For many years, people who follow the hearing industry have known that ear scanning technology would eventually make the taking of ear impressions for custom hearing aids obsolete.
In 2010, Holly Hosford-Dunn wrote about the work that Lantos Technologies was doing in this area. She subsequently updated her article for a post on her Hearing Economics blog.
And, as she noted, David Kirkwood, who prepared this Hearing News Watch post, predicted the advent of ear scanning way back in 2003. He wrote, “It’s unclear when direct ear scanning will become a practical reality. But, whether it takes 2 or 3 years or 5 to 10, the consensus is that the hearing aid shells and earmolds of the future will be made from direct ear scans.”
Earlier this year, Lantos Technologies announced that it would introduce a handheld digital hearing aid fitting scanner at the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Convention in Boston. However, when AAA’s Audiology Solutions exposition opened its doors on March 28, it turned out that Lantos was not alone. Another company, 3DM Systems, was also exhibiting an ear scanner. And both companies, each with its own technology, plan to start marketing their devices before the end of the year.
3DM, formerly known as ShapeStart, was founded in 2008 and is based in Atlanta. It says that its 3DM Otoscan provides two key functions for audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. The first is a “non-invasive” in-ear 3D scanner for precise production of all custom hearing aids and all other earmolds. Thus, the scanner will eliminate the need for silicone impressions and will also, 3DM claims, significantly improve the customization of hearing aids. The device’s second function is a wide-angle otoscope that offers high-definition output.
The company says that the 3DM scan takes less than one minute to complete.
Cambridge, MA-based Lantos Technologies says that its 3D Intra-Aural Digital Scanner allows fast and painless measurement of the ear canal. The device uses patented dual-wavelength algorithm technology to provide what the company calls “the first platform capable of measuring direct ear scans as well as ear canal dynamics and tissue elasticity.”
The Lantos 3D imaging technology was developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is expected to reach the market in the second half of this year.
OTHER EXHIBIT HIGHLIGHTS
While the introduction of ear scanning technology was probably the most newsworthy development at Audiology Solutions, there were plenty of other innovations at the world’s largest display of hearing care technology. Following is a brief review at what was some of the 200 or so participating manufacturers were exhibiting in Boston.
Chronos 9 is Bernafon’s premier instrument
Bernafon featured Chronos 9, its most advanced hearing aid, which uses Audio Efficiency™ technology to enhance speech understanding and listening comfort. Audio Efficiency orchestrates the precise interaction of its core features, including ChannelFree™ signal processing and True Directionality™.
Chronos 9 provides wireless connectivity to cellular phones and other Bluetooth® devices and offers cinema and live music programs.
TransEar tackles single-sided deafness
Ear Technology’s display featured the TransEar, a bone-conduction hearing aid designed to help patients deal with unilateral hearing loss, also known as single-sided deafness.
The TransEar looks like a conventional BTE hearing aid, but instead of simply amplifying sound, it uses bone conduction to transmit the sound to the better ear. It is fitted and worn without need for surgery, without bulky headbands, and without the need for another hearing aid in the good ear.
Etymotic displays electronic headsets and earplugs
Among the products on display at the Etymotic Research exhibit in Boston was the etyBLU2 headset, which uses ACCU•Noise Reduction™ to clarify conversation. According to Etymotic, this patented technology reduces noise by at least 30 dB at the microphone and earpiece.
The headset’s high-definition microphone with a close proximity boom is designed to optimize speech clarity in all environments. Its high-output amplifier and an 8-mm neodymium driver enhance accurate sound quality and speech intelligibility.
Oticon offers new users “an invisible solution”
Oticon, Inc., introduced Intigaˡ, a new member of the Intiga family, to AAA members in Boston. According to the company, the tiny new hearing instrument will make it easier for people with a strong preference for an “invisible” hearing solution to take the first step toward better hearing.
Intigai is designed especially for people new to hearing instruments. It fits deep in the ear canal and out of sight, where it offers advanced audiological features designed to enable wearers to hear better, with less effort, in even the most demanding listening situations. The secure, custom-made fit protects the device and keeps it securely in place during physical activity and allows easy use of phones and headsets.
