Two Months With Widex’s Moment 440 mRIC R D Hearing Aids

“You are committing audio reviewer suicide” friends insisted when towards the end of 2018 I told them I was going to review some inexpensive Hearing Aids. Guess what? All of the comments under the review were positive and my reviewer creds are intact. Plus, my now 91 year old mother-in-law can now hear much better since I’d really bought them for her benefit.

Early in 2020 a publicist for Widex, a Danish manufacturer of “high performance” hearing aids contacted AnalogPlanet asking if we’d like to review a newly released hearing aid aimed at music lovers, musicians and audiophiles. Widex, a family owned business, merged in 2018 with Singapore-based Sivantos Group, another “hearing tech” company that is itself a “spin off” of Siemens Audio Solutions.

Sivantos also owns Signia, Rexton, TruHearing, Audibene, HearUSA and Hear.com—none of which most of us have ever heard of. The $8 billion dollar merger created the world’s 3rd largest “hearing conglomerate”. I have no idea who is #1 and who is #2 but suffice it to say, for a variety of obvious reasons including an aging population and stupid people listening to music at stupid SPLs both at concerts and in their ears, the hearing aid business is enormous, growing and has over the past few years been consolidated.

I bit on the offer, especially since this audition would include an audiologist exam—something I’ve never before had.

Then Covid-19 struck and the audiologist visit had to be canceled. But Widex had a remote solution. The company sent the 440 mRIC R D for me to “play with” while they set up a remote exam using a device they prepared that I’d wear around my neck that would connect the audiologist with the 440 mRICs using a special app, and she would be able to deliver the test tones into my ears and analyze the results. Of course, such a test is best administered in a “quiet room”, not in a home office where ambient noise was far higher. But safety first.

Data in hand, she was able to customize the performance to best suit my needs, though the app itself offers a wide range of adjustability. Widex only sells to authorized dealers capable of performing the required hearing tests. Though somehow others manage to get ahold of Widex products. As with “gray goods” in audio, buying from non-authorized sources may save you a few bucks but it voids the warranty and leaves you without service options.

The Moment 440 mRIC R D

These appear to be Widex’s top of the line RIC. RIC means “receiver in the ear”. “CIC” models mean “completely in the ear” (I’m learning the lingo). They are remarkably compact and so fit behind the ears and just about disappear. No one noticed I was wearing them until I pointed it out (to the few people I’ve come into contact with since the pandemic began). There are two versions: the “M” (supplied) for people with moderate hearing loss and the “p” for those with more severe loss.

The built-in Lithium-ion battery last between 16-20 hours and can fully recharge in 4 hours. The batteries can be replaced if necessary, through an authorized dealer at a cost of “hundreds of dollars”, which seems reasonable to me. To re-charge the batteries, you place the hearing aids in the charger wells.

The 440 mRIC R D features 15 channels (which refers to how finely the device can capture, process and reproduce sound; the more channels the more “fine tuning” possibilities), and 5 customizable programs, all of which can be accessed and controlled on an iPhone or Android platform phone using the easy to use and graphically pleasing SoundSense app.

Key to this product, introduced this past July (2020) and clearly why I was contacted about it, is its unique, according to Widex, .5 millisecond processing time. In other words, the processed amplified sound reaching your ears arrives a scant half-millisecond after the “live” sound does. Everyone reading this understands comb filtering, time and phase coherence and the deleterious effects of time delay on sound quality. Comb filter effects produce, among other things, a bright, tinny sound and in worst case scenarios spatial distortions and/or just a “feeling” of discomfort.

Widex claims a dynamic range for its hearing devices of at least 108dB and a 33kHz sampling rate with 18 bit depth. Keep in mind this device is not designed to reproduce frequencies above 9.2 KHz. (7.5kHz for the “p” version) so don’t let the sampling rate throw you! I was sent an article from an online hearing aid “blog” that contains a familiar complaint from a musician: “I’ve had analog hearing aids for years and my banjo sounded great. They broke recently and I am now trying my fifth set of digital hearing aids. They distort the sound of my music and nothing that the audiologist does seems to help.”

