- Published on 17 November 2016
With 134 exhibitors from some 19 different countries over 14,000 m2, the trade show of the EUHA Congress was as big as ever this year. Alongside the stands of the major players, many smaller exhibitors made an impression with exciting innovations and offers. Audio Infos takes you on a trip through this year’s show hall.
The 61st International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians got off to a flying start. Although the opening day, at least subjectively and in terms of visitor numbers, is always slightly behind the traditionally very popular Thursday, there was already a lot of activity midmorning Wednesday in Hall 6 of the exhibition center in Hannover, northern Germany.
Widex goes Beyond
According to Peter David Schaade, CEO of Widex GmbH, the company was presenting “one of the highlights of the event”. He was talking about Beyond. “This helps to round off our portfolio”, explains Schaade. For Beyond, we asked ourselves what the next step could be after the successful launch of Unique, says Birgit Ramin, Audiology Science Manager at Widex in Stuttgart. The manufacturer found the answer in no time at all. “The next step was to create a connection with the digital world without an accessory and to integrate 2.4 GHz Bluetooth low energy technology into direct streaming with Apple products,” Ramin goes on to say. One of the challenges here was not compromising on any point that is important for Widex. Basically, sound quality, low energy consumption and design are practically in Widex’s DNA. “No Widex engineer will willingly give up on that.” This was why the Universal chip already used in Unique systems was further developed to produce the Universal Plus chip. The Plus stands for the TriLink concept, which is offered with three of the wireless antennas built into Beyond hearing system. The first is PureLink technology, which can stream audio data directly via Bluetooth. WidexLink, the second, ensures inter-ear communication and Dex connections. The third provides for reception of inductive signals. For direct streaming of audio signals from Apple products, PureLink Widex uses a decoding procedure developed in-house. This is used for optimisation on transfer of speech on the one hand, and ensures that music is transferred optimally, on the other. Here, Birgit Ramin is talking about the possibility of processing the signal in two different formats in high sound quality. “We can now optimize the 2.4 GHz Bluetooth sound signal for speech and music separately”, she adds. PureLink technology impresses not only in the sound quality of direct streaming. The technology also reaches some of the best levels in power consumption for audio transfer via Bluetooth. In Beyond, this reaches 1.8 mA on average for standard use, with about 25% streaming time. Users of Android smartphones can also stream audio data to Beyond hearing systems with the second integrated wireless technology, WidexLink – provided they have the corresponding Dex accessory like the universal streamer COM-Dex. Wireless audio transfer with the patented WidexLink technology in combination with Widex Dex systems is virtually power neutral. On both platforms – iOS and Android – the user has the option of controlling specific parameters via the app, using the intuitive Beyond application. Widex GmbH also caused a sensation at the 61st International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians with the presentation of a new testimonial.
Since Beyond mainly targets the baby boomer generation, the company wanted to find an actor and hearing system user from this generation for the new testimonial. They called on Christoph Marius Ohrt, a well-known German actor who has played in countless films and TV series, and in multiple roles at the theatre. “For Beyond, we were looking for a young, dynamic, active person in the prime of life, someone connected to the digital world and who uses this technology daily,” says Schaade. For him, Ohrt is the ideal person for this. “His story is authentic and he comes across very well,” Schaade explains. “Christoph Ohrt had the usual problems, delayed getting hearing help like so many people, and then with hindsight was annoyed that he took so long. And today he wears his hearing system confidently.” Like Mario Adorf, who remains brand ambassador for Widex, one of Christoph M. Ohrt’s greatest qualities is his down-to-earth attitude, says Schaade. Christoph M. Ohrt was not only present at the Widex stand, but also answered questions posed by journalists during the press tour and by EUHAPresident Martin Blecker during the congress opening. Another novelty at Widex was Unique Fashion Power and Fashion Mini. The entire Unique range is now, like Beyond, set up with the 2.4 GHz interface, in four price categories. Another innovation in the Widex program is the small wireless microphone Remote Mic. This item is beneficial for users of Android systems, among others, in connection with Com Dex. It can be used as a table microphone system, for instance in small group situations. Users of the iPhone, however, can alternatively make use of the internal Apple microphone for this purpose.
