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  It goes without sayiing that birds' songs and calls are an integral part of the birding experience and it is as true to say that the precious ability to hear birds is only appreciated once one has a hearing loss. Most birders, especially younger generations, take for granted their ability to detect the presence of Willow Warblers or Yellow-throated Woodland Warblers singing sweetly high above in the canopy, or to know that there are Cloud or Ayres' Cisticolas around, even though they remain invisible, cruising above the grasslands way beyond human sight, strumming their squeaky little territorial songs. When I reached my mid-fifties it dawned on me that my ability to hear high-pitched sounds like these had all but evaporated, and the data-base of bird calls that lived in my head, lovingly built up over decades had been badly compromised. For a serious birder it is a loss as profound as the loss of a limb to an athlete.

  I have been fortunate, though, to have had a good experience with the use of hearing aids and have recently been fitted with the latest generation of these. Like all other things digital, hearing aid technology has seen exponential advances and, just as today's high-end computers bear little comparison with those of just five years ago, so it is with hearing aids. I shall be reporting on my progress in hearing and relearning bird calls with my new Widex Clear 440's, here and in Africa Birds & Birding magazine, in the months ahead.

See the following links.

Africa Birds & Birding September 2005

Africa Birds & Birding September 2012

Africa Geographic September 2012

Africa Geographic February 2014


My assessment of Widex's DREAM hearing aids (15 July 2014)

I do appreciate the opportunity given to me recently to test the new Widex DREAM hearing aids, and to Mariet du Plooy for facilitating this, and for providing such meticulous support in programming them to suit my situation. This is my assessment of them when compared against the CLEAR 440 model that I have been wearing for the past 2 years (and the Widex DIVAs for the 5 years before that).  Before going further, though, I have to say that the CLEARs have greatly enhanced my ability to hear in the time that I've worn them.

Firstly, I find that I've adapted very easily to wearing these new DREAMs; I'm not sure why, as they are exactly similar in shape and fitment to the CLEAR and so the way they fit and rest on my ears is no different. With the CLEARs I was always a bit relieved to take them out when I didn't need them whereas with the DREAMS I have had no trouble adapting to wearing them throughout the day, finding it easier to keep them in than take them out.

So its not a physical discomfort factor that has changed. Thus, I assume, it is related to the sound quality difference that makes them easier to wear. My overall impression is that they are 'softer on the brain' (for want of a better way of describing it): when I'm wearing them I'm mostly not aware of the fact. I spend a lot of time behind a computer and I never wore the CLEARs when doing so whereas now I find it just as easy, and as comfortable, to continue wearing the DREAMs whether I'm at the computer or not. The DREAMs seem to bring out the sounds you want to hear, and suppress the sounds you don't, much better than the CLEARs and they are, without question, better in situations with loud background noise (restuarants in particular) where that noise is suppressed without compromising on voices. In one-on-one conversations (without background noise) I also find that I'm hearing higher-pitched voices more clearly and I think this is the result of the 3000-4000 hz frequencies being more effectively amplified in the DREAM.

My primary interest in having hearing aids has always been to bring back bird sounds that I can no longer hear as a result of my hearing loss – birds have been my primary interest throughout my life - and in the brief opportunities I've had so far in testing the DREAMs in this regard I am satisfied that they go well beyond the CLEARs, bringing in more body and texture to the higher-pitched bird calls. I have used all the programmes to listen to birds, including the audibility extender and the TV program and think the TV mode offers the best profile for this purpose.

If there was anything negative to say about the DREAMs it would be that I sometimes get sound feedback at the microphone when sweeping my hand past my ear and this didn't happen with the CLEARs and I may need to attend to this by having some small adjustment made to the programming.

In short, having tested the DREAMs there is no way that I can go back to the CLEARs!