Panasonic hearing aids awarded Good Housekeeping Seal
Panasonic Healthcare Group announced in Boston that its JZ Power WH-105JZ and all its R1-W series of digital hearing instruments have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal after evaluation by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
The JZ Power WH-105JZ, designed for mild to severe hearing loss, uses innovative technology to expand its hearing range over that of previous models.
The open-fit receiver-in-canal (RIC) R1-W Series digital hearing instruments are designed for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
Phonak’s new Lyric fits more people
A new generation of Lyric devices was featured by Phonak. By reducing the size of the 24/7 wearable Lyric hearing aids, the company says it has increased the anatomical fit rate by 50%.
Lyric is designed for people with mild to moderate hearing loss who are looking for a hassle-free solution. Deeply placed in the ear canal by a trained specialist, Lyric cannot be seen from the outside and can be worn during all daily activities–including wearing headphones, showering, sleeping, and exercising–until it needs to be replaced after up to 4 months of use.
ReSound features wireless technology
ReSound showcased its newest wireless accessory and its first iPad application at the Audiology Solutions.
The Unite® Mini-Microphone is designed to help Alera® hearing aid users experience clearer, effortless sound when conversing with a companion. Based on 2.4-GHz wireless technology, the Unite mic transmits speech and music directly to Alera hearing aids. As a personal portable audio streaming device, it can be plugged into an iPod or any other audio source.
ClearPath, the company’s first iPad application, is designed to help hearing professionals counsel patients.
SeboTek offers high definition sound
SeboTek brought its Sebo HD instruments to Boston, which incorporate a host of new features designed to provide enhanced sound quality, noise reduction, and speech enhancement.
Siemens says XCEL creates “Soundability”
Siemens Hearing Instruments unveiled XCEL, a new generation of BestSound™ technology, at AudiologyNOW! Siemens said that XCEL accelerates hearing aid acceptance by “optimally balancing speech intelligibility and sound quality for each individual hearing aid wearer.” Five Siemens models feature this new technology: the Pure® XCEL and Pure XCEL Carat, the Motion® XCEL models SX and P, and Eclipse™ XCEL, a deep-fitting CIC hearing aid that debuted in Boston.
Scott Davis, CEO of Siemens, said, “Achieving a good first fit is critical to wearer adoption and satisfaction. The best experience for hearing aid wearers requires a perfect combination of sound quality and effective audibility—what Siemens has coined Soundability. We’ve achieved this preferred balance with XCEL.”
Starkey exhibits the Wi Series
This year, which may be the last time that Starkey exhibits its new technology at Audiology Solutions, it displayed Wi Series™. Featuring its most advanced noise reduction and speech preservation system, the Wi Series is designed to deliver improved sound clarity even in the noisiest situations. Wi Series can also stream stereo sound directly and wirelessly from a TV, radio, or computer to the patient’s hearing aid via SurfLink™ Media.
Unitron announces tiniest Quantum
Audiology Solutions was the setting for the debut of the Quantum™ micro CIC, the latest addition to Unitron’s Quantum product family.
Its tiny size is made possible by new transducer technology, which has allowed microphones and receivers to be miniaturized while still enabling the micro CIC to deliver 108/35 dB output and gain.
Westone promotes advantages of RIC earpieces
Westone Laboratories, Inc., launched its Greater Than campaign to educate hearing professionals on the advantages of using custom earpieces for receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing instruments.
“Receiver-in-the-canal hearing instruments offer patients an appealing amplification solution, but a one-size-fits-all earpiece is not always the answer when fitting this type of hearing instrument,” said Christine Mare AuD, director of hearing healthcare.
Westone offers several tools to assist in selecting custom earpieces for RIC fittings. Additional resources to be rolled out in the next few months include a new web site and “quick start guide” for professionals.
Widex introduces an IIC
With its invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aid, introduced at Audiology Solutions, Widex now offers hearing aid users a device that’s so small and placed so deep in the ear canal that it can’t be seen. Plus, says the company, the IIC provides better sound and more comfort.
All the electronics of the hearing aid are placed in the shell to provide the ultimate small fit.