Widex Mind 440
Supplier: Widex Hearing Instruments
Cost: May vary depending on the audiology/hearing aid clinic; pricing should be consistent with other digital hearing aids available in the marketplace. In Canada this would be approximately $2500 per aid.
Category: Sound Enrichment; Hearing Loss Management
Sound Type: Relaxation sound (fractal music; pink noise).
Sound Device: Hearing aid with additional sound type options.
How to Use: This hearing aid includes a Zen music system. This music is a type of fractal music which is a special type of non-repetitive music produced using a mathmatical calculation. There are 5 types of Zen music to choose from. It sounds like new-age type music and the Widex website has examples you can listen to. The Mind 440 is also being offered with Zen noise as an option in addition to the fractal music. A Widex rep told me the Zen noise is pink noise. Pink noise is essentially white noise with the high frequencies filtered out. The frequency range of pink noise is similar to the range of everyday sound. People can use the hearing aid as usual, or can listen to their choice of Zen music or Zen noise through the hearing aid.
Anecdotal Evidence: I have a couple of clients with tinnitus who will consider this product when it is time to replace their current hearing aids. I haven’t heard any other feedback on this yet since it is relatively new on the market. Has anybody tried it? What did you think?
Clinical Trials: Widex has some preliminary research showing that approximately 35% of people with tinnitus who use the Zen program daily over a 6 month period noticed improved coping.
Evidence Based Research: General research has shown fractal music can increase relaxation, reduce stress and improve concentration. At first this product was only marketed to people with hearing loss. Hearing loss can increase stress – it is frustrating when you have trouble hearing conversations, are straining to hear, are worried about missing important sounds or information. People with hearing loss can use the Zen music system in this hearing aid to help feel more relaxed, less stressed, and concentrate better.
But research also shows that people distressed by tinnitus or sound sensitivity can benefit (cope better) with increased relaxation, stress reduction and improved concentration. Some people with T or SS find pink noise more comfortable to listen to than white noise, and pink noise is often recommended for SS treatment. Independent research data specifically looking at the effectiveness of fractal music or pink noise for treatment of T or SS is still limited but these sound types look promising.
Other similar products: Widex also offers the Mind 330 (Zen music system only). Combination Instruments (hearing aid + white noise) may be used in some formal treatment programs for people with severe tinnitus or sound sensitivity distress. There are no other hearing aids currently on the market that include specific sound types that may be helpful for people with T or SS.
Cost-Benefit Analysis: An audiologist or tinnitus specialist can determine if you are a candidate for this type of hearing aid. If you are, is it worth the cost for essentially 3 tools in one (hearing aid, fractal music, pink noise)? Can you listen to the sounds ahead of time to see if it’s something that you might find comfortable and relaxing to listen to for sound enrichment? What is the return policy if you don’t find the product helpful within the trial period? (Note it is good to get return policies in writing.)
I’ve had a listen and I like some of the Zen music types offered in this product. I also like the sound of pink noise. I think research on fractal music and pink noise shows promise for people with T or SS and it is nice that this product is now available as an option. There is no one hearing aid that is best for everybody. But I think certain people with T will find this a useful tool. I think this could also be a potentially helpful option for people with SS. Again the research isn’t out on this yet. But what if you could turn off or minimize the hearing aid component (which should be possible) and just use the fractal music and/or pink noise features for SS treatment? The hearing aid component could be added in later as needed.
Overall, I think there is a real lack of digital in-ear products for people with T or SS. With digital technology there is so much potential for getting effective sound types into devices that have good sound quality. I’m hoping that Widex has opened the door with this product, and that other hearing aid manufacturers will also look at bringing out products with appropriate sound types or features to help people with T or SS.
Jan’s Opinion: It’s not in my toolbox since I have normal hearing. But I’d try it if there was ever a clinical trial locally on people with normal hearing.
Jan L. Mayes ©2010