Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Oticon's Opn is Open for Business

open sign

If you're a hearing aid enthusiast or savvy consumer looking for a new hearing aid in 2016, you're in luck. This May Oticon will release Opn™ a hearing aid that uses their Velox™ platform, both of which have the Internet abuzz. And, we'll admit, more than a few hearing aid tech geeks at PHB are drooling. So what makes Opn so exciting?

According to the manufacturer, "Opn makes it easier for people with hearing loss to communicate and stay socially active, with less listening effort and more ability to remember what is being said.” That sounds great. And there are a lot of features that support this claim, but let's not bite off more than we can chew. Or digest in one blog post. What's one big difference between the way Opn with the Velox platform operates compared to say Alta with the Inium Sense platform? (Both of these HA are manufactured by Oticon)

In some ways, Opn is like Alta, they're part of Oticon's approach to hearing called BrainHearing™. BrainHearing is Oticon's term for their focus on hearing aids that work with the brain to ensure the highest rate of understanding and the lowest amount of effort by the user. Both hearing aids do this. But there's a lot of ways these hearing aids differ, starting with a 50x faster processing speed Opn uses. That's fast. Still it's not just the ability of the hearing aid to scan and process sound that's impressive, according to Oticon, it's the 360 degree advantage.

Opn's listening platform scans a room, all 360 degrees, for sounds. If that seems counter to everything you've ever heard about how modern hearing aids should work, we understand. Most of today's hearing aids, especially when in an environment with a lot of background noise, use directionality. That's the ability to focus in on the speaker, diminishing background noise. This narrowing in on sound is what most hearing aid users expect, so introducing a platform that scans the area and allows it to remain "alive" or at least be sensed by the hearing aid user seems like a step backward. Are we headed back to the days when all sounds were amplified making hearing aids a real pain to use? Nope. Oticon has actually taken a big leap forward.

So why the shift away from directionality? According to a pamphlet released by the manufacturer, "Directionality can make it hard to orientate effectively in complex environments (Brimjoin et al 2014)" Ah, the key here being the word "complex." The use of directionality functions best in a stable listening environment, an environment where there is not a lot of movement or unexpected shifts. However, that's not exactly how we live. So in a complex environment i.e. movement of people coming or going or if the person with hearing loss is leaving one room and entering another, directionality can create a disorienting disconnect. (And this disconnect might be why some people have lamented the demise of analog hearing aids.)

But we all know that directionality developed in order to drown out sounds we didn't want overwhelming people we were trying to hear in a restaurant or workplace. So how does Oticon's OpenSound Navigator™ enable the presence of sounds without them being overwhelming? According to Oticon, Opn "scans the environment 100 times per second to analyze and balance every sound individually."

So these sounds are scanned, balanced, and reduced. In other words, they are kept on the periphery of a user's hearing range (Not to be confused with peripheral hearing) allowing the user to keep a more open, spatial awareness of their environment. The manufacturer further states that the OpenSound Navigator, "It can even attenuate remaining noise from the front and between words." Between words? That's pretty amazing. And, sure, the 64-band frequency resolution has a role to play, enabling a more precise sound analysis and better sound quality.

Okay, so this ability to keep people with hearing loss "present" by allowing them spatial awareness without overwhelming them with sound is pretty neat, and only part of what Opn has in store. There's a lot more to this hearing aid. So much, we couldn't fit it one post. Don't worry, we're going to look at how Opn has been measured and proven to help the brain, its TwinLink® technology, and the fact that this is the first hearing aid connected to the Internet on Thursday!

If you'd like to learn more about Opn visit your hearing health provider! Don't have a hearing health provider? Click Here to be connected with a hearing health provider in your area.


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