EUHA 2014: The best of the best

Just a few highlights from EUHA 2014 in Hannover. We zoom in on novelties by manufacturers. Apart from novelties, the most remarkable thing becoming apparent in Hannover is the positive mood in the German market. Whilst several markets went through major changes in 2013, the German market did far better than manufacturers generally expected.

Phonak's Venture

This manufacturer presents, among other things, its new Venture platform at the 59th international hearing aid specialists congress. “The chip set doubles the calculation speed and at the same time uses 30% less power while streaming”, Roger Baumann PhD declares. The Phonak GmbH CEO sits together with the Group Vice President for Phonak Martin Grieder in one of the stand’s meeting rooms to show the novelties in the portfolio. The low power consumption chip set comes in handy, as Phonak focuses on binaural voice-streaming, which is normally quite power consuming. “Apart from that, the platform diminishes distortion and offers a richer, more natural sound”, says Baumann. “Furthermore, the Venture devices are better equipped to automatically recognise and adapt to different sound environments.” In this way, up to seven hearing programmes can be switched seamleassly from one hearing situation to the next.” New are the programmes “understanding of speech in driving noise” and “comfort in reverberant situations”. These are at first only available in the 90’s range, towards the lower end there are less programmes available as yet. Still, on the whole it is an upgrade. “The present V 30 has a set of features comparable to that of the former Q 50”, says Baumann.

Watch here our interview to Martin Grieder, Phonak's Groupe Vice President.

Virtual eight microphone network at Siemens

Especially popular at the Siemens stand was the so called “Hörbar” - audible – a device to vividly demonstrate the new hearing aid technology presented with the new Binax chip generation. Visitors could experience the sound of the newest Siemens hearing system live by themselves, while at the same time monitoring the low power consumption of the system. “The Binax hearing systems make hearing important information in noisy surroundings impressively clearer and far more natural“, says CEO Germany Christian Honsig. “The core is a virtual eight microphone network e2e wireless 3.0. Researchers of Siemens and Oldenburg University won the 2012 German Future prize for laying the foundations of e2e wireless technology. The first generation involved a volume and programme alignment. The second phase was characterised by the transfer of real stereo signals with the Tek audio streamer to the hearing systems.”

BestSound Technology Binax simulates the natural hearing process electronically. With binaural hearing aids, each device processes both of its microphone signals as well as those of the hearing system at the other ear. In this way, a virtual eight microphone network configuration is created. “This resembles what the brain does in normal hearing and is a step towards real spatial hearing”, Honsig explains. The system picks up signals from both sides, processes these, translates all signals into a total “sound picture” and with this it enables directional hearing. Parallel to the better performance of the new Binax chip generation, Siemens has at the same time diminished power consumption. This enables binaural audio data transfer, activated automatically whenever necessary.

Bernafon launches Juna family

Bernafon Berlin CEO Carsten Braun is also satisfied. Bernafon has welcomed many new customers during last year and is looking forward to a new exciting period. As novelties Bernafon introduces the 9 and 7 models of the new product family Juna. With Juna, Bernafon presents new high end features, that bring the Audio Efficiency technology to a new level. Juna for instance has features that especially focus on understanding of speech, hearing comfort and individualisation of hearing aids. “In order to boost understanding of speech, Juna offers the Speech Cue PriorityTM. Behind it hides a new speech processing technology, enabling hearing aid specialists to offer customers an amplification strategy that answers their specific hearing impairment level”, says Braun.


Also new is the Intelligent Volume Control i-VC. It enables users in need of better understanding of speech for a limited time to easily control this feature with his volume knob. The configuration emphasises the speech-relevant frequencies somewhat more for both ways to react to noisy surroundings. One type of customer tends to increase the amplification when confronted with lacking understanding of speech in noisy surroundings. Traditional volume control would in this case amplify the noise just as strong as the speech. The other kind of customer tends to do just the opposite: to turn the volume down, which normally would also affect the speech they want to hear. “We now offer both kinds of clients an intelligent solution, that improves comfort and at the same time maintains the all-important speech part in the sound mix”, Carsten Braun says. A further new comfort feature of the Juna systems is the de-reverberation algorithm which reduces the reverberation that covers speech. “It works very quickly and efficiently to make the signal “drier”. Compare it to moving from a spacious staircase into a living room”, Braun explains.

Unitron extend Flex

Visitors to the Unitron booth at EUHA were able to experience a demonstration of the Moxi2 Pro. This involved a three-screen demo highlighting the sound quality of Unitron’s next generation Pro technology and Automatic Program in multiple listening environments. Audiologists could appreciate the patient display screens that enhance the Unitron TrueFit fitting experience. The Canadian company also showed an affordable new product on the Era platform, the Shine™Rev line-up, which is offered in a full range of BTE and custom styles. Visitors could also experience the uHear™ v2.0, an updated version of an iPhone/iPod based app that allows for in-home hearing evaluation; the world’s most widely downloaded and used hearing test. But that wasn’t all, for Unitron has extended their industry-first Flex program. Available in the market for a couple of years, Flex:trial and Flex:upgrade has now been joined by Flex:tracker which allows clinicians to easily and efficiently track hearing aid trials using Unitron’s TrueFit™ fitting software.

