The fundamental task of hearing aids is to accommodate the listening needs of the wearer in every possible situation in their daily life. That’s why today’s hearing aids offer advanced automatic processing. Over the past years, Widex has developed a number of features to give users the best possible automatic experience – and with good results. Still, some hearing aid users need more personalized solutions and have a need for additional programs in certain situations where the automatized WIDEX EVOKE™ Universal program doesn’t meet their hearing needs.
That’s why Widex has developed the Comfort and Impact programs. The Impact Program is designed to give more speech cues and improve speech intelligibility. It does so by optimizing the Speech Enhancer and the Variable Speed Compressor, and by providing more gain at high frequencies. As a result, you get clearer and crisper sound than in the Universal program. The Comfort Program is designed to give users a comfortable listening experience while still maintaining the auditory connection to the environment. It does so by providing less of the very loud and very soft sounds.
Fig 1. Waveforms of processed speech for each of the three programs.
As shown in figure 1, the Impact program reinforces contrasts in speech, while the Comfort program attenuates the highest peaks in speech.
How do these programs compare to the Universal program?
To understand the benefits of these programs, we conducted a real-life study and a lab study with 16 participants with sensorineural hearing loss. In the study, the Impact and Comfort programs were compared to the Universal program in certain situations. The comparison was done in the field using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) and in the lab using a Just Follow Conversation (JFC) speech intelligibility test and listening comfort rating test.
The EMA results showed that the Impact program was generally preferred to the Universal program for speech clarity, and that the Comfort program was generally preferred to Universal for listening comfort. But there were also individual preferences for Universal in many types of situations. And, interestingly, the participants who strongly preferred the Impact program were less likely to prefer the Comfort program – and vice versa.
Fig. 2. EMA tests show speech clarity and listening comfort with every program tested across sound classes.
The lab tests showed that the Comfort program performed significantly better than the Universal and Impact programs for listening comfort across different situations. And the Impact program performed significantly better than the Universal and Comfort programs when it came to speech intelligibility.
In the speech intelligibility test, all participants benefited from using the Universal program compared to not using any hearing aids at all. Interestingly, the participants who experienced least benefit from the Universal program compared to not using hearing aids turned out to benefit most from the Impact program compared to the Universal program.
More benefits with Comfort and Impact
The Universal program for WIDEX EVOKE™ offers a high level of performance in many situations, especially for users who don’t want to switch programs in daily life. But the Comfort and Impact programs are very useful in certain situations where they meet the needs of the wearer to an even greater extent.
Overall, the study shows that the Comfort and Impact programs deliver clear benefits for the listening intentions they were designed for. So, the Comfort program should be considered when fitting clients who struggle with the noise levels around them, and clients who struggle to hear conversations may benefit from the Impact program.