Widex began making hearing aids in 1956 with a sleek, chrome-cased design. I fit my first Widex aids during graduate school and have continued to use them in my clinical practice for both my specialty patients and folks with more typical listening needs.
Widex was the first out of the gate with a commercially-viable digital hearing aid, the Senso, in 1995.1 While other manufacturers quickly followed up with their own digital instruments, Widex was unique in that they focused nearly 100% of their marketing to this new “best in class” device, The Senso was a huge paradigm shift for my patients as it allowed them to hear a much wider range of sound, including softer sounds. Amplifying these very soft sounds presents challenges, but Widex figured it out and has used this basic algorithm since then. They are also one of the leaders in the use of digital scanning and 3D printing in hearing aids.
Over the years I've taken advantage of Widex's out of the box thinking for some special populations. In 2012, I fit a private security guard with Widex CIC hearing aids because using a small remote control, he could point the microphones right, left, front, back, or all around. This allowed him to hear his client, colleagues, and monitor the environment.
In addition to audiology, I've been a serious hobbyist musician since high school. This led me to sub-specialize in hearing loss prevention and treatment for musicians. One of the biggest challenges with hearing aids and music is that digital hearing aids tend to limit the amount of processed sound to optimize battery life. Beginning with their Dream line, Widex has had the widest dynamic range of sound, so Widex is my go-to when I fit a performing musician. This wider range allows musicians to hear their voices and instruments with much less distortion than other products on the market. The evolution of digital processing and move toward lithium-ion rechargeability is narrowing the field, but I still like Widex for this population.
The current product lines of Widex hearing aids include Evoke and Moment. The Moment is very new, but I've fit several Evoke aids. This review will focus primarily on the Evoke and current accessories. I'd like to thank Widex for the images used here.
Moment is advertised as having extremely fast processing designed to eliminate the tinny sound of wearing a hearing aid. I tried their audio demo but did not hear a marked difference. I suspect this is because I wasn't listening through hearing aids and that I have normal hearing. It will be interesting to see what users say and I'll swing back on this in the future if our readers begin to report notable improvements.
Widex Evoke is available in all styles from BTE to IIC. This range of products is appropriate for people with hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. The Evoke products are wireless and some of them (RICs and BTEs marked ”D”) are“made for iPhone” allowing direct streaming to smartphones and tablets. These direct to iPhone devices are also compatible with the Evoke smartphone app.
The non-iPhone versions of the Evoke are compatible with the “Tone Link” app which uses an ultra-high frequency tone to control the hearing aids.
Evoke aids have a full complement of contemporary features including directional microphones to reduce background noise, frequency lowering (called Audibility Extender) to allow those with very poor high pitch hearing to access those sounds, multiple programs, and tinnitus management called Zen. More on that later.
These hearing aids are also compatible with a wide range of accessories collectively known as DEX.
COM-DEX is a small, wireless “re-broadcaster” that accepts Bluetooth signals from phones, tablets, or other audio sources and converts them to the proprietary Widex wireless protocol. When worn around the neck, this allows you to hear these signals in both ears and be “hands-free” with phone calls. The COM-DEX also receives input from the COM-DEX Remote Mic.
The Com-Dex Remote microphone clips onto the person speaking and wirelessly transmits their voice to your COM-DEX, and then to your hearing aids. This position minimizes background noise and reverberation to improve speech understanding. It's very easy to use and provides a fairly affordable solution to the biggest problem people with hearing loss have.
The TV-DEX base connects to your TV's audio output and transmits to the TV-DEX pendant which you wear around your neck, or place nearby on a table or chair arm. I've used this accessory with many of my patients with success. Depending on the connections of the TV, it can be a little tricky to get working, but Widex provides good support for both the dispenser and the end-user.
As with other TV streaming devices,2 TV-DEX overcomes the negative effects of distance, reverberation, and background noise on speech understanding.
The RC-DEX is a small, simple remote control used to adjust the volume and program settings of your hearing aids. It's about the size of an automobile key fob and I've not had any significant issues with them over the years. This same functionality is available in a smartphone app which I'll talk about in a bit.
Widex's next-generation TV device is called TV Play. It's built on the 2.4 GHz wireless platform and is currently compatible only with EVOKE-D hearing aids. According to the Widex audiologist I spoke with, plans are to provide compatibility for the new Moment devices in the future.
DEX-Phone is a specialized landline cordless phone that's set up to transmit incoming audio to both hearing aids using Widex's proprietary wireless technology. The nice thing about this device is that it doesn't change the basic user experience of using the telephone for the patient. You simply replace your landline phone with this and you're done. As soon as the phone is near the hearing aids, it connects and you hear in both hearing aids.
Widex provides several ways for tech-savvy users to interact with their hearing aids. Made for iPhone devices (Evoke D and Moment D) have dedicated apps that allow users to not only control volume and select programs but also fine-tune and save custom programs. I have used the Evoke app with patients and just test drove the demo mode of the Moment app for this review. My user perception is a bit skewed since I'm somewhat of a superuser, but in my clinical practice, my patients have found the Evoke app to be well designed and reasonably intuitive.
In running through the demo version of the Moment App, it appears to be very similar to the Evoke App in terms of functionality, so I expect it to have the same positive user response.
The rest of the Widex line can use the Tone Link App which communicates to the hearing aids using an ultra-high frequency chirp. This app provides basic volume and program control and program selection.
Widex provides a toolkit called Zen in most of their hearing aids including the current line, to address tinnitus. Their approach is a well-researched balance of education, sound therapy, and relaxation. The idea of Zen is not to mask tinnitus per se but to provide an alternate sound that elicits a neutral or positive emotional response to counteract the negative emotion usually tied to tinnitus. I like Zen because the user can select different sounds and adjust them depending on the quality and loudness of tinnitus at any given time. Zen can be activated and adjusted from within the hearing aid-specific app or in a standalone Zen app.
Like other manufacturers, Widex offers the ability for your hearing care professional to make adjustments remotely. Their approach is a little different in that they require a dedicated programming interface (Remote Link) which your dispenser loans you. The use case I've heard of is a new or repeat “high tech” customer asks about remote assistance at the consult or fitting and is provided with the Remote Link at the fitting. After a few remote adjustments, the fitting is “dialed in” and the Remote Link is returned.
I like the fact that this provides a greater degree of fitting options, but I do find the logistics of the device a bit cumbersome.
Widex remains one of the major players in hearing aids internationally. Even after their recent merger with Signia into WS Audiology, the Widex brand remains and is expected to for the foreseeable future. I've always found their products to be well built, reliable, and very effective at addressing a wide range of hearing loss. They have all the features that I look for including direct streaming to the iPhone in some models, wireless accessories, frequency lowering for high-frequency losses, and telecoils. They excel in app development both in terms of functionality and design. In the current COVID-19 climate, their inclusion of remote assistance earns them good marks as well.
As mentioned earlier, Widex is my go-to for performing musicians, but I am also comfortable with them for anyone with hearing loss from mild to profound. They should certainly be on the list to check out for both first-time and experienced hearing aid users.
As a practicing audiologist since the 1990’s, Brad Ingrao, AuD has fitted thousands of hearing aids to seniors and people of all ages. Brad is the Official Audiologist for the International Committee on Sports for the Deaf and a well-known speaker. Dr…. Learn More About Brad Ingrao