Signia IX hearing aid review
Find out about Signia's new Integrated Xperience (IX) hearing aids with our expert review
Having worked in audiology for seven years now, whenever a new hearing aid comes to market I always greet the claims with a degree of suspicion. So, when Signia released its new IX platform (that’s I-X, not the Roman numerals for ‘nine’) declaring “[n]atural, effortless conversations” and “[…] crisp, clear focus in noise”1, I swiftly donned my deerstalker, grabbed my magnifying glass, and went investigating.
What is the Signia IX?
The IX (Integrated Xperience) is the latest hearing aid technology from leading manufacturer Signia, which was released in the UK in mid-September 2023. Not only does it have a load of incredible features wrapped up in elegant styles, with the IX, Signia are also one of the first manufacturers to create a rechargeable Completely in Canal (CIC) hearing aid. The IX is also a world’s first for accurately pinpointing moving speakers2.
The Signia marketing materials boast how the IX computer chip updates 1,000 times a second, analyses 192,000 data points every second, and has a rather mysterious feature called “OVP 2.0”3. Breaking down all of the sales talk, its primary focus is to improve and enhance conversations better than its competitors.
Who is the Signia IX for?
Would a Signia IX hearing aid suit your type of hearing loss? Almost certainly. The fitting range on the Pure Charge&Go IX suggests it can cater for mild losses (20-40dB), right up to, and potentially including, profound losses (95dB+), with a little help from a custom-made tip4.
The tiny, rechargeable Silk, however, has to be a little more selective, covering mild to, at a push, moderate-severe losses (55-70dB), with a slight preference to a presbycusis, or high frequency, hearing loss pattern4.
Have an ear with little to no hearing in it? No problem – both the Pure Charge&Go, and the Silk Charge&Go come with wireless CROS versions. This CROS, or Contralateral Routing Of Sound, option is where the hearing aid picks up sound from your quietest side and transfers it into your hearing side, allowing you full 360-degree awareness.
What Signia IX technology levels are available?
When it comes to talking about the differences between hearing aids, it’s almost like talking about cars; the make, model, and engine size becomes manufacturer, form (or model), and technology level. Yes, Volkswagen created the Passat estate, and the Fox hatchback, and you can put a 1.4 litre engine in both of them, but the experience will be very different…
The Signia IX hearing aid platform comes in three technology levels – 7IX, 5IX, and 3IX4. The bigger the number, the more helpful and realistic the sound is. For example, the 7IX can automatically detect and reduce echoes, and can process the super high pitches up to 12kHz, which the 5 and 3IX can not4.
A 3IX can break down the sound into 32 channels, whereas a 7IX can separate it into 48 channels4, which creates more of a natural listening experience. For this reason, when it comes to purchasing hearing aids, we advise that you always get the best you can comfortably afford.
What Signia IX styles and colours are available?
Currently, there are two Signia IX hearing aid styles available – the Pure Charge&Go, and the Silk Charge&Go. With Signia’s headquarters based in Denmark, both styles of the IX hearing aids and their accessories have a Scandi-chic appearance – elegant, stylish, and inviting.
Signia Pure Charge&Go IX
The Pure Charge&Go is an over-the-ear style of hearing aid, but in the discrete subcategory of a Receiver in Canal, or RIC hearing aid. The rocker switch of the previous model has gone and has been replaced with two smart buttons which can differentiate between a short and a long push, for those who want some control of their hearing aid without having to use their phone.
It comes in, essentially, nine varieties of differing hair colours, as well as rose gold, which can blend in, or look like a shadow behind the ear. The receiver wire hugs the curves of your ear with the speaker ending in your ear canal, encased in a soft dome, sleeve, or custom tip.
Enjoy going to theatres, places of worship, or venues with a loop system? The Pure Charge&Go T IX has a telecoil in it to help you hear the speaker more clearly. That’s the T. In order to fit these extra capabilities in, the Pure Charge&Go T IX hearing aid is just 1mm bigger.
Signia Silk Charge&Go IX
The Silk Charge&Go is an in-the-ear style of hearing aid, but in the subcategory of being a Completely-in-Canal, or CIC hearing aid. You can’t go wrong with this style; the body of the hearing aid is red or blue, and marked ‘R’ or ‘L’ to clearly indicate which side is right or left. But don’t worry – this coloured part is hidden deep inside your ear. The only items people may be able to see are the fine plastic extraction cords that rest in the bowl of your ear, and potentially the faceplate, which comes in black or mocha colours.
