Starkey Laboratories, in conjunction with the Starkey Research Center in Berkeley, California, is a company recognized within the hearing health industry as an innovator. Recently, Audiology Onlines Editor, Dr. Paul Dybala, spoke with Jerry Ruzicka, President of Starkey Laboratories, about the companys Destiny 1600 hearing device series and its Integrated Real Ear fitting system that enables audiologists to take patient readings quickly and with precision.
Starkey introduced the Destiny line in 2006 at the Audiology NOW! Convention and, subsequently, the company has expanded on the Destiny line of products through the release of the latest version of the Inspire computer operating system to facilitate the fitting, programming and setting of Destiny models.
Dr. Dybala recapped the introduction of these Starkey innovations. When you released the Inspire OS and the Destiny products last year, you also integrated a fitting module to the programming software. I thought this was great because you actually enabled the hearing care professional to set up a virtual environment for the patient in the office while listening with their hearing aids. Now with the launch of the Destiny 1600, you actually have an integrated real-ear measurement.
What is a real-ear measurement? Audiologists can actually listen to and measure the output of a hearing aid at right at your eardrum. This allows the clinician to see if the hearing aid is performing the way it should and make any adjustments as needed. It is the best and most accurate way to verify the settings on a hearing aid.
Starkeys President explained: We believe that application of real-ear measurement to the fitting process is important. Although real ear systems have been in place for a number of years, many people don't use them routinely in the fitting process because of either the cost of the equipment or convenience.
The precision of the fitting with real ear changes the outcome dramatically. We looked at the [Starkey] nFusion architecture, and because it is a very flexible and powerful architecture, we were able to determine that we had the capability of providing the control signals, as well as the measurements systems, and use the hearing aid itself as the real-ear system.
The clinicians will note that when they use this they will be able to see some dramatic differences between the traditional simulated response and the actual real-ear response. By being able to capture that actual patient data, they will have a much improved initial fitting. We believe that the satisfaction level associated is going to grow dramatically.
Starkeys Inspire OS utilizes an automated clinicians tool, called Auto Path, which directs the hearing health professional and patient through the fitting process in just minutes. The Inspire software actually provides virtual images of the placement of the probe tube. It also alerts the clinician when to remove the probe tube, initializes the active feedback intercept, the feedback canceller and sets a baseline measurement used for self-diagnostics of the hearing devices. The entire fitting process takes less than two minutes so its extremely efficient and easy to use.
The physical configuration of the testing hardware was explained by Mr. Ruzicka. If you can visualize it, it's basically a probe tube that plugs right into the microphone of the hearing aid, and then [the audiologist] places the probe tube alongside the canal of the instrument or through the vent. The hearing aid has the capability of producing all the control signals and measuring all the outputs just like in any other real ear system.
This innovative system provides efficiencies of fitting and accurate measurements for the devices settings designed for each individual patient.
Patient Use and Maintenance
For the mechanically adept, hearing device maintenance was never a serious problem. Swap out the battery, check that settings were comfortable and the wearer was good to go. However, for the technologically-challenged (thats most of us) maintaining a hearing aid at optimum levels was always a challenge and in many cases, something as basic as a battery change required a trip to the hearing health professionals office. Time consuming, inconvenient and expensive.
Starkeys Destiny 1600 has taken the hassle out of hearing aid maintenance through the use of voice indicators.
In the past, wearers were provided input from their hearing devices through the use of tones set at different pitches. One tone would indicate a low battery, another tone would provide the user with setting information. Unfortunately, this system of tones didnt work well with some patients patients who often confused the tone with feedback or other routine sounds produced by the hearing device itself.
The need for accurate, utile information from a hearing device has been addressed with the Destiny 1600 thorough the use of voice-based indicators, a self-assessment function and even a reminder feature.
Mr. Ruzicka explained, Weve looked at how people use indicator tones in their instruments and found that patients were sometimes confused by the tonal system. These hearing devices werent very intuitive or user friendly. So, we decided to use our nFusion [hearing device] architecture that was actually capable of providing voice signals. And in fact, when the battery is low, the hearing aid will tell the patient, Battery low.
Mr. Ruzicka explained some of the other features of Starkeys Destiny 1600. We have a choice of 17 different languages that can be programmed, and a variety of male and female voices; everything from American English, British English, to Japanese and Chinese. We provide not only a wide variety of languages to be used, but the level of presentation can be programmed for the patient.
This is just a very effective measure to allow people to know not only when to change their battery, but the clinician can also program a reminder of when they want the patient to come back for a service appointment.
Now, you have to love a hearing device that alerts you when its time for your next hearing evaluation. After all, life is hectic enough without having to remind yourself to call your audiologist. The Destiny line of hearing devices drops a subtle reminder right in your ear so you dont have to remember when your next appointment is. Its programmed right into the device by the hearing care technician.
The clinician can change the reminder feature as needed a week, month, year whenever. This device remembers for you. But theres more to the Destiny 1600. It also has the capability to notify wearers when maintenance or service is required something Starkey calls Self Check, kind of like the dashboard light in your car that turns on when the oil gets low.
Whats even cooler is that the wearer can handle much of the devices maintenance according to Mr. Ruzicka. [Self Check] can be performed in one of two ways. As part of the Auto Path fitting process, one of the last things the software will do is set a baseline measurement. The baseline measurement is really a measurement targeted at checking the microphone, the receiver, and the circuit. Once that baseline measurement is set, the clinician can either check it by viewing it with the software and running the routine, or the patient can check it.
It's a real simple procedure. They open and close the battery doors three times. That signals the hearing aid to go into a self-check mode. It takes less than a minute, and it checks the microphone, receiver, and the circuit against the baseline measurement. If it notes any anomaly, it will tell them to schedule maintenance.
It's extremely effective. If you think about it, sometimes when the patient comes in and they have a problem with their instrument, the clinician may not know the exact problem. Is the hearing aid failing? Is it the programming? What is really happening?
With the Destiny 1600, you eliminate some of that confusion because you or the patient can check the hearing aid. If the hearing aid gives a positive sign that everything is performing correctly, you know that the hearing aid itself is not defective.
And as for the patient, you can avoid costly repairs, because you can schedule maintenance before you have a hard failure. Things like wax and debris that get in the way of performance can be addressed before they become a problem.
Starkeys Destiny series comes in a full range of styles from a behind-the-ear (BTE) model to completely-in-the-canal (CIC) version that is all but invisible. This unit also comes with the full menu of features that quality hearing aids deliver including feedback suppression, directional microphones (perfect for hearing in a noisy environment) and accurate environmental sound detection. In other words, the Destiny 1600 reads the sound environment and automatically adjusts to ambient conditions. This automated approach to device adjustment delivers a more natural, comfortable hearing experience.