longer hear feedback.
Feedback usually occurs when too much amplified sound is being put in to the ear and it leaks back out. To overcome this we need to create a better seal between the hearing aid and the ear.
However, when we create a better seal people often feel blocked off from the world and it isn’t as comfortable. As audiologists, we are always battling against comfort to achieve audibility and so Oticon offer us a solution for this.
Additional 6dB gain
With their new Velox platform Oticon Opn S has promised an additional 6dB of gain using an open fitting. This means that we can potentially achieve optimal gain on an open fitting more often. This means that you, as the user, will be happier with the outcome of your hearing aid fitting. Everybody wins.
How did they achieve this?
Their goal was to move from an attitude of feedback management to feedback prevention. To accomplish this, they combined two strategies. Their existing reactive strategy is complimented by a more proactive system.
Loop gain is what happens when sound leaving the hearing aid re-enters through the microphone. When this loop gain increases (for example, when you bring your hand up to your ear, or if your hearing aids are set very loud) feedback or whistling can occur. Current strategies for dealing with loop gain are effective at eliminating whistling, but they inevitably result in a compromise on sound quality and/or the level of amplification you need to hear speech optimally.
The OpenSound Optimizer uses spectro-temporal modulation (STM) to disrupt the loop gain and break a potential feedback build-up before it occurs. It is a proactive system that prevents audible feedback from occurring by monitoring the microphone input sound in 28 frequency channels, 56,000 times per second.
STM applies tiny, extremely fast little ‘breaks’ in the signal to disrupt the loop gain. Each of these little STM cycles is 32 ms, and on average OpenSound Optimizer removes the risk of feedback in about 60 ms. This is much faster than the average 500 ms other premium hearing aids take to deal with whistling (including Oticon Opn, the predecessor to Opn S).
What this means for a person wearing Opn S is less chance of hearing aid whistling, but more importantly up to 6dB extra gain with no compromise on sound quality. In both internal and external research studies Oticon claim that the Opn S was found to provide better speech understanding and sound quality than its predecessor Opn.
As this is a new product I haven’t had chance to validate these claims but over time we will look to see if we really can get this additional 6dB of gain across the range. If so, it really will be a game changer.
Note to Audiologists: Oticon have removed their predicted feedback limiters on the fitting software. Instead, the hearing aid is doing real-time feedback measurements to determine if there is unstable gain which will then suggest ways of reducing the risk of feedback.
Audiologists frustrated with wireless technology
I’m really impressed with Oticon with this new feature. At present it seems that all manufacturers are focussing on wireless connectivity but at the heart of everything we do need to remember that these are hearing aids. Manufacturers need to ensure that they are giving the best audibility to the users in even the most challenging situations.
Many independent audiologists are getting frustrated with all the new technology because of the instability of bluetooth etc and so I see a gap in the market in the future for a phenominal non-wireless hearing aid that just focusses all of it’s processing power on being an exceptional hearing aid with best in class noise reduction.
Opn Sound Booster
The idea of the Opn Sound Booster is to introduce a more aggressive noise reduction strategy in simple enivornments on the Oticon Opn S. This would be very useful for individuals with poor speech discrimination.
Oticon Opn S rechargeable
The second biggest news of the day was the launch of their Lithium Ion rechargeable solution. This is Oticon’s first true rechargeable hearing aid on their Opn S platform. Rechargeable solutions are the only way forward in my eyes so I’m glad they are on board.
They are the very first manufacturer that allows the clinician to change the rechargeable battery within the clinic. All other hearing aids at present need to be sent back to the manufacturer. This is a fantastic idea which will result in a much more cost effective solution in the long term for end users.
It looks like Oticon have made some significant improvements with the Opn S hearing aid and I look forward to reviewing the effectiveness of their new feedback management system. The rechargeable solution also means that Oticon has a complete product portfolio.
If you would like to make an appointment to find out more about the Oticon Opn S please do get in touch with one of our clinics today.
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