The problem with digital hearing aids is that they are mostly designed for voice amplification and can’t handle wide dynamic range musical input and so distort. We all know that in this regard (clipping) analog is far more forgiving. The article includes results of a six week blind study done with ten hard-of-hearing musicians using two Widex technologies, one of which had the wide dynamic range “True Input”™ technology incorporated in the Moment 440s and the other which did not. The “True Input” technology was preferred by a 60% margin at both high SPLs and 20% at low.

Interestingly, in another blind study testing the efficacy of Widex’s “PureSound”™ under 0.5 millisecond delay technology, 85% of participants with hearing loss preferred it as did 100% of participants with normal hearing.

The Bluetooth connection to the app also allows streaming from phone calls and music apps. Though the sound quality is at best “serviceable”, it’s super-useful and convenient for streaming news and information shows from Sirius or TV apps, and of course for phone calls.

Self-Set Up First

The long delay between delivery and virtual exam allowed me to set up and use the 440 mRIC R Ds on my own for weeks. You can learn more about Widex on the company’s website as well as, of course, the multiple product lines it offers—so many, in fact, and not particularly well organized on the site, that navigating it can get unnecessarily confusing. So many typefaces and sizes, so little TIME.

Fortunately, the top of the line Moment 440 mRIC R D Widex unit I have been using is anything but confusing to set up and use. Pairing with the phone was easy as was playing with the app’s many settings. The batteries never came close to running low even after a full day’s use (the app monitors the charge level) and it was easy to pop the Moment 440’s out of my ears and place them in the recharger unit.

How comfortable are they to wear? These things are so small and light and easy to insert they go in in seconds and basically disappear. I used “open” inserts and left them in all day for many days (removing them of course for critical reviewing). One day over the summer on one of the hottest August days I’d had enough of the heat and decided to go for a swim. I threw on some trunks and ran to the pool and got on the diving board. Just as I was about to jump, I realized I had these things in my ears! If you wear glasses, having these in your ears is equally forgettable though I’m sure I’d have a hard time convincing you of that. I get it: it just seems kind of alien to stick something in your ear and leave it there all day.

Aural Exam

After evaluating the test results, the audiologist told me that my hearing was still “pretty good” with only some “moderate” midrange loss typical of people my age, aggravated for sure by mild Tinnitus. My “top end” was also good for my age but she hesitated to provide specifics because of the less than ideal test environment.

None of this surprised me. I once could hear ultrasonic burglar alarm sensors at the supermarket. I no longer can, though I’m not even sure those are still used. And no problem 20 years ago hearing the 16kHz “flyback” transformers used in old CRT televisions. I used to be able to walk down the block in the summer and without looking in the window hear who was watching television. I doubt I could hear that today, though of course there’s no way anymore to test that. But you know, the fundamental of a cymbal crash is around 7kHz (though the spectral content goes well above 100kHz), so youngsters, don’t expect cymbals to sound soft and mushy as you accumulate years unless you foolishly listen all the time to music at 110dB+ levels.

The biggest hearing issue I have is when watching movies. No problem with old movies where the dialog is compressed and actors, many of whom migrate from stage, knew how to project. While that acting style today appears stilted and fake, it didn’t back then. Mumbling is today’s affectation that’s designed to sound like “real life”, but really doesn’t. In the future it will appear as stilted as the acting style of the 1930s, but combine that with bad post-production or no post-production where ADR (automatic dialog replacement) is eschewed in favor of using production dialog (picked up by microphones just above the actors but out of the frame) and there’s a audibility problem not just for older people! That’s why most home theater receivers have a dialog enhancement setting.

