With the advent of wireless, digital technology, a la Bluetooth wireless computer networks and the ever-present cell phone, designers of hearing aids have been able to make major strides in sound quality, hearing comfort and wearing comfort. These designers have also been able to add lots of new features through the use of an outboard unit, about the size of a credit card, that the user carries discreetly to make adjustments and activate or deactivate features. Today, hearing devices do everything but cook dinner and you just know theyre working on that somewhere.
David Fabry, Ph.D. and VP for Professional Relations and Education at Phonak, maker of premium quality hearing aids, recently sat down with Audiology Onlines editor, Dr. Paul Dybala for a little one on one about the latest in wireless technology across the industry and at Phonak itself.
Phonaks Audo Personal Communication Assistant, or PCA, according to Dr. Fabry, is the pairing of a new device, a micro-BTE [behind-the-ear aid] with an external receiver that has an edgy design, but an edgy design with a purpose. We call it amplification with attitude or life amplification.
The Phonak spokesperson continued, as soon as you call something a hearing aid it conjures an image in peoples minds that is not always positive. What we're appealing to is that younger, edgier generation. And as far as a marketing strategy is concerned, Phonak is right on target. Hearing health professionals have indicated that their patient rosters get younger all of the time. Why?
Because todays young people are exposed to more noise, louder nose, more often, for longer periods of time at a younger age. Its hard NOT to find a kid plugged in with MP3 ear buds, or shouting into a cell phone. Computers throughout the house are now connected wirelessly and cells deliver the world wide web, music and everything else digital no matter where you are. Want to watch Gomer Pyle re-runs on the bus ride home? Hey, who doesnt and now you can with the iPhone and its clones.
The Phonak Audo
Dr. Fabry explained that the two main technical specifications that set the Audo apart are microphone directionality and bandwidth [the range of sound from the highest frequencies to the lowest]. With the mini and micro BTEs for open applications, we've heard some urban myths that say you don't really need directional microphones on open products [hearing aids that dont block the ear canal] or that open fits do not benefit from directionality.
Dr, Fabry continued, At Phonak, we have really argued strongly against that with evidence in the form of data. Researchers showed that when you have directionality and open-fit products, you still get about a two decibel signal-to-noise ratio advantage over un-aided conditions and omni-directionality. And in fact, with omni-directional and open products, patients do worse than if they were not wearing any hearing instrument at all. So, central to our point is that even mild hearing losses can benefit from advanced technology like directionality, and in our case, adaptive directionality.
Additionally, Audo is geared and engineered to not only be good looking, but the location and orientation of the microphones was not by accident. They are placed in such a manner that they're designed to be on the horizontal planeoptimizing directional microphone performance.
The second tech spec improved by the use of Phonaks Audo is the bandwidth of the speaker that fits into the ear canal of the wearer. Phonak calls it CrystalSound. Dr. Fabry explained that the Audo uses an extended high-frequency response that we call crystalsound, relative to the majority of canal receiver or standard receiver micros
This works hand-in-hand with [Phonaks] auto-pilot feature that has a specific switching mechanism to automatically identify quiet, speech and noise, noise alone, andmusic. Its one thing to have wide bandwidth, but it is another to create a hearing aid that knows when to use it!
According to the Phonak website, the Audo employs canal receiver technology that employs an external receiver (microphone) to deliver smoother frequency response than can be obtained through tube technology. Tube technology delivers sound from an external receiver through a slim, plastic tube to the open ear microphone placed in the wearers ear.
When coupled with Phonaks CrystalSound technology, the Audo delivers clear, clean sound especially in the upper frequency ranges where most hearing loss occurs.
What About Wearing Comfort?
Phonaks Audo is a true mini BTE that is placed behind the wearers ear for almost complete invisibility for those who seek a discreet appearance. This makes the Audo lightweight despite providing all of the automated conveniences of larger units. No more constant adjustments. Set it. Forget it. The Audo reads the sound in the environment and adjusts itself so you dont have to.
This makes hearing and wearing a lot more comfortable.
Phonak delivers devices in eye-catching colors
Ahh, But Not All of Us Want to Hide Our Hearing Aids
There was a time not too long ago that hearing aids were associated with age, disability, illness and really unattractive design. Not anymore. Todays hearing aid wearers, whether clients of Phonak or some other quality maker of hearing aids, are proud. They wear their hearing devices as fashion accessories. The baby boomers have changed the entire concept of old. Old is cool again. Groovy, man, groovy.
Improved sound, improved wearing comfort, easy discreet adjustments and an array of Kandy-Kolored devices turns hearing aids into bling.
Show it off, baby. Youve earned it. Show it off!