What’s quite novel about the Silk Charge&Go IX is that, unlike its competitors, it’s non-custom, meaning you don’t need to have impressions, and alterations to the way it fits in the ear canal can be made substantially quicker. It also doesn’t have a program button on the faceplate like some other manufacturers, meaning you can’t accidentally change the settings as you insert them into your ears. But by far, the most novel thing is its rechargeability (more on that below).
So, you’ve got two very different styles of hearing aids, and the same computer chip can go inside them. Surely they must work the same? Well, remember that car analogy…
Signia’s Pure Charge&Go IX hearing aids in Sandy Brown, and their Silk Charge&Go IX hearing aid and charger.
What technology features are in the Signia IX?
If you’ve picked up an IX information leaflet recently, you would have seen it lists two new key features: OVP 2.0 and RealTime Conversation Enhancement.
The mysterious OVP 2.0 stands for Own Voice Processing – it’s a Signia-specific test the audiologist does with you whilst programming your hearing aids that essentially teaches the hearing aids your voice, so you have less of that slightly unusual, echoey effect. This can be quite a relief, particularly to those users with mild losses, ski slope losses, or first-time wearers.
RealTime Conversation Enhancement has been seen as a game changer for most, but has become a contentious point for myself. It is an umbrella term for all of the fancy ways it enhances speech in noise, and to be fair, it does this exceptionally well. To boil it down to its most basic of terms, RealTime Conversation Enhancement can see what is background noise and what is important noise. Within a 2 metre / 6ft 6 radius in front of you, it analyses and identifies the people who are talking and where they are. It can then track and enhance the voices of up to three people speaking to you.
Actively following one person’s voice as they move around you is novel enough, but three is really quite remarkable. The chances of hearing a punchline during a group conversation have dramatically increased. Why’s it contentious? Well, having read the white paper, technical specification sheets, and the product feature sheets, despite the RealTime Conversation Enhancement being a keynote feature in the IX platform, none of its magic can fit inside the Silk Charge&Go IXs, it’s only available in the Pure Charge&Go IXs.
Furthermore, the ability to focus on and track an independent speaker isn’t available for the Pure Charge&Go 3IX, it’s just reserved for the top tech of the 5IX and 7IX4. This is such a shame, because the truly jaw-dropping magic is only really found in one hearing aid – the Pure Charge&Go 7IX. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the claim that 95% of people found benefit in group conversations when this feature was turned on, was concluded from Signia’s own research, conducted with just 20 individuals4. It would be reassuring to see this finding replicated by a third party, and on a larger sample size.
Fortunately, for the 1 in 8 of us who experience tinnitus5, both models and all tech levels of the Signia IX have a tinnitus masker available.
Is the Signia IX compatible with my phone?
Technically, yes, both the Pure Charge&Go IX and the Silk Charge&Go IX can access a rather nifty Signia application (creatively titled, “Signia App”) through most mobile phones, but there are a fair few caveats to this, which are explained in detail below. Signia App can let you switch through programs, improve the softness of the sounds, and change the focus of the microphones.
For the Pure Charge&Go IXs, you have the Signia Assistant, which has been colloquially called “the audiologist in your pocket”. If you need any adjustments there and then, day or night, you answer a few questions through the Signia Assistant, and it will make automatic changes for you. Unfortunately, the Signia Assistant is not available in the Signia App for the Silk Charge&Go IX.
To simply use the Signia app, all you need is an Apple device with the iOS version 14.0 or higher, or an Android (like Samsung, Google Pixel etc) that supports Android 9.0 or higher. Please bear in mind, however, that not all Android phones are compatible.
The Pure Charge and Go IXs are MFI (Made for iPhone) and have the ASHA protocol (Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids, a.k.a. they can connect to Androids). If you want to be able to listen to music, or a caller’s voice through your hearing aids from your phone, you would need to have one of the devices on Signia’s device compatibility list.
At the top of the compatibility pyramid, should you want your hearing aids to work like a Bluetooth headset, answer calls by a push of a hearing aid button, and be able to converse with your phone in your pocket, you’d be looking at pretty much any iPhone released since September 2019 – no Android options I’m afraid!
I’m also sorry to tell you that the streaming of music and phone calls is only available for the Pure Charge&Go IX, not the Silk Charge&Go IX. With the Silk Charge&Go IX being so small, it has simply had to sacrifice features to keep its figure (I know that feeling!), meaning it can’t connect via Bluetooth. Instead, the Silk Charge&Go IX connects to Signia App by emitting a high-pitched tone from your phone, which the aid picks up and translates each time you make an adjustment. Because of this, some people around you may be aware that you’re changing the settings of your Silks.
