Widex has for the first time introduced a Made For iPhone technology hearing aid which they are calling the Beyond. The aids are based on the Unique hearing device platform and it seems that Widex has introduced it as a configuration on that platform as opposed to a brand new line. Let me explain what I mean: normally when Widex introduces something new like the Beyond, they would introduce it as a full range of different configurations of hearing aids.
However, the Beyond is just one configuration which seems to fit into the Unique line. The device is available in the four levels of technology available in the Unique line: the 440, 330, 220 and 110. The Unique in general has been very well received and there is really good feedback about the hearing aids and how they perform. Let’s take a look at the Beyond first and then the Unique.
Beyond Hearing Aids
As I said, the Beyond is the very latest addition to the Widex line up. It is also their first ever Made For iPhone hearing aid. It is a slightly changed Fusion type device based on the Unique technology. It is a little longer than the Fusion but slightly slimmer, and it has a new style of push button. It has three different radios onboard: the one for Widex Link, a telecoil, and the new radio for direct iPhone connection, making it possible to stream music and conduct phone calls directly to the hearing aid without any intermediary device.
The Beyond App
User Fine Tuning?
The Beyond app seems to have the usual features that are available with Made For iPhone devices generally. You can set geo locations for different sound programs and make changes to how the hearing aids are working on the go. However, there also seems to be an element of self fine tuning on the app, whereby users can actually change the frequency response of the hearing aids. They are calling this feature the Preference Control and it seems to break down frequencies into three bands: Bass, Middle and Treble. It is interesting to see manufacturers begin to hand over this type of control to users. It means that you can have some control over how the hearing aid actually works as you change the settings.
While Widex has now introduced a 2.4ghz BlueTooth radio to the Beyond for the connection to the smartphone, it has retained both the WidexLink and a telecoil on the hearing devices. This is an interesting way to do things and it delivers some real benefits over other Made For iPhone devices.
Retaining the Widex Link makes sense for several reasons. The first being, that it is still without doubt, the single best system available for streaming high quality audio. The second is that it will mean that any Widex users who upgrade their devices to the Beyond will still be able to use their Dex accessories. Retaining a T-Coil also makes some sense as the T-Coil system is making a huge resurgence in the United States.
The other benefit of retaining the WidexLink system is that the inter ear abilities of the hearing aids will still work while you are streaming audio to your hearing aids. This has to be seen as a good thing as a lot of the best features only work well when there is inter ear communication.
So that’s a run down of the new Beyond, although I think it is also a good idea to give you a run down of the platform it belongs in, so let’s talk about the Widex Unique
Widex Unique Hearing Aids
When Widex launched the Unique line, they said that these are the best that they have ever produced, which is a big claim from one of the best hearing aid manufacturers in the business. However, the claim seems to have substance as the feedback from users has been pretty strong. The Unique is available in the four usual levels of technology, the 440, 330, 220 and 110, each offering pretty strong technology in it’s price point. So what exactly does the line have to offer at each level?
The Widex Unique 440 is the flagship hearing aid in Widex’s new “Unique” line. We are very impressed with what we have seen of this hearing aid so far and this current line improves on the now obsolete Dream line in all aspects. We have been fitting it for a while now and we are getting outstanding feedback from our customers.
As you would expect, Widex has produced an excellent line of hearing aids, with a number of features not available in any other hearing aid. Widex hearing aids are already known for their own unique sound, and now combined with some ground breaking features we think that they can justify calling the product “Unique”
The Unique 440 uses Widex’s new U-platform chip which processes sounds across 15 channels. 15 channels is typical of all Widex top of the range aids. What is different for Widex though is the use of “Sound Class Technology”, the hearing aid classifies what kind of sound environment you are currently in out of a choice of nine possible environments that are programmed in. It then adjusts the sound accordingly to maximize your ability to hear speech sounds clearly. The 440 has the most channels in the line and also has a “High Frequency Boost” feature that isn’t available in the lower models, to give additional clarity when needed.
Wind noise attenuation
Widex claims that its new wind noise attenuation feature is an industry leading wind noise reduction feature. Widex doesn’t make claims very lightly, so we would be of the opinion that if they say it, it’s true. The Unique 440 can attenuate more wind noise than any other hearing aid out there, no matter the direction the wind is coming from, even from directly ahead. However this new feature is only available on the 440 models.
Background noise reduction
All manufacturers have good background noise reduction features as standard these days. However, Widex has introduced a new feature that has extra emphasis on reducing softer, low level background noise that may be annoying. Widex has always put great emphasis on soft sound inputs because they believe that soft sounds in speech are very important for understanding. However, there are soft input sounds that you just don’t want to or need to hear, like a computer fan or the noise of a fridge.
Wider dynamic range of hearing
Widex has also introduced a wider dynamic range of hearing to the Unique so you can hear more than ever. What this means is that most hearing aids take a range of sounds from quiet to loud and compress them into what hearing you have remaining to provide you with the full range of sounds for you to hear. They often ignore the very softest sounds and don’t process louder sounds very well. What the Widex Unique hearing aids are doing is extending that range slightly so that very very quiet sounds (5dB) that aren’t picked up by normal hearing aids will now be processed, enabling you to hear the low sounds that most hearing aids ignore.