Unitron brings a new dimension to good hearing
The Canadian hearing aids manufacturer Unitron presented the world’s smallest wireless RIC at the industry trade show. Moxi Now measures 20.2 by 6.5 millimetres and is 14% smaller than the next smallest RIC system, according to manufacturer data. The youngest member of the design-oriented and high performance Moxi RIC product range mainly targets young, aesthetically oriented clients and is therefore well placed thanks to its style in the Moxi series, a Red Dot product design award winner. “With Moxi Now, we were once again able to respond perfectly to our clients’ needs and to create a new dimension for good hearing. The device is almost invisible and so comfortable that the user only has to concentrate on the beautiful things in life. Our partners recognized these advantages and were very enthusiastic about our new arrival,” says Jochen Meuser, CEO of Unitron Germany, summing up the company’s successful trade show presence. In order to make no sacrifices in terms of functionality, the company invested a lot in Moxi Now. Just the casing cost two million dollars, according to Meuser. As part of further development of the Unitron strategy “Your path to success”, made up of four components: Flex:trial, Flex:upgrade, Log It All and Insights into every-day hearing, sales aspects were also a focus for the Sonova affiliate at the event, where more than 2,000 Unitron waffles were made available. “Flex:trial” is no longer just a testing device but rather an analysis tool with which one can carry out a hearing analysis. The device can now track various hearing situations and analyse them simultaneously to better address the needs of clients. “Audiologists who have adopted our advice model have achieved great success. This is more than regular data logging because it is possible to address changing real-life situations more closely. It just has to be applied correctly”, says Jochen Meuser.
Hansaton celebrates the German Design Award
Spirits were also high at the Hansaton stand. The reason for this was a long-awaited distinction: the German Design Award 2017 that Hansaton won with its soundHD S312e, the new external hearing system, with high standards in both visual and acoustic aspects. Commenting on this, Hansaton CEO Johannes Fischer says, “I am proud that we won the German Design Award. We have been nominated many times in the past, but we had never won.” Available in four different performance levels, the slim soundHD S312e hearing system scores points with its appearance but also with what is has inside: Hansaton’s HD technology. A further eye-catcher was the new AQ HD S. The integrated lithium ion battery technology guarantees the user 24 hours of autonomy after just three hours of charging. The innovative technology, which renders battery changes unnecessary, is protected from dust and moisture through the plasma-coated surface, and is therefore IP68 certified. The new hearing aid drying systems DRY mini UV and DRY mini were also presented. They were developed by Hansaton to enable medium-sized hearing aid specialists, whom Hansaton is very committed to, to use their own private label starting from a small purchase volume. “The promise we make to our partners is to help them strengthen their brand locally. Through use of their own branding on the drying system, the hearing aid user is reminded of the brand twice daily and has a positive reminder of it,” says Johannes Fischer in conclusion.
The best hearing possibilities and a variety of wireless connections at ReSound
With the hearing system family ReSound LiNX² including a new mini-BTE, the super power hearing system ReSound ENZO², the paediatric hearing system ReSound Up Smart, as well as the latest wireless accessories, ReSound presented not only their best hearing options, but also a wide range of possibilities for wireless connections to the modern, connected world of communication. The group presented products for most audiological needs, from the entry-level segment up. In addition, there was news about a program for marketing support to hearing aid businesses. “Our vision is to be an attractive, committed, and equitable partner for hearing aid specialists and to support them with innovations and dedication,” says CEO Joachim Gast . “We want to enable hearing aid specialists to meet the wishes and needs of their clients as far as possible, to provide them not only with good hearing, but also substantial added value. Our smart products contribute to increasing acceptance for rehabilitation and to reach younger target groups.” This contribution to acceptance is demonstrated by the results of a survey presented at the EUHA congress that ReSound conducted as part of its participation at the Berlin Consumer Electronics Show (IFA) this year, and that included more than 200 visitors.
Last but not least, ReSound is also happy that wireless connection with 2.4 GHz used by the manufacturer since 2010 is now valued by an increasing number of competitors, after considerable scepticism initially: ”With this congress, the last of the sceptics should be convinced that our technology is the future of hearing aid connectivity,” says Joachim Gast. “With the release of the new Noahlink, it is already the manufacturer-independent standard for wireless fitting in specialist stores. And more and more competitors are beginning to use it for connection of their products to smartphones, TVs, and other devices. The industry is following us on the 2.4 GHz band and hearing aid wearers will benefit from this considerably.”
