This text course is an edited transcript of a Widex webinar on AudiologyOnline.
- Participants will be able to list the additional models being released to the Unique product line.
- Participants will be able to describe basic changes made in Compass 2.1.
- Participants will be able to describe the benefits of Unique with their patients.
Widex History and Legacy
Widex believes that every patient in every situation is absolutely unique: hence, the name Widex UNIQUE. On a daily basis, patients explain to us the settings in which they would like to hear better and where they are struggling. Everyone has different lifestyles, family dynamics, and a myriad of activities that they enjoy. With the UNIQUE product line, Widex has designed hearing aids to fit and to be appropriate for as many people in as many situations as possible.
Widex is a privately-owned company that has been successfully making hearing aids and changing lives for 60 years. Widex has a legacy of technical and audiological excellence. People tell us they rely on Widex because of the great sound quality. Widex has introduced many innovations that are used in today's technology across manufacturers, such as slow-acting compression. We were also the first manufacturer to integrate tinnitus treatment and frequency transposition into a traditional hearing aid. Arguably, we created the first digital hearing aid, and the list goes on.
Introducing Widex UNIQUE
The UNIQUE was introduced in October of 2015. UNIQUE incorporates Widex’s four core principles: Capture everything, purify all, process seamlessly, and sacrifice nothing. We believe that a hearing aid is only as good as what it hears. We want to capture everything we can. We have features in place and specifications on our computer chips that are designed to make sure that we hear as much of the environment in real-time as possible. That's very important to Widex. You can make the best directionality, or the best noise management but if the hearing aid doesn't accurately hear real-time sounds in the environment, it's never going to be able to manipulate those sounds or to reproduce them correctly.
Not only do we capture real-time sounds in the environment, we also filter those sounds for hearing impaired individuals, especially in the maturing brain of older adults. We must purify the sound by taking some information out, and then seamlessly process it. In a perfect world, Widex would love for everyone to simply put a hearing aid in their ear and never have to touch it, never need to make changes. Those of us with normal hearing don't reach up and adjust programs and change volume. We want the processing to be as seamless as artifact-free as possible. We do not want our patients to have to sacrifice anything in order to hear. This is our approach with our newest platform, the Widex UNIQUE.
Widex has the highest linear input level at 113 dB SPL. There are hearing aids that may have a higher input level number, but you have to consider whether that is through compression, or is it truly linear. With all UNIQUE hearing aids, sound is linear without compression and without distortion up to 113 dB SPL, in all four levels of technology, and in all styles. It's significant because it preserves the signal. It does not make the hearing aids louder, but it captures more of the original sound initially. We have the highest bit depth at 18 bits. The sampling rate or sampling frequency is 33.1 kHz. That means that 33,000 times per second these hearing aids sample the sound, and then within each one of those samples, it has 18-bit digital processing. Those are the highest numbers in the industry.
The current consumption in the UNIQUE product line is the lowest in the industry (less than 1.00 mA), which results in the longest battery life. Again, this is across all hearing aid sizes, and all four levels of technology. These numbers are summarized in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Widex UNIQUE platform numbers.
Again, Widex UNIQUE hearing aids have a broader input dynamic range than all other products currently on the market. The upper input limit reported and measured by competitors in 106 dB SPL, with a lower input level at about 35 dB SPL. With the UNIQUE, Widex uses an upper limit of 113 dB SPL and a lower limit of 5 dB SPL, providing a 108 dB linear range. It's important to remember because this linear range preserves the accuracy of sound.
UNIQUE is available in a full product line with four BTE styles. The smallest BTE is the Passion. It is the smallest RIC available in the UNIQUE product line, and arguably the smallest RIC device in the industry. The next and our popular BTE is the Fusion, which is a RIC with a 312 battery. The push button on it is very flexible. It also has telecoil and it can fit up to profound losses. I recently fit a man with profound loss who was a cochlear implant candidate but did not want to have the surgery. We fit him with the Fusion BTE with a high-powered receiver, and both he and his wife were very pleased with the results.