For communicating with other devices outside the new Beyond type Made For iPhone device, there is the COM-DEX accessory, which is a bluetooth enabled pendant you hang around your neck. This will pair to your phone so that you can stream audio to your hearing aids from your phone, via the COM-DEX. You can also download an app for your smartphone (Apple or Android) which lets you use it to remotely control the hearing aids. Also available are the usual range of extra accessories for TV or audio equipment streaming.
Nearly all modern Widex aids have the option to use Zen tones, Zen is a proprietary feature belonged to Widex that will help to reduce the effects of tinnitus. For tinnitus sufferers, these predictable yet non-repetitive sounds are used in combination with counselling and relaxation techniques to deliver tinnitus relief as a part of a tinnitus management program.
Unique 440 Hearing Aid Types & Sizes
There are three sizes of behind the ear models and three in the ear models available. Passion is the slim, attractive behind the ear receiver-in-canal model and is suitable for most hearing losses. It has no manual controls so can only be adjusted by remote control or app. Fusion is the larger, more powerful behind the ear model which also features a push button for program changing. Fashion is the largest of the over the ear models and is mainly for people who want or need a full earmold.
Of the three in the ear models, one is the standard sized in-the-ear and one is the CIC or completely-in-the-canal. The smallest is the CIC-M which is Widex’s equivalent of an IIC or invisible-in-the-canal. Being so small, some features had to be cut from this model, mainly anything requiring wireless communication which this aid cannot fit in.
The Widex Unique 330 is the second to top aid in the new “Unique” line from Widex. They have delivered a very strong line at this price point as they always do, retaining some of the better features.
As is normal with Widex, the Unique 330 is a 10 channel aid utilizing Widex’s U-platform chip that the whole Unique line is built on. The 330 uses the new Sound Class Technology feature but the aids are restricted to five possible environmental types. Again, the aim is to always maximize speech sounds when they are present and make the aids comfortable when they are not.
Background noise reduction
The noise reduction in the Unique 330 is excellent and is suitable for all but the noisiest environments. However if you are really active with lots of exposure to quite noisy environments then you might want to think about the Unique 440.
Wider dynamic range of hearing
The 330 also has access to the wider dynamic range of hearing. They have also included the soft sound noise reduction so that you won’t get annoyed by hearing the fridge buzzing away in the background.
Zen Tinnitus management
As with the previous two lines of Widex hearing aids, the Zen tinnitus management features are available in the 330.
The model types are the same across all of the technology levels. The 330 has the full sized traditional BTE (the Fashion) the middle sized RIC (the Fusion) and the rather tiny and discreet Passion. In the ear models range from the full sized ITE down to the tiny micro CIC.
The Widex Unique 220 is Widex’s offering for the mid-range hearing aid market. This range of aids is for people who need to hear well in light social environments as well as in quiet and would like to hear the television. It has many of the features of the Unique 330 but at a lower price point. However, with its superior processor it is still an outstanding hearing aid.
The 220 is powered by the U-platform processing chip, Widex says that the chip is significantly better than the previous generation. The Unique 220 has just 6 channels and it only has three environments for the aid to choose from in its Sound Class Technology. The three environments are speech in quiet, speech in noise and a comfort in noise setting.
Background noise reduction
The noise reduction feature in the Unique 220 range is good enough for hearing speech clearly while suppressing background noises in up to moderately noisy environments. If you lead a particularly active lifestyle then you may want to go for one of the better models.
Soft sound amplification
As with the rest of the line, the Unique 220 aids have access to that wider dynamic range of sound. They amplify sounds as quiet as 5 dB so that you can pick up even very soft sounds.
The Unique 220 also has the Zen programm so it can be used to help relieve tinnitus.
The model types are the same across all of the technology levels. The 220 has the full sized traditional BTE (the Fashion) the middle sized RIC (the Fusion) and the rather tiny and discreet Passion. In the ear models range from the full sized ITE down to the tiny micro CIC.
Unique 110 Hearing Aids
The Unique 110 is the new entry level hearing aid from Widex. The Unique 110 has retained a number of features even though it is the most basic in the range. It has the famous Widex sound and it is a significant step up from the older Dream 110 which wasn’t well received.
The Unique 110 has four channels and doesn’t have Sound Class Technology on board. While it is an automatic aid, It doesn’t adjust itself as well as the higher technology models, so if you go into a noisier environment you may want to consider programs so you can adjust the aid to reduce the background noise. The 110 has three manual programs available.
Background noise reduction
Background noise reduction on the 110 is very basic. This is not really the hearing aid for you if you go into environments with a lot of background noise on a regular basis, as it may be somewhat difficult to hear speech in these environments.
Soft sound amplification
The Unique 110 still benefits from the extended range of hearing that the more expensive models have, and the soft sound noise reduction feature is also present.
The full range of models is available in the Unique range from the smallest CIC to the larger power BTE’s. Even the smaller aids are suitable for up to severe hearing losses.
It is interesting to see Widex move into the Made For iPhone hearing aid space, and it will also be interesting to see what they do next. Every other manufacturer who has moved into the space with the exception of GN Resound has just introduced one type of device. Resound offers a full line of hearing aid types in their Linx2 range. It will be interesting to see if Widex will do like wise, or just settle for the one device type.
As always, if you would like a hearing test or if you are looking for hearing aids in Cleveland, why don’t you give us a call at 440-248-4790, or book an appointment online now.