Clarity of Speech in Noise

In my previous blog, I discussed the fact that hearing aids may look similar but have extremely different price points. One of the main reasons for this is the technology circuitry inside the aid. Voice iQ² is a program designed to maintain clarity of speech in noise and reduce listening effort. It can also add to the cost of the hearing aids.

Perhaps the biggest difference between entry-level and high-end hearing aids is how well they enhance speech and reduce background noise. The feature of high-end hearing aids that enhances clarity of speech in noisy environments is called Voice iQ2 . In noisy, more challenging listening environments, background noise (represented by the gray color in the below graphs) interferes with the speech signal (represented in red). Let’s compare the two graphs below. The graph on the left shows the clarity of speech in a noisy environment without Voice iQ2. The graph on the right shows the clarity of speech in the same noisy environment with Voice iQ2. The more red lines (speech signal) you see on the graph, the easier speech is understood in the noisy (gray) environment. You can see in the graph on the right, the speech signal you want to hear is much more evident when compared to the noise represented by the gray color.

speech in noisy environments
The more red lines (speech signal) you see on the graph, the easier speech is understood in the noisy (gray) environment.

Voice iQ2 maintains the speech signal in noisy environments while reducing the listening effort of the patient. High-end hearing aids can perform this feature more accurately because they calculate Voice iQ2 in more frequency channels. So, considering the range of speech sounds that hearing aids amplify, entry-level hearing aids can perform Voice iQ2 in only four channels while high-end hearing aids use 16 channels. The result is a much better sound quality and clarity of speech in noise with the use of high-end hearing aids.

So does this mean the more channels the hearing aid offers, the better? Yes, in the case of Starkey products (Starkey, MicroTech, Nu-Ear, and Audibel). Few manufactures of hearing aids offer similar features in every channel. I recently looked on the Internet and found a 64-channel hearing aid. Sounds impressive, but it didn’t offer any noise management feature in any channel. Therefore, for marketing purposes, it is advertised as a 64-channel hearing aid but would actually perform worse in noisy environments when compared to Starkey’s entry-level product that offers four channels of speech enhancement and noise reduction.

Therefore, though Voice iQ2 could add to the cost of the hearing aid, you are certainly getting a good value with how well you will hear and understand speech in noise.