Kailen BerryGoing Beyond ‘The Gadget’: Hearing Is Believing

By Kailen Berry, Au.D., Phonak Audiology Manager

With technology advancing quickly in the hearing industry, it feels as though new products are constantly being released. It seems every day we read about new features aiming to transform hearing devices into the new cure-all.

However, at the end of the day, hearing devices have to deliver something crucial: the ability to communicate. While the extraneous features may attract patients to hearing devices, it is our duty as professionals to understand how those same devices will allow our patients to hear and understand.

Creating an Unbiased Experience

Until now we’ve compared sound quality of competitive devices by ordering multiple sets of devices, programming them, then placing them on our own ears. It’s time-consuming and often expensive. It also doesn’t always allow for a fair comparison given our typical environments are so dynamic.

“It is our duty as professionals to understand how those same devices will allow our patients to hear and understand.”

At the Phonak Audiology Research Center (PARC), we saw the need for a fix to this problem; a project that fit right into the translational and clinically-relatable work we tend to complete in PARC.

We set out to accomplish the goal of providing an unbiased, comparative listening experience for providers, which allowed them to fully understand how certain technologies would perform for their patients in various listening situations. The result was an experience called “Hearing is Believing.”

4 Standards to Uphold

As we embarked on this journey to bring “Hearing is Believing” to life, there were a few important standards we needed to uphold.

  1. There needed to be a protocol to follow for programming each device to an equivalent standard. Every device was set to the same experience level with comparable acoustic parameters, same coupling and comparable program structures to provide a level playing field.
  2. Recordings needed to be made in a way that yielded unbiased results. We used state-of- the-art equipment, including KEMAR, to record output with each set of hearing devices.
  3. The experience needed to be blinded to both the proctor and the listener. Every trial is randomized, meaning not even two people sitting next to each other are listening to the same clip at the same time.
  4. We needed to provide listening scenarios that are commonly encountered by patients seeking hearing help in the practice. For this reason, listeners are able to listen to speech in noise using an automated program, speech in the car, and to speech in noise using a remote microphone of some kind.

Developing a Greater Appreciation

“Hearing is Believing” is a computer-based listening experience allowing listeners to compare competitive hearing devices and how they perform in various environments. Listeners are able to progress through a rating experience, which puts all manufacturers to the test.

“Hearing is Believing” creates a controlled approach to comparative listening aid signal processing across multiple environments.

“Hearing is Believing” creates a controlled approach to comparative listening to hearing aid signal processing across multiple environments. As listeners progress, they are able to switch back and forth between recordings with the touch of a button — a setup which is far more reliable for comparative listening.

We hope listeners will come away with an appreciation for listening to hearing technology before fitting it on their patients as well as a more analytical ear when doing so.

If you haven’t experienced “Hearing Is Believing” yet, ask your Phonak representative!