Innovative battery and production technologies by the Varta Micro Group
It is well known that Herbert Schein, CEO of the Varta Micro Group, has considerably expanded the research plans, investments, and business areas of the battery manufacturer over the last few years. However, although the lithium ion battery was a focus point at this year’s event, people were talking more about the manufacturer than about the battery manufacturer. But this type of step forward would hardly have been possible without a battery manufacturer. The company, based in Ellwangen, southern Germany, presented a new lithium ion battery, alongside its full 2016 product range. The differences compared to older technologies are enormous. While the nickel-metal hydride button cell in a size 13 battery can delivery up to 140 Wh/L, the new p13 PowerOne lithium ion battery for hearing aids provides 220 Wh/L. However, this should be regarded as a manufacturer-specific solution. According to Schein, “PowerOne is a new, innovative battery and production technology, and a full unique hearing aid battery range, and the most modern rechargeable battery solution. As a partner of the hearing aid industry, trends are taken up directly from us. We are pioneers when it comes to new technologies. And this is also true for lithium ion batteries. Today, a lot of emphasis is placed on premium hearing aid batteries that guarantee high safety. It is therefore essential to look out for the label PowerOne inside”.
Starkey launches Synergy and Muse
At the Starkey Hearing Technologies stand, one finds not only staff from the German branch, but also people from the headquarters who have travelled from Minnesota. Among them, William (Bill) Austin, founder and CEO of Starkey. “Being at this congress is even more important than taking part in other events,” says Austin. “Here, you meet visitors from across the globe. This makes the EUHA congress a good contact point for us, a place where we can meet many of our clients.” Another representative from the US is Chris McCormick, Chief Marketing Officer. “We take the EUHA congress as an opportunity to launch our latest technologies on the German market,” he says. One of these Starkey technologies is the new Synergy platform that can handle five times more operational calculations than its predecessor. Another is Starkey’s Muse, a new hearing system range equipped with the same chip. Muse has already been launched in the United States. The market entry was “fantastic” says Chris McCormick. The group got outstanding feedback from audiologists as well as end users. In terms of sound quality, Muse even outperforms the Z series, which was already “a great success”, adds the Chief Marketing Officer. The group now hopes to see the same success in Germany. This was an opportunity to invite large numbers of hearing aid specialists, long-standing clients, and potential new clients to find out more about the new technologies. This was done through discussions and presentations and also at the “Innovation Centre” attached to the Starkey stand. “This helps to give a broader picture, like at the cinema,” explains Chris McCormick. There is a short film that let’s viewers into Starkey’s world. For example, one can discover quad core twin compressor technology, which is integrated in Synergy, and ensures high precision and wide bandwidth for more music enjoyment, sound quality, and maximum hearing comfort. Also available in the Muse system is Acuity, a system that further improves speech intelligibility even in difficult hearing environments. For the adaptation phase, there is also a function that helps the brain to gradually get used to the new hearing experience. Chris McCormick also spoke about the new MultiFlex Tinnitus Technology. “This technology is found in all products that work with Synergy, so in the Muse range and in Halo 2,” says the Chief Marketing Officer.
Bernafon presents results of the survey on BeFlex
At the Bernafon stand, visitors could find a lightning sketcher and much more. The Berlin branch of the Swiss manufacturer also presented its entire portfolio – including the BeFlex solution which is still unique worldwide. Bernafon recently carried out a client survey concerning BeFlex. Among the questions, the company wanted to know how Bernafon clients integrated the fitting concept into their daily activities, whether they were satisfied with BeFlex, and whether the concept facilitated interactions with end users. The survey included 148 hearing aid specialists in France, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany. The results were presented at the stand in Hanover.
According to the results, 85% of responders were satisfied with BeFlex. “This is also reflected in our day-to day interactions with our clients,” says Daniela Häußler, Marketing Manager at Bernafon in Berlin. “72% of the responders reported that the fitting time was reduced thanks to BeFlex. Clients also decided faster on the right hearing aid,” says Carsten Braun, Head of Audiology at Bernafon. He sees this as further confirmation for the fitting concept. Especially since the product mix of Bernafon clients who work with BeFlex seems to have shifted upwards, based on what has been observed. “We have had feedback showing that during the BeFlex phase, clients mostly use the stronger technology in demanding situations,” says Carsten Braun. The idea of enabling hearing aid clients to simply switch between various Bernafon technology levels with a simple program change that lets them experience the advantages of high-value solutions has paid off. Moreover, the company has gained many new clients since the deployment of BeFlex, says Carsten Braun.
Audio Service launches its fourth generation
The focus of the trade show for Audio Service this year was also new entries. What this is all about was already visible through the position of the company stand: G4. “We are now launching our fourth generation”, explains CEO Thomas Mettang. “This isn’t a revolution, but rather evolution,” he says. The idea was to further develop the proven G3 platform. Areas such as speech understanding and feedback management were further improved to guarantee the best hearing experience even in critical situations. “A new functionality is Comfort365, which enables automatic speech management,” says Mettang. Other examples of new G4 functions include for example a special program for music enjoyment, an algorithm for performance in echoing environments, and effortless telephone use.