The newest BTE is the Fashion Mini, which I will review later in this course. The line also includes the Fashion BTE, which is a traditional BTE with a 312 battery, a separate volume control and a program button. It can be fit with an ear hook or with thin tubes. We also offer custom products including CIC, full shell, canal, and half shell. There is also a micro CIC in the UNIQUE family, however, it does not have wireless technology. Everything else in the UNIQUE line has wireless technology, but the micro CIC does not.
As I mentioned, we have a new BTE model, the UNIQUE Fashion Mini. We also have new EASYWEAR thin tubes. We have some update to COM-DEX, our wireless interface that connects to all UNIQUE hearing aids (except the micro CIC). COM-DEX also allows connection to Bluetooth phones and Bluetooth devices, and uses the Widex app. The Widex app is available in the Apple store, and also for certain Android phones. I will review some of the updates for Compass 2.1, the latest version of our fitting software, later in this course.
UNIQUE Fashion Mini
The UNIQUE Fashion Mini includes many new features. It is slim with an attractive new design, and we have received a lot of positive feedback on the size, shape and the look of it. As part of the UNIQUE product line, it includes the highest level of chip technology. The Fashion Mini is available in all four performance levels, at all four price points. The most advanced is the UNIQUE Fashion Mini 440, followed by the 330, 220 and 110.
The fitting range is up to about 95 dB hearing level, because there is some flexibility with the Thin-Tubes and ear hook options. For its compact size, it has an impressive fitting range. It has a 312 battery.
One of the new features we have introduced with the UNIQUE Fashion Mini is a configurable push button. Via the Compass GPS software, you can change the functions of the push button to enable it to change programs, change volume, and there are some other options, too.
The UNIQUE Fashion Mini is compatible with WidexLink, our wireless technology. This allows a wireless connection between the hearing aids (the interear technology), and with all Widex wireless devices and DEX devices, including the TV device, the remote control devices, and all of the other products that use Widex wireless technology.
The Fashion Mini is available in all of Widex standard colors. We are introducing a new color to the Widex product line called Silver White. Currently, it's only available with the Fashion Mini. Silver White is for those individuals that have white hair with a little bit of a silver tint to it. It's not as a gray as the Winter Silver color. The Pearl White is extremely bright white. Silver White is a very nice in-between combination. In some states that require specific hearing aids to be put on contract, the Fashion Mini may be included at the 110 level with special pricing for Medicaid, etc. It depends on your state.
EASYWEAR Thin Tubes
Another new feature with the UNIQUE Fashion Mini is the EASYWEAR thin tubes. Most of the thin tubes that you have in your offices in the past can be replaced with these new thin tubes.
There are three different fitting configurations for the UNIQUE Fashion Mini: the standard hook and ear mold, and two thin tube sizes - 1.4 mm and 0.9 mm. Figure 2 shows the fitting ranges for these configurations. A traditional ear hook is 2 mm. The traditional thin tube size that is commonly used in the market is 0.9mm. The reason to have a 1.4 mm tube, which is a size between an ear hook and a traditional thin tube, is to allow the wearer to receive more amplification, especially in the critical speech range. With the larger diameter thin tube, you can fit a greater degree of hearing loss with a cosmetically appealing option, as it is still very thin and does use an ear hook.
Figure 2. Fitting ranges for three fitting configurations for the UNIQUE Fashion Mini.
We know that thin tube fittings offer flexibility, however, you do lose some high frequencies with thin tube fittings, even if you use a closed earmold.
My colleague Dr. James Martin compares the different sizes of tubing using the analogy of drinking a milkshake through a straw. With a thick milkshake straw, you could drink the milkshake pretty easily. However, if you were using a straw with a smaller diameter (like one you would use to drink soda), it would take a lot more energy for you to suck the milkshake through the straw. Now, imagine if you were trying to drink the milkshake using a coffee stirrer. Coffee stirrers are very thin and it would take even more energy to be able to drink the milkshake.
This is a good analogy to keep in mind when selecting tubing sizes for different patients. Think of the 0.9 mm tubing in comparison to a coffee stirrer. With larger tubing, more sound will pass through, with less distortion and fewer peaks.
In Figure 3, you can see the maximum power output comparison for the Fashion Mini with the standard tube/ear hook (blue line), the thin tube 1.4 mm (red line), and the thin tube 0.9 mm (green line).
