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Digital Hearing: Touch Technology Hearing Aids

From cellphones and PDAs to laptop computers, touch technology is sweeping electronics. With simple on-screen taps, electronics are now easily controlled by the consumer reducing the need for cumbersome buttons and dials and this latest and greatest technology has now arrived in digital hearing aids.

Starkey Laboratories, based in Eden Prairie, MN, has long been an innovator within the hearing aid industry. Recognized for the development and implementation of leading edge features, the company was recently recognized for the introduction of its Sweep™ Technology built in to its behind-the-ear (BTE) S Series hearing aids.

Starkey’s Sweep™ Technology recently won the Innovations 2010 Award in the health and wellness category at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show – the Super Bowl of consumer technology.

Starkey Sweep™ Changes Everything with Just a Touch

Starkey S Series BTE Hearing Aids
S Series BTE hearing aids have no dials or buttons

Sweep™ eliminates the need for buttons, switches, scroll wheels and other adjustment devices that are routine for hearing aids built today. Even the high-end, totally automated hearing aids that adapt to (and even learn) your preferences still come with manual override switches that enable the BTE hearing aid user to make adjustments to suit non-standard, less-than-optimal listening conditions.

Move from a small, quiet office to a large seminar auditorium and a manual, albeit quick, adjustment is often required to deliver best performance. And once you get used to where all your hearing aids’ buttons and knobs are, making manual changes isn’t a big deal.

Starkey’s Sweep™ Technology delivers manual adjustments with a simple touch of the BTE’s casing. A gentle touch raises or lowers amplification, or reconfigures the memory settings on Starkey’s S Series product line. Similar to touch screen technology found on many PDAs and the iPhone, Sweep™ has received accolades from the CES and other industry organizations including the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA), which awarded Starkey Labs the prestigious Tekne Award two years running.

"We are thrilled to be the recipient of an award from the premier voice in consumer electronics," said Tim Trine, Chief Technical Officer at Starkey. "We have spent three years researching and developing this technology into something that can be used in a hearing aid, and we succeeded in creating a hearing aid that is both smarter and simpler."

In a recent interview with hearing health authority, AudiologyOnline, the president of Starkey Labs, Jerry Ruzicka, spoke with Managing Editor Dr. Carolyn Smaka about the company’s Sweep™ Technology and its S Series of hearing aids.

“We see ourselves as being the Apple of our industry”, Mr. Ruzicka stated.

“We have done a lot of innovative things over the past number of years. For instance, our Integrated Real Ear System was very innovative by enabling integrated real-ear within our hearing aids. Our HydraShield™ Process is also very innovative. In addition, earlier this year, we introduced T2 Technology, which allows any phone to be used as a remote control for hearing aids with the T2 technology.”

The company’s Sweep™ Technology takes hearing aid convenience to the next level, employing a simple touch-based platform to make manual adjustments to BTEs even simpler.

The Starkey Approach to Hearing Aid Innovation

Starkey employs a consumer-centric approach to the development of the features it adds to its hearing aids. Today, quality hearing aids cost several thousands of dollars so Starkey asks hearing aid consumers and current users of hearing aids what they want. This keeps features on point and lowers costs by providing only those features requested by users.

Starkey’s president explained the company’s approach to product development. “We make prototype devices, and we have patients wear them and use the features. We then conduct focus groups, and at the end of the day, we want to know several things.

Do they like it? Did it make life easier for them? Did it facilitate the features and the functions of the hearing aids? Did it enable them to use the aids more comfortably? Finally, in the end, the true test is when we ask them if they would recommend these devices to others and if they would buy it for themselves.

With Sweep Technology, we had hands-down success because everyone who tried it in the clinical trials said that it was fun to use. How many times do people say their hearing aids are fun to use? You don't hear that very often. Not to mention, everyone said that they would recommend it to others. Patients overwhelmingly preferred Sweep™ Technology to traditional controls, and that is the essence of patient-proven design.”

This buyer-centric approach has made Starkey a leader in the development of hearing aid technology.

Sweep™ Adjusts with a Touch

Starkey Hearing Aids
A simple touch changes settings on the S Series Touch BTE Hearing Aids

One thing every hearing aid user wants is convenience. Simplicity of operation and total functionality. That’s the mindset that led to the development of the first touch-tech in the arena of hearing aids. Sweep™ is simplicity itself.

Want to increase the volume? A discrete swipe upward across the hearing aid’s casing increases amplification. Swipe down across the casing to lower the volume. No knobs, scrolling wheels or buttons necessary.

Today, better hearing aids are completely programmable by a trained hearing professional to adapt to your specific hearing loss, both extent and degree, under a variety of listening conditions. In other words, today’s quality hearing aids are programmed to deliver the clearest automatic sound in a range of settings.

With Sweep™, a touch of the casing switches the hearing aid’s settings (also called memory) to best suit current listening conditions, which, of course, change throughout the day. A simple touch of the BTE casing reconfigures the hearing aid’s memory to fit ambient listening conditions. Easy, on-the-fly adjustments that don’t slow you down or put you at the center of attention when you’d prefer to remain discrete.

Starkey S Series BTE Hearing Aids

The S Series is well-regarded within the hearing health community for its feature-rich options menu and real-life, real-time utility.

For example, in addition to Sweep™ Technology, the S Series BTE from Starkey also comes standard with the company’s advanced, moisture protection membrane called Advanced HydraShield™. Let’s face it, whether you’re attending a soirée or weeding the garden, moisture build-up in and around the ear is all part of life.

The Advanced HydraShield™ technology introduced by Starkey is another example of real-world technology in place to solve real-world problems. Advanced HydraShield™ protects the inner workings of the S Series behind-the-ear hearing aids from moisture and corrosion – two enemies of hearing aids.

Another example of Starkey’s client-centered corporate culture is its T2 digital technology that allows Starkey S Series wearers to make adjustments to their hearing aids using a touch tone phone. This enables S Series wearers to stay connected when they’re on the go. The technology is wireless compatible so you don’t have to worry about taking calls when out of the office or away from home. T2 from Starkey, part of the S Series, simplifies hearing aid use and improves user connectivity in this wired world.

Time for You to See a Hearing Professional?

Well you’re reading this and perhaps you’ve noticed that your hearing isn’t what it used to be. Hearing loss is common as we age, with more than 28 million Americans reporting some degree of hearing loss. So, is it time for you to see a hearing test?

A hearing test can be completed in less than 30 minutes and that 30 minutes from your day is well worth it considering the many benefits treating hearing loss has.

Time to sweep away the excuses (pun intended). Time to make that hearing test appointment and discover if perhaps the Starkey S Series and Touch Technology are right for you.

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