What’s Signia IX’s charging like?
Signia boast convenient rechargeability with their IX hearing aids, and I would have to agree. All of the chargers are easy to use. The most convenient, and most stylish options are the Portable Charger for the Pure, and the Silk charger; both are compact and can use wireless Qi charging, whilst being able to hold 3-4 days charge in them.
If you’re the sort of person who isn’t interested in connecting your hearing aids to your phone or television, you’d be pleased to learn that the standard model of Pure Charge&Go IX comes with up to 28 hours of battery life from a single charge. But if you like listening to podcasts whilst walking, scrolling through YouTube on the train, or having TV streamed directly to your ears, then you may be interested in the Pure’s big brother, the Pure Charge&Go T IX. Fancy streaming for 5 hours solid? No bother – you’re covered for up to 34 hours off a single charge. If you’re not streaming at all, you’ve got up to 39 hours of hearing.
To charge either of the Pure styles, there are three sleek choices. First, you’ve got the Pure Desktop Charger. A sturdy little thing, this works like a conventional charger; it needs to be plugged in at the wall for it to be used. Secondly, you’ve got the Pure Dry&Clean Charger, which is an excellent choice for those who might be inclined to perspire quite a bit, have recurring ear infections, or those who just want the best for their hearing aids. The Pure Dry&Clean Charger has a dehumidifier to dry them, and an ultraviolet light to kill germs, with the charger completing the cycle in just 15 minutes6. Lastly, is the very popular Pure Portable Charger. A protective case that can hold 3 days’ worth of charging energy without needing to be plugged in. Not only that, but the charger itself can be charged wirelessly through magnetic Qi points, just like most modern phones.
All of these chargers are simple to use – pop the hearing aids in the respective compartments, and they charge up magnetically. The light indicators inform you of their charging status too, not that you’d need to use it too often – Signia claim that it only takes 4 hours to charge up the hearing aids, and just 30 minutes of charge gives you a generous 6 hours of use.
As for the Silk Charge&Go, gone are the days of notoriously fiddly size 10 batteries to charge your CIC hearing aids; Signia have found a way to create a rechargeable battery, small but mighty enough to fit in their tiny Silk hearing aid whilst also giving you up to 28 hours of use5.
The charger is also rather pleasing – compact, simple to use, it can fit right into your pocket, and can also charge wirelessly through magnetic Qi points. Don’t let its size fool you, this Tic Tac-esque charger can supply the Silk Charge&Go IX hearing aids for a whopping 4 days without the case needing to be charged up itself.
In terms of battery life, I’ve been verbally informed by the team at Signia that they expect their rechargeable batteries to last up to three years. This is three times better than two manufacturers I have previously spoken to.
How much does the Signia IX cost?
The price you can expect to pay for Signia IX hearing aids varies depending upon the technology level chosen, and the type of care plan or package included by your provider.
In the UK, prices for the top level Signia 7IXs range from £4,000 to £4,500 per pair, compared to £3,400 to £3,900 for the 5IXs, and £3,000 to £3,500 for the 3IXs. This is regardless of whether you are choosing to purchase the Pure RIC, or Silk CIC styles.
The Signia IX is available from a number of independent hearing aid providers, including their Independent Spectrum Partners, such as ourselves. The Signia IX range is not available on the NHS or from any of the big national chains.
Summary of the Signia IX pros and cons
The Silk Charge&Go IX hearing aids are great if you can already hear well in noise and just need a bit of volume to add a touch of clarity, but my heart and my head firmly stands with the RIC style Pures. They are so incredibly smart, and I was blown away with my own experiences when using them. The full access to the app, especially the Signia Assistant is very useful, and I still can’t get over how realistic the Pure Charge&Go 7 IX sounds.
It’s important to avoid thinking “it’s the same technology in two different styles of hearing aids”, because, when you look at the stats, it really isn’t. If one is a Christmas dinner, the other is a chocolate – they’re both good but in very different ways.
Watch Signia experts demonstrate what Pure Charge&Go IX can do
Watch the groundbreaking RealTime Conversation Enhancement technology of Signia Integrated Xperience in action.
By Hannah Parcell
Registered Hearing Aid Dispenser
If you would like to experience the Signia IX hearing aid for yourself, then why not book a personalised hearing needs assessment, or get in touch to discuss your requirements with one of our audiologists, without obligation.