Figure 3. UNIQUE Fashion Mini output comparison.
We can achieve the most output with a traditional ear hook. The traditional ear hook is 0.9 mm at the bottom, and you can see in Figure 2, that it loses high frequencies starting at around 1000-1250 Hz. It doesn't matter if you have an open versus closed fitting; you cannot get as many high frequencies out of a thin tube, as you can see from the curves in Figure 2. The majority of hearing losses impact the high frequencies. The output curve for the new 1.4 mm tubing (red line) shows that it provides a little more amplification than the .9 mm tubing. In comparing the curves for the .9mm and 1.4mm tubing, you see that approximately 1000 Hz to 3000 Hz is where you start to see a difference in the output curves.
When you order the new EASYWEAR thin tubes, you need to specify if you want the 0.9mm or the 1.4mm diameter. My recommendation is to have both diameters in the office; if you have a patient who needs a little more amplification, it is easy change to a 1.4 mm thin tube.
Figure 4 shows a new EASYWEAR thin tube. Notice the gray area at the bottom. Just like with Widex RIC receivers and wires, the part that goes into an earmold or into an instant tip is gray. We use that color for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons is because now you can use our Nanocare Wax Guards with EASYWEAR thin tubes.
Figure 4. EASYWEAR thin tubes.
Some professionals have indicated that they don't fit thin tubes because they are difficult to clean. Some patients can handle cleaning them, but many patients cannot clean them. Now that the EASYWEAR thin tubes have the wax guard option, it will alleviate some of the cleaning issues. We've changed everything to gray moving forward so that you can see the contrast between the white and the gray. This will prevent putting multiple wax guards on by mistake – patients will more easily be able to see the color contrast and notice if the wax guard is on there or not.
The EASYWEAR thin tubes can be used with both instant tips and with custom tips. We can make soft custom shells, or hard custom shells for thin tube fittings. The tubing comes in five lengths, from 0 through 4. The 0 is the smallest, and is great for smaller ears, while the 4 is the longest. The connector at the top is the same as what is currently used for the Fashion and micro BTE products.
EASYWEAR Thin Tube Comparisons. Figure 5 is a photo of the EASYWEAR thin tubes housing. These are not receivers; they are simply the gray housing - the tubing goes all the way through these. Note that the gray casing is printed with the length as well as the diameter of the tubing.
Figure 5. Examples of EASYWEAR thin tube housing.
In Figure 5, the image on top shows a length of 2, and a diameter of 1.4 mm. The image on the bottom shows a length of 4 and a diameter of 0.9 mm. The 1.4 mm and the 0.9 mm tubes have a slightly different shape. The 1.4 mm is larger to achieve more sound.
Figure 6 shows a side-by-side comparison of the 0.9 mm tubing as compared to the 1.4 mm tubing. This is a view from the top. The Thin Tube on top in the image is the 0.9 mm and the tube on the bottom is the 1.4 mm.
Figure 6. Comparison of 0.9 mm and 1.4 mm EASYWEAR thin tubes.
Since the 1.4mm tubing is a larger tube, a larger connection piece is required. If patients have small ears, flexible ears, or sensitive ears, it is recommended to try and fit them with the 0.9mm tubing. However, the 1.4mm tubing will work with a lot of people who need the extra power.
Here are some images comparing our new EASYWEAR thin tube (1.4 mm) to the Widex S-Receiver and M-Receiver (Figure 7).
Figure 7. Thin tube 1.4 mm compared with receivers.
The S-Receiver is our smallest standard receiver available. The M-Receiver has moderate power. We can see in Figure 6 that the thin tubes have slightly different dimensions compared to the receivers. For this reason, it will not be possible to use custom tips interchangeably between the thin tubes and the receivers. Custom ear tips will be called “Custom Ear Tip 0.9 or 1.4” (CET0.9 and CET1.4) to distinguish them from other custom ear tips. However, the INSTANT ear tips can be used interchangeably between the thin tubes and the receivers. The same ear tips that are used with the RIC, and with the Passion and Fusion products, fit on the thin tubes. You don't need a new kit of tips. They look smoky gray with a green tint to them.
