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Sound classes, Widex Unique hearing aids and following the herd

Geoffrey Cooling

When Widex introduced sound classes with the Unique hearing aid platform, I have to admit I groaned with frustration, damned Widex, following the herd. Company gone to the dogs you know! As with many things in my life, I was wrong. Having used the system for some time now, I just get happier and happier that they have done it. Read on to find out what sound classes are, why I felt Widex were a sell out and more importantly why I was wrong and why it might matter to you if you are looking for a decent hearing aid.

Widex Unique hearing aids

Sound class settings or automatic programme settings are something that were introduced several years ago by hearing aid manufacturers. They are basically automatic classifications of different sound environments. The classifications allow a certain sound environment to be recognised and a certain set of parameters to come into effect. For instance, if you go into a noisy environment with speech, the hearing aid adapts the directionality, activates aggressive noise reduction and gives speech frequencies a boost.

This happens automatically and you just get on with it. Widex were late to the game with this type of feature, prior to the Unique range they never had active sound classes. Oh they did in the background, but not in the way other manufacturers did it. Widex theselves say:


Distinct sound classes based on real-life measurements
We have devised a precise processing system to give users significantly improved sound in every sound environment. WIDEX UNIQUE™ Sound Class technology divides listening environments into distinct sound classes. 

It searches for specific characteristics in the incoming sound and determines whether prominent speech is present. When prominent speech is present, the system targets audibility; when there is no prominent speech, it targets comfort.


Sound Classes

Widex up to this introduction had always concentrated on high definition analysis of a sound situation and automatic handling of the features and amplification to deliver the best sound. They did it really well. So when I saw the Unique come out with sound classes I have to admit I was a little exasperated. Damned Widex following the herd, company gone to the dogs you know! As I said, I was oh so wrong, the system in fact has given me a fantastic ability to fine tune and customise hearing aids for customers in an amazingly targeted way. 

Fine Tuning The Situation, Not The Hearing Aid

When a Patient comes back during the rehabilitation period we discuss how they have got on and where the problem areas lie for them. More often than not, the problems, if any are restricted to very specific areas. Very specific situations. The sound class settings in the Unique offer me the ability to focus just on that area and make changes there.

This means that I can change how the hearing aid reacts in just that situation without a change in global settings. In other words it delivers a versatility to what I do that wasn't there before. My experience so far has been pretty excellent, customers really like the idea and the results. I really like the ability to make targeted changes without having to set up an experimental programme. 

So my opinion changed, eating some humble pie, I have to agree that the introduction of sound classes with the Unique was a pretty good idea. I was in fact wrong, just don't tell the wife, she will use it as evidence against me

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