The other issue I have sometimes is with soft classical music passages (“ppp”) that occasionally can drift below my noise floor. That is my biggest issue. Of course, your stereo is a hearing aid. When the SPLs are too low, just crank it up (as one of my even older than I am audio reviewer friends instructs)! But then the crescendos can get too loud and you have to back off the volume. One problem I don’t have that many of my friends, some younger than me do have, is in restaurants where I have no trouble hearing others around the table talk even in noisy spots.

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
no_op's picture

There are a few companies working on hearing loss treatments. The most advanced is Frequency Therapeutics (frequencytx.com)with a treatment that repairs damage to the hair cells and helps restore hearing. Hearing loss may well be "curable" in the next couple of years. Fingers crossed.

jkingtut's picture

Thanks for the info

Toptip's picture

Hearing aids are of course a godsend for people who have hearing loss, to get about their everyday activities and interaction.

But for listening to music? Could that not be done better by turning up the stereo a bit and equalizing the sound for clarity, rather than picking sound up with a microphone and then putting it through a whole process? Or just listening with headphones plugged into source, again a bit louder and equalized for need?

These of course would still be useful for attending concerts and the opera.

Michael Fremer's picture
Made in the review.
tketcham's picture

Michael, good review of an obviously good product. And timely for many of us experiencing age-related hearing loss. I've been researching hearing aids for music lovers and the Widex brand seems to be one of the best. Your endorsement, in particular, is further validation.

Tiptop, I've been using a Schiit Audio Loki Mini tone control to help compensate for my hearing loss while listening to music at home. The amount of frequency boost I ended up with (after hours/days/weeks of trial and error listening to an eclectic mix of music) reflects my hearing loss in the corresponding frequencies. I think if Schiit came up with a five or six band equalizer, to refine the adjustments in the mid-range frequencies, they'd probably sell a bunch of them to us aging audiophiles.

Tom

Leefy's picture

Michael:
Thank you so much for this review. I'm sure many of us ageing audiophiles appreciate it! My question is this: I can still (at this point) enjoy listening to my stereo without adjustments but struggle with conversation somewhat. In your opinion, is it practical to wear these for conversation and then remove for stereo listening (in my particular case) or is there some acclimatization period required for your ears to adjust to the change in sound? I would love to be able to wear them or not as the circumstances dictate but have never experienced hearing devices so no idea if this is really practical.
Again, thanks for doing this!

Lee in Vancouver

ChrisS's picture

...work very well for me. Especially now, listening to much more music and enjoying my stereo more since being fitted with these very small, very discrete hearing aids 3 years ago.

I was missing a lot of the high frequency range of my hearing, and had a lot of difficulty in group gatherings, restaurants, etc. My family was getting quite frustrated with having to repeat everything they said to me.

I wear them all day, except during sleep, just put them on and forget about them. I only have to adjust the volume occasionally in very noisy situations.

Most retailers offer extensive free trials, so it's worthwhile (and very instructive) shopping around. As Michael implied, don't go cheap.

Leefy's picture

Hi Chris:
Thanks for your encouraging comments and the recommendation. I still would like to know if its practical to wear them only sometimes and not always. My stereo sounds fine to me without them so I'd like to know if they can be worn intermittently. For example, if I wear them during the day for conversation and then remove them for listening to my stereo (which already sounds fine to me) would the stereo suddenly sound muffled as my ears adjust to removing them? Perhaps a silly question but I have never experienced hearing aids before so don't what to expect. Its an exciting prospect though so thank for your nomination of Opticon as a contender.
Cheers
Lee

ChrisS's picture

First of all, get your hearing checked to see (hear) what type of hearing loss you might have and where your deficiencies are. If you've had a hearing loss for awhile (years?), you might find using hearing aids helpful wearing them full time. I find it less stressful and less strenuous and tiresome when I do. I was told hearing and brain function can actually improve when you do. I think I have to concur.