Why Thin Tubes? There are more RIC products fit today than any other style of product, both in the United States and around the world. Professionals ask when you would fit a thin tube versus when you would fit a RIC. Not every patient can wear a RIC. The reasons vary, from patients with very small ear canals where a RIC will not fit, to those who have excessive production of cerumen. A thin tube is sometimes a better option, especially now that it can accommodate a wax guard.
RICs also might not be a good choice for patients who have been wearing a traditional BTE or a thin tube fitting. RICs do not have the peaks that tubing does, and some patients may be used to that peak around 1500 to 2000 Hz. It is difficult to replicate that in a RIC product. Sometimes it looks possible in the fitting software, including the Widex Compass software. However, if you run pure tone sweeps in your hearing aid analyzer, you will see that RICs sometimes cannot replicate the peaks that the patient is used to hearing. Those peaks may provide an extra 2 dB, 5 dB, or even 10 dB that you cannot get out of a RIC. Without question, thin tube fittings have a place in our practices.
Thin Tube Removal and Attachment. We have received feedback in the past that it can be difficult to get the thin tubes on and off, and that sometimes they bend and break. To facilitate the attachment and removal of the EASYWEAR thin tubes, we have developed a new tool. It is a small black removal tool that will be included whenever you order extra tubes (Figure 8). For more information, please consult the EASYWEAR thin tube Quick Fitting Guide, available on Widex Academy Online.
Figure 8. Tool for removal and attachment of EASYWEAR thin tubes.
We always recommend you take out the NanoCare wax guard before you try to change the thin tube out of a hard shell or a soft shell earmold. We have a special tool to help you remove a thin tube from a custom ear tip. The EASYWEAR thin tube will easily pop out when you use this tool.
EASYWEAR Thin Tube Benefits. Some benefits of the EASYWEAR thin tubes:
- Patent-pending design as existing EASYWEAR receivers
- Compatible with the EASYWEAR ear-tips
- No sideways movement out of ear canal
- Fits people with a smaller ear canal
- Stays in the ear without anchor
The new thin tubes now have the same unique, patent pending design as the existing EASYWEAR receiver ear wires. The new thin tubes are also compatible with the existing EASYWEAR tips. Our ear wires and thin tubes are made specifically to fit the angle of the ear, resulting in a better angle and more comfortable fit. The patent-pending design prevents sideways movement or lateral migration of the tube out of the ear canal. People with small or straight ear canals will be able to use them, because they stay in the ear very easily, even without the use of an anchor or sports lock.
COM-DEX is our hands-free solution for Bluetooth streaming (up to eight hours on one charge). It offers high quality sound and is very easy to use with all Bluetooth mobile devices. It is backwards compatible and works with our current UNIQUE products (CLEAR, SUPER, DREAM and UNIQUE). It works all Widex's wireless technology. It has an attractive design and is thin and lightweight. With very few buttons, it is intuitive to use. With the push of a button, users can answer and hang up the phone. They can enjoy music, and use the room off function to turn off the hearing aid mics and allow for streaming. The charging port is at the bottom.
Convenient control of hearing aid volume, sound direction and program settings is available via the COM-DEX App. The COM-DEX App is available in the App Store. The newest COM-DEX App is version 1.2.0 and also works with an Apple Watch. It is a great option to be able to adjust volume and preference control, to change programs and to zoom in from the Apple watch. For some Android phones, there is a widget that gives you the COM-DEX App directly on your home screen. There are all kinds of help menus and guides in the App that you can access, along with videos showing how to set everything up. There is also a visual battery display on the App, which indicates how much battery life is remaining in the COM-DEX. You do not have to have the App to use the COM-DEX. I have fit quite a few patients that don't have smart phones, but still use the COM-DEX because it works with Bluetooth. To use the App, you must have the COM-DEX.
COM-DEX Boost. We have recently introduced the COM-DEX Boost, which is a new software that enables COM-DEX to work with Apple Watch and the Android widget. It also will enable COM-DEX to connect to two different devices or two Bluetooth phones. Today, many people have a work phone and a personal phone. Now, you can have both of those connected to COM-DEX at the same time without having to disconnect one of them. You can switch seamlessly between phone calls. Or, if you are watching a movie and your phone rings, you simply answer the phone and it immediately connects.