Audio Service now also offers CROS solutions. G4 technologies are available in the upper three price categories for ITE, RIC, and BTE devices as well as for the quiX systems. The range is supplemented by a small remote control. Another innovation at Audio Service is Tune. “This is a new fitting and sales concept in which the hearing aid specialist first programs the tech level in the test device,” explains Marketing Manager Almut Niederfeld. The possible technology levels are levels 8, 12 and 16. The concept is available for all Audio Service models. Tune will provide the manufacturer’s clients with “massive savings in terms of stocks,” says Niederfeld. One no longer needs to order the right device in addition to testing it, thanks to Tune – likewise, no need for a full stock of Audio Service devices. Once the end user has made a decision, the settings programmed during the test phase can be transferred to the system, which the user can then be given directly. In addition, Tune provides for the possibility of a subsequent upgrade. Clients who start with a hearing system at tech level 8 for instance, do not need to buy a new device if they then decide they would like a higher tech level. “This also gives you an additional possibility to stay in contact with the client,” says Thomas Mettang.
An excellent congress for Oticon
Early afternoon on the Friday, Torben Lindø was in very good spirits. “For us, this has been an excellent congress,” says the CEO for Oticon Germany. The focus of the event for Oticon was Opn technologies as well as Opn hearing systems, which the manufacturer announced as “paradigm changing” when it brought them to market in the summer this year. Horst Warncke, Audiology Manager at Oticon GmbH, summed up what makes Opn different. He spoke about the new approach when implementing microphone technology, whereby directional microphones are no longer used as before. He talked about how the OSN scans the acoustic field 500 times per second for auditory objects, and about the patents that Oticon has claimed for the new technologies. All this made the new Velox chip possible. 1.2 billion operations are performed per second. “In terms of volume, Velox is probably one the most significant chips worldwide,” says Horst Warncke. It has eleven cores available. But client experience is just as important as explaining technologies and new entries, say Horst Warncke and Torben Lindø. And the feedback has been overwhelming. Users of Oticon’s Opn report that they get more out of their hearing systems and can better gauge distances. Opn users even noticed an improvement in hearing in quiet environments. “We were also able to show in studies that listening effort once again clearly decreased in comparison to our best devices until now,” says Horst Warncke. “With Oticon Opn, it is possible to achieve 20% less listening effort, 20% higher retentiveness, and 30% more speech understanding. Speech in acoustically complex hearing environments is now transmitted to the brain much faster and much more easily than before with Oticon Opn,” explains Lindø. He also spoke about the internet abilities of Opn systems. The possibility of connecting to the IFTTT platform (ifttt.com) opens a huge field of options for connectivity. “For children for instance, the device can be programmed in such a way that the parents receive a text message when the batteries in the hearing system are running low,” Torben Lindø adds. Connections to the doorbell, other household devices, and a reminder to take medications, are also possible. The connection option to ifttt.com currently includes some 400 providers, and the number is constantly rising. After its launch in late summer, Opn now has two extensions. Oticon presented Opn 2 and Opn 3 at the trade show. Opn 1 was Oticon’s opening in the premium category, and with Opn 2 and Opn 3, the manufacturer is now offering new technologies in the upper middle and middle range. Not all clients can afford two premium category hearing systems, indicates Torben Lindø. This should no longer be a reason to go without Opn technologies. With Opn 1, 2 and 3, we now have very attractive hearing systems with their three respective price categories and that are also different audiologically, which is also audible to the end users,” emphasises the CEO. Even people with hearing loss of up to 105 dB can now benefit from Opn. At the event, the company also announced a new power system with Opn technology for mid-November, namely with the known RICs Mini 100 and 105. The company highlighted another important point about Opn: the firmware in the hearing system can very easily be updated with new features. “Hearing aid professionals can also subsequently offer their clients updates,” explains Lindø. “The user can thus always benefit when we bring new functionalities to the market.” Another newcomer in the Oticon range is the Como hearing systems, established in the category requiring small additional payments. “With Oticon Como we have provided a new system with performance that wasn’t yet known in this price category,” says Lindø. Oticon also presented the new bone-anchored Ponto 3, offered in three variations: Normal, Power and Super Power.
Photos: Innocentia / EUHA / Foto Rechtnitz