Since it was introduced, the Flex program has been widely adopted throughout Europe, with thousands of hearing healthcare professionals using Flex:trial on a regular basis. In Germany, for example, according to a recent global independent study of the clinical and business impacts of the Flex™ program, 78% of hearing healthcare professionals report using Flex:trial with the majority of their patients.

A Smart portfolio from ReSound

ReSound brought smart hearing technology to the International Congress in Hannover. ReSound featured their Made for iPhone compatibility that has recently been expanded across segments into the super power with ReSound ENZO and tinnitus with ReSound LiNX TS. The Danish manufacturer also expanded the ReSound LiNX™ into new form factors (BTE models) and a new price point with the ReSound LiNX 5. LiNX has created the biggest amount of media coverage for any hearing launch and ReSound made a feature of this on their stand. The product has featured on many television networks including CNN and across a lot of the print media including The New York Times. Since its launch, LiNX has received many awards including the IFA Gold Usability Award, Da Vinci Innovative and Assistive Technology Award and Dansk Industry’s 2014 Product Award. Prior to the EUHA congress ReSound announced that they are a 2015 CES Innovation Awards Honoree in the Accessible Technologies category by CES – the International Consumer Electronics Show – for ReSound ENZO.


Starkey: Communicate innovations!

The new fixed rates introduced in Germany in November 2013 introduced many changes but these didn’t cause the market to develop negatively like the industry feared. The Starkey team from Hamburg is therefore in a good mood in Hannover. “A year ago we didn’t expect this market development”, Thorsten Quaas remembers. “The market changes resulted for Starkey in strong growth. We have been able to welcome a lot of new customers, also in market segments where we were not very well represented.” He expects this growth to slowly stabilise. As a highlight Starkey presents the made for iPhone hearing system Halo. Quaas: “It is a very innovative product, although the target group does not use iPhones massively.” No problem, he says, as innovations take time to be adopted. “The important thing is to communicate the capabilities of new technologies to the outside world.”

Widex

At the Widex Hörgeräte GmbH stand, Birgit Ramin, scientific head for audiology, is presenting the company’s latest offerings. At Widex, the aim is to further advance the performance of hearing systems, she says. The company is particularly thinking of those who are not happy with their hearing aids. “There is really only one solution: to invest in sound”, says Ramin. In this area, the Widex “Dream” platform offers the best solution. “These are the three dimensions that are transforming the highly developed chip in a way that has never before been achieved on the market”, says Ramin. This is where the AD-converter plays a decisive role. Up to 113 dB SPL, it can process without restricting the signal. And even when the signal reaches above 113 dB SPL, there is only distortion of about 10%. “This already provides significant hearing comfort. That is the first dimension“, Ramin explains. The second dimension lies in the frequency bandwidths that the chip transmits. “With a sampling frequency of 33 kHz, our technology is in a position to transmit 11 kHz. Already when dealing with music, the devices are a sound marvel – even at low frequencies”, she says. The third dimension is contrast. In this case too, the wearer has optimal adjustment and the device can now offer “dynamics and frequency without distortion for the highest hearing and speaking comfort”. Even the most demanding client group, musicians, are happy with the natural sound, according to Ramin.

Oticon presents IIC devices with wireless technology

At the Oticon GmbH stand from Hamburg, several people are presenting the latest innovations, including Horst Warncke, head of audiology. In Hannover, Oticon presented the “Pro” variants of the Alta-, Nera-, and Rialines, which are now available as design devices. With these, the aim was to take better account of the needs of primary care providers, says Horst Warncke. “They want something inconspicuous”, he says. “And that’s exactly what we are now offering with the wireless IIC devices, or with our smallest BTE hearing instruments, the smallest available worldwide”. These are able to provide “the full functionality of larger models”, says Warncke. One of the most important hurdles to being able to offer IIC devices worldwide with wireless technology was the antennas, Warncke explains. These needed to be designed as small as possible, with the use of a pre-amplifier. “To bring all of this into such a small space was a huge challenge, but our engineers managed to do it”, says Horst Warncke.

The new ConnectLine Control from Oticon was also presented. It is no larger than a modern car key and is therefore “not easily recognisable as a hearing aid remote control”. “The great thing is that it is backward compatible back to the Epoq-system from 2007”. This brings Warncke to the Oticon app. For his demonstration, Horst Warncke pulls out his smartphone which has the EUHA app installed and opens the Oticon-app. “The acoustician can make adjustment and so can the end user. Our app for the end user is therefore about as big as a large display”, he says.

Read the whole report on the 91st issue of Audio Infos UK, available on PDF on Audiology Worldnews Kiosk.

Dennis Kraus


Photo: Innocentia, G.B. Videos: Innocentia Verlag