The COM-DEX Boost also provides more compatibility for Android phones. There may still be some Android phones that have very different software that COM-DEX may not connect with, but we did achieve more compatibility. Microphone sensitivity of the COM-DEX has improved, so that the person on the other end of the phone may be able to hear the COM-DEX user better.
There is a new tool to update the firmware of the COM-DEX. You can download it via Widex Pro or Widex Learn, and update the firmware of the COM-DEX for your patients who have an older COM-DEX (before May of 2016) in just a few minutes.
Another new software-driven feature is that, except for the Micro CIC, you can now connect any Widex hearing aid (Dream and UNIQUE lines at all levels) to one of our CROS devices. The fact that even our lowest price point level of products (e.g., the Dream 110, the UNIQUE 110) is now compatible with the CROS is a game-changer. A wider range of people with varying levels of impairment and income levels will be able to receive the hearing assistance they require.
The Widex CROS comes in two models: the CROS Fusion, which is the smaller model, and the CROS Fashion, which is a thin tube model and a bit larger as it has a separate VC and a separate program button. With the Widex CROS Fashion, the patient can adjust the volume on the off-side mic without changing the hearing aid volume. Additionally, our CROS unit uses three times less battery life than the competition.
We conducted an evidence-based study that looked at hearing in noise, with both CROS candidates and Bi-CROS candidates. We used the HINT as well as a subjective questionnaire that's designed specifically for single-sided deafness, the Bern Benefit in Single-Sided Deafness or BBSS questionnaire. The results from the objective testing showed that the CROS and Bi-CROS technology significantly improved speech intelligibility. The subjects rated communication in noisy environments or other challenging everyday situations (such as driving in a car or participating in a conversation with multiple talkers) easier with CROS and Bi-CROS. I encourage you to read the full study.
Compass GPS 2.1
The latest update to Widex Compass GPS is version 2.1; an automatic update went out on May 2, 2016. The automatic updater downloads the software to your computer, but you manually need to install it. If you're in the middle of a fitting when we push through updates, you will see a little icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen to alert you to the fact that new software is available. Please check your software to make sure you are running this latest version.
With this latest version of software, the configurable push button that I previously mentioned is now available with the Fashion Mini and the Fusion. Again, it is backwards compatible with all UNIQUEs that have been programmed since the end of October. It's not compatible with our previous styles, but you can use it with any UNIQUE that is a Fashion Mini or a Fusion.
You can configure the push button as a preference control, as we have in UNIQUE currently, or choose between these configurations:
- Program change
- Preference control
- Preference control and mute
- Preference control and program change
- No functionality
With Compass GPS 2.1, you can rename programs. There are about 24 or 25 different names of programs to choose from. For example, you can name an everyday listening program "normal." If there is a ZEN tinnitus program, you can call it "relaxation." You can label programs as “comfort”, “sports”, “outdoors”, etc. There are many options.
There's a new Solution Guide in Compass for the UNIQUE product. If you have challenges with a fitting, you can click through the Solution Guide to find answers and suggestions. We also have a new hearing aid user guide with a lot of good information that you can print out and give to patients.
My colleague, Janelle Shaw, has a recorded course on AudiologyOnline that reviews the Widex Compass GPS 2.1 and the new updates. She reviews the new features, conducts a demonstration in the software, and shows you how to do the new things I touched on today such as renaming programs, configuring the push button, and more. You can access the course here: Compass GPS 2.1, Continuing the Unique Experience.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is the UNIQUE Power BTE coming soon?
Answer: The UNIQUE Power BTE is planned to be available in the US later in 2016. It is called the Fashion Power UNIQUE. It was not released sooner because it was not ready, but as soon as it is available will make an announcement and let you know.
In addition to the handouts and links provided in this course, another good resource for UNIQUE product information is the Widex UNIQUE Feature and Product Quick Guide. For more information, please visit widexpro.com or Widex Learn. Thank you for attending this course today and for your interest in Widex UNIQUE.
Staverman, L. (2016, July). Continuing the Unique journey - new products in the Widex Unique family. AudiologyOnline, Article 17867. Retrieved from www.audiologyonline.com