Best get checked out first. If you qualify for hearing aids, get the best you can afford and shop at an outlet that gives you good service. (Despite the good prices, avoid places like Costco.)

Leefy's picture

Thanks Chris. Getting checked out is a good place to start so I'll take the first step.

Cheers
Lee

Michael Fremer's picture
Them extremely easy to put in and take out....
ChrisS's picture

Michael, sometimes I forget I'm wearing them and step into the shower and suddenly notice how "loud" the water sounds on my head!

rexlibris's picture

I have Widex and I really think they are great.

JoeESP9's picture

I'm 73 and beginning to experience Tinnitus and the normal hearing loss someone my age can expect to have.

Wimbo's picture

that problem in the Restaurants Mike.
Sometimes I just sit there and not get involved in the conversation.

jim Williams's picture

When I retired at the age of 75 I envisioned many happy hours of listening to music on my wonderful audio equipment. However, my hearing began to decline at about the same time. Listening to my lps and cps is difficult because everything sounds terrible. Even live music does not sound very good. With my Phonak hearing aids it is even worse. So, I have not used my stereo now for about two months. I thought about and tried ear phones using headphone amps from the cheap to the "if you have to ask the price you can't afford them". None of them offered what I wanted, the ability to control the volume and tone of each channel. I keep hoping some company will offer a dual mono headphone amp that would have tone and volume controls for each channel. My first amp was the integrated Scott 299-c, and it had a balance control as well as treble and bass controls for each channel. I spoke with some folks at PS Audio about making a dual mono headphone amp, and they seemed interested. Then, the pandemic and the world turned upside down. I recall that in one of your audio show videos from Munich that you talked with a gentleman from Ortofon. He mentioned that Ortolan was looking into something like a hearing aid, and you jokingly told him he could not call it a hearing aid but hearing assistance or something. I have been waiting for more about this, but I have heard nothing. Probably the pandemic has affected this development as well. Needless to say, I read your extensive review of the Widex, and I plan on contacting them about the availability in the Akron/Cleveland area.

Michael Fremer's picture
Let us know if that experience is good for you and if what they offer helps!
Louis Hissink's picture

Michael,

It was only the other day that I wondered if anyone had reviewed a hearing aid from the hi-fi perspective and, lo, it happened.

I'm 73 and after a long career in the mining exploration business working underground and in the field using helicopters and drilling machines, my hearing is, as they say, seriously suboptimal. Flat from 20 to 1kHz but then a quick descent to the Stygian depths of high-frequency deafness. This explained the lopsided soundfield I heard from the music system which was corrected when I used the hearing aids, Starkey Bluetooth rechargeables.

The devices have a smartphone app with basic EQ adjustment, and it basically works. As I have Larsen 8 speakers, the hearing aids don't need to be in any acoustic sweet spot to sound good.

The Starkeys use thin plastic tubes to direct the DSP signal to the inner ear. Sound quality? Meh, depends on the source - and Iphones are definitely not high end.

Anton D's picture

I am happy that this company is doing this.

My friend said that their price is right in line with 'standard' hearing aids, as well!

jarango's picture

I've used the Widex hearing aid for more than a year, after trying several others. Widex aids are by far the best for music. One reason is that most hearing aid reverse polarity to make speech more understandable. That helps speech but is disasterous for music. Widex hearing aids-at least the music program (or its modifications using the AI function)--do not invert (I had my audiologist check with Widex). I wear them constantly: when playing in a community orchestra and when listening to stereo or playing movies. My findings are the same as Michael's: better ability to hear both very soft and loud passages, and much better tracking of movie dialogue. Anyone over 60 (I'm way over) should have their hearing tested and should buy a hearing aid if needed. Just be sure to check that the device has at least one setting that does not reverse polarity.

dbrown's picture

until somebody mentions it. Thanks Michael!

PeterPani's picture

I had forgotten it already...

