The Need for Continual Hearing Aid Innovation
Helping those with hearing loss live life to its fullest
14 September 2020
Hearing loss is frustrating on many different levels – from interacting with friends and family, to hearing what is said on the phone or in a noisy restaurant, to even being able to function in the workplace or a school environment. Plus, untreated hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline, social isolation and increase fall risk.
Fortunately, there are solutions to help you hear better in all different scenarios. And while today’s hearing aids are more advanced than even just a few years ago, the technology, however, is far from being complete.
“Through our continual innovation, Phonak – a global hearing technology leader — pushes the boundaries to ensure hearing loss can be overcome in various scenarios,” said Scott Witt, Director, Portfolio Management for Phonak. “And, by constantly improving technical solutions, we enable the hearing aid wearer to live life to the fullest.”
Why the need to evolve?
With more than 1 million Phonak Marvel hearing aids fit and being one of the best-performing hearing solutions for the company to date, Phonak still knew it could not stop innovating. “We’re not done yet,” said Witt. “Our focus is on improving the lives of those with hearing loss, and I don’t believe we will ever be completely satisfied.”
Innovation helps Phonak to find ways to bring solutions to hearing care professionals and their patients, which enable the hearing aid wearer to enjoy the wonders of the world around them like never before. “Quality of life is so important, and hearing well is a big part of a person’s overall well-being,” said Witt.
What has the past taught us?
According to Witt, the amount of information that a hearing aid can process has dramatically increased in recent years. “With this comes an incredible improvement in signal processing power that allows us to provide enhanced features for improved audibility in a variety of listening situations,” he added.
On top of that, there have been recent improvements in ancillary technologies, such as rechargeable batteries and Bluetooth® connectivity with direct streaming. “This all creates a more complete experience that addresses the overall well-being of the wearer,” said Witt.
What is the role of Phonak in hearing aid innovation?
Phonak, as part of the Sonova group, is the absolute leader in hearing innovation technology. “We have the highest research & development spending in the hearing aid industry, and we partner with about 50 premier universities and technology centers around the word,” said Witt. “We have a dedicated team of engineers and researchers all over the globe that are continually working towards better solutions.”
With a powerhouse of R&D behind the company, Phonak strives to push the envelope for how hearing performance is defined. “We want our hearing aids and solutions to be a healthy living companion for the wearers,” he added.
With the introduction of Phonak Marvel in 2018, and with it over 1 million Marvels fit, Phonak was able to gain useful insights. “We believe that if you deliver an impactful sound experience, people will see value in their devices and wear them longer with better outcomes and success,” said Witt.
Adding unique features like Made-For-All Bluetooth connectivity was an enormous benefit. “People were able to stream music, podcasts, phone calls and other audio from a wide variety of devices,” he added. “They weren’t tied into a certain brand or type of device. This was an appealing benefit. Add into that the convenience of multiple rechargeable models, and we had introduced a truly marvelous and innovative product line with Marvel.”
Why look toward Paradise?
With the success of Phonak Marvel, Phonak took its insights from the then current portfolio to move hearing innovation even farther. “Marvel was really just a stepping stone,” said Witt. “Despite its wide acceptance and success, we knew how important it was to continue to build on that innovation in both the technical aspects and also the application of those advanced technologies to bring new hearing performance breakthroughs.”
New features of Phonak Paradise include:
The new PRISM™ processing chip: PRISM stands for Processing Real-Time Intelligent Sound Management. It has double the memory of our previous processor to enable the new sound quality features and more connectivity options.
“For the first time, we also integrated a motion sensor inside the hearing aid,” said Witt. “This ultra-low-power tri-axial accelerometer enables the Tap Control as well as the new Motion Sensor hearing feature.”
- AutoSense OS™ 4.0 — This is the new operating system that manages our new features including:
- Speech Enhancer — An adaptive feature for quiet environments that is designed to enhance the peaks of speech signal in quiet situations. “It’s for when your loved one whispers precious words, or when you’re having an important conversation with a friend in the quiet of your living room,” said Witt.
- The new Dynamic Noise Cancellation — This works in more challenging situations, like social gatherings, where there is lots of background noise. “Dynamic Noise Cancellation is a spatial noise cancellation system that works in combination with the directional beamformer,” he said. “It can improve signal to noise ratio by up to 4dB.”
- Motion Sensor Hearing — This new feature leverages the data from the on-board motion sensor to detect when the patient is walking, and seamlessly steers the microphone mode and dynamic noise cancellation setting. “This leads to better speech understanding and a better overall listening experience,” said Witt.
- Tap Control feature — This is a new way of controlling various functions of the hearing aids. “This has been made possible due to the Motion Sensor in Audéo P-R & P-RT hearing aids,” said Witt. Tapping twice on the hearing aid or ear in quick succession triggers the Motion Sensor which creates an action, like accepting or ending a phone call or streaming; pause or resume streaming from a connected Bluetooth device; or accessing your smartphone’s voice assistant.
The new hardware isn’t the only innovation for Phonak Paradise. It also offers improved universal connectivity by allowing two active Bluetooth connections at the same time and eight possible pairings to different devices. “The two active pairings allows you to seamlessly switch from one device to another and adds to a seamless listening experience,” added Witt.
Plus, the updated myPhonak app 4.0 has a feature to personalize and adjust the noise cancellation when in a noisy environment. “You can adjust how much noise cancellation you want, or how much of the background noise should still be present,” said Witt. “The app also has improved advanced remote control features and a Hearing Diary to help involve others in your hearing aid experience.”
Dr. Cliff Olson, Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix Arizona, talks about why NEW hearing aids come out all the time and how innovation will never stop. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions by clicking on the three small dots.
Why NOT wait?
With all of the features and benefits of Phonak Paradise, it means one thing for hearing aid wearers. “It all comes back to creating an experience that is unparalleled in hearing healthcare,” said Witt. “With Phonak Paradise, you can fully enjoy the wonders of sound, which leads to an overall feeling of well-being.”
And while Phonak will continue to innovate its hearing technology, people with untreated hearing loss should seek treatment today. According to Witt, “These technological innovations have created hearing solutions that are well beyond the solutions available just a few years ago. Getting treatment now means you can start living a better life without limitations today.”