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Review of Starkey’s Voice IQ hearing aid upgrade


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that I’ve been wearing a pair of Audiosync iSync hearing aids (also know as Starkey Otolens). On a recent visit to my audiologist I got the opportunity to try out Starkey’s Voice IQ software upgrade and because I didn’t want to send my iSyncs back to Starkey, and be without them for a week, we decided to get the Voice IQ upgrade in my S Series instead.

So, I’ve been wearing my S Series 11 with Voice IQ for about a month now.

What is the IQ upgrade?

It is better noise reduction. All modern digital hearing aids have dynamic noise reduction (DNR) capabilities, which means that the aid is always monitoring your environment and trying to reduce unwanted background noises and emphasise speech as much as possible. The tricky thing with doing this is being able reduce the volume of the noise without reducing the volume of speech.

Typically, noise reduction will happen between words and in other gaps in speech. Starkey’s IQ does that but it reduces noise between the syllables of words too. To show you what I mean by that, look at the two sentences below, the first is a typical noise reduction technique and the second is the IQ, the point where noise reduction occurs is show with a *.

“Hello,*I’d*like*a*bag*of*bananas*please”

“He*llo,*I’d*li*ke*a*bag*of*ba*na*nas*pl*ease”

So you can see that IQ suppresses background noises in the middle of words too. Well, that’s my understanding of how it works anyway – regardless, the really important question is:

Is it any good?

Short answer: yes. It has surprised me in that it has helped me to understand speech in situations that I wouldn’t normally associate with the need for noise reduction. Here’s a few examples of where (and what) I’ve been able to hear much more clearly with IQ:

  • Lyrics in music. I haven’t been able to listen properly to lyrics in, oh, at least 15 years. IQ definitely helps, I haven’t gone from hearing next to no lyrics to hearing them all but I can definitely pick up a lot more.
  • Speech in wind. I get a lot more wind-noise with my S Series than I do with my iSyncs, simply because the S Series are exposed to the wind and the iSyncs are tucked deep down in my ear canal. Even though, wind-noise is pretty bad I can hold a conversation with IQ – iSyncs with IQ would be a great combination.
  • In the kitchen. Running water hitting a sink always used to block out people talking, don’t know what it is about running water in a sink but it always used to cause my hearing aids to block out more or less all sounds.
  • Small groups. I’m now much better able to pick out the voices I want to hear from the hubbub of background voices in a small group.

I’ve been really impressed with how I’ve noticed voices breaking through the background noises that used to be masking them. I think breaking through sums up IQ perfectly for me: I used to have a lot of situations where voices where in the background and masked by other noises but IQ has flipped that situation around and put the voices in front of the noise.

So is it worth it?

Whenever I review hearing aids I always get emails from people asking if they are worth buying, which is normally hard to answer because they cost a lot of money and seeing as I haven’t tried out every aid on the market it is difficult to compare one to another. But I strongly recommend Voice IQ without any hesitation. If you have bought an S Series or other Starkey aid that supports IQ then I think you will see massive benefits from it.

Because it is a software upgrade then you should be able to try a compatible Starkey model with and without it. You could trial your new aids for a few weeks without Voice IQ, get the upgrade, and trial again with it. You will definitely hear a big difference.


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