Trevor_Bartram's picture

It's not only loud sound (music or industrial) that will damage your hearing. In my case, windsurfing in dirty old Buzzards Bay and ear infections on at least two occasions resulted in Menieres disease (tinnitus and loss of bass frequencies). Many years later, my left ear succumbed to sudden hearing loss after a multi-hop flight. The hearing came and went for two years before finally going, just leaving tinnitus. The right ear succumbed to naproxen-sodium 30 months ago, taken for a painful shoulder injury, luckily, my right ear has stabilized. All NSAIDs affect the hearing but naproxen-sodium is the worst. After a course of strong steriods, my doctor said nothing would help except a hearing aid. I had the best Oticon units but decided the left ear was beyond hope, so I just use the right occasionally. Why occasionally? Because headphones (music & TV) and subtitles (TV) are far preferable. The hearing aid works well in closed spaces like my work office but not in the open. My ear reacts to the hearing aid by itching and producing wax that eventually clogs it and requires cleaning. I need to go back to the audiologist for a longer dome that does not allow wax to get to the filter. All in all, a PITA, so take care of your hearing!

Slammintone's picture

Still a young 54yr old, 7 years ago I had to start using a noisy CPAP machine. Not so much the machine itself is noisy but air leaks on the face mask are loud and annoying enough to wake you up. So I very quickly learned to use soft compressible ear plugs to shield my hearing from those dream wrecking air leaks. A positive effect is my mild tinnitus has all but disappeared and my hearing has nearly reverted to what it was in my late 30s. This was borne out by my yearly audiology tests required where I work. When the test finishes, you get a printout of that days results and all of your past results on the same page.

jkingtut's picture

I will refrain. There are too many layers of people making $ on hearing aids. Ok I'm glad when everyone has a job but 5-7k? C'mon man. Hearing aid conglomerate, that's just great. This should be in the same category as healthcare in that it should be covered in some way by insurance but it rarely is. Before I got caught in a Ponzi scheme none of the above remarks would be necessary. I'm now budget conscious (or un). I had stapedectomy operations in both ears in my early 40's. one went quite well and the second not as well (same doctor but too old to do the second operation and I knew it but didn't act on it). Tinnitus would be a natural progression but it took another 20+ years to develop and is not terrible. I'm sure the cornerhorns I used to have were played way too loud an hour or two a week at most. When my mother passed away in 2016 I found the right ear hearing aid ($150 in 2010 now $300 with a lot of upgraded technology) from MD Hearing in the drawer that she never used. I have tried it off and on, and I just finished 2 months of knocking on doors for the Census Bureau where I was forced to use it every day to do the interviews. It helped immensely and was very comfortable to the point I could completely forget about it. I wore glasses and a baseball hat and still managed to get it to work, although 2 might be more problematic. Now I love Ry Cooder's first 3 records, he took great care to make great sounding records from the beginning. So I put in the hearing aid and dang they just sound even better. Then Surf's Up, wonderful! Then Bob Weir's solo record Heaven Help the Fool (guilty pleasure), great vocals and soundstage and songs made even better! So I have 10 year old hearing aid with the same exact form factor as the Widex. I know there is a lot of disintermediation going on in the hearing aid industry so my eyes and ears will keep paying attention!

DannyB's picture

I have been using ReSound hearing aids for about 3 years. They make an AMAZING difference when listening to music with speakers or headphones. I was really surprised as I thought they would make the music sound thin and tinny.

However, realizing this has been a controversial issue, I would hope that ALL reviewers have a high-quality hearing exam to see where they may, or may not, have some frequency loss. If they have some loss at a particular frequency and a speaker or headphone emphasizes this frequency then they may conclude it sounds great perhaps not realizing they are not starting out with an essentially flat baseline of hearing. This can distort from a true conclusion. This is not to put reviewers in the hot seat but to just suggest they get tested. This information can be kept private but I think it is ever so important for the objective and accurate review of a product. Just my 2 cents worth.

X