“Lithium-ion technology brings more freedom”
- Published on 22 November 2016
Instead of having a Siemens stand at this year’s EUHA congress, Sivantos was present with a Signia stand. Under the slogan “Welcome to the Future”, three innovations were placed centre stage. To find out what they were and what new features are involved, we talked to Christian Honsig, CEO of Sivantos GmbH.
Mr. Honsig, the slogan on the Signia stand is “Welcome to the Future”. What is this about?
Honsig: Under the slogan “Welcome to the Future”, we have placed three promising innovations centre stage. In the RIC area, this is Cellion with lithium ion technology, in the ITE area, Silk, that works without individual molding and thus promises an immediate hearing experience without a waiting time. And, as a third topic, we are highlighting “TeleCare“, an open, online platform to strengthen the link between hearing aid specialists and end users.
Let’s first talk about lithium ion technology, which you are offering with Cellion hearing systems. Unlike the product offered by one of your competitors, Cellion can be loaded inductively. How would you describe the advantages of this wireless charging possibility?
Honsig: We have long-term experience with battery technology and chargeable devices. We have offered contact charging for many generations of devices and with wireless charging, we have several advantages. Without charging contacts, we can have closed casing. This makes the device more robust and facilitates handling. Cellion is very convenient because the device switches off automatically when placed in the charger, dries off, and automatically switches back on when taken out. And for the hearing aid professional, it offers maximum audiology of e2e 3.0 to CROS, like in the Primax products. There are two charging phases: one with fast charging that lasts only 30 minutes and provides 7 hours of autonomy. Complete charging takes 4 hours, guaranteeing 24 hours of run time, measured with permanent streaming and HP receivers, in other words under full load. We consider that the battery will last six years.
Was the battery an in-house development?
Honsig: Of course, we buy the cells, like the batteries. What is interesting in lithium ion technology is that it brings more freedom, for example in shape and design. We are no longer bound by the traditional round form of a button cell.
How has the use of lithium ion cells changed the voltage in the hearing system?
Honsig: Inside the power module in a lithium ion cell, there is 3.8 volts, but our technology reduces this higher voltage to the standard hearing aid voltage of 1.2 volts.
Could the higher voltage open doors for other possibilities?
Honsig: We have seen extremely rapid development of features in hearing aid functionalities. We have done this for years with the exact same sized batteries with the same power. That had to come to an end at some point. And with intelligent energy management, we are now of course preparing so that performance and comfort features are also not limited in the future. We are the industry leader when it comes to energy efficiency, thanks to consistent architecture at the chip level. This naturally offers us many possibilities such as CROS solutions with lithium ion technology, continuous streaming of audio data, and short response times.
Let’s move on to Silk, the new ITE device from Signia. You mention that no molding is needed and that the system can be placed directly into the client’s ear. How does that work?
Honsig: The golden path in our sector is fitting of BTE devices. These can be fitted directly for the client, giving him or her an immediate hearing experience. And that works very well. The conventional ITE process, on the other hand, serves one of the priority wishes of the wearer, i.e. discretion, but is also more expensive and does not offer the possibility of an “immediate” hearing experience. And this is precisely why we developed Silk. The name was in fact inspired by the first test users. The shell that ensures a secure hold and a comfortable fit for the small CIC was described by these testers as silky. So that’s how we came up with the name. With Silk, we can fulfil the client’s desire for an immediate hearing experience even with an ITE device, and in a comfortable way.
Another new feature at Signia is TeleCare. What is that precisely?
Honsig: Our aim, like that of the hearing aid specialist, is to fit hearing aids for as many customers as possible, with high satisfaction. When we look at the fitting process, from my point of view, the critical phase is the time between the first and second appointments – especially with first-time fitting. In the store, the clients have professional support and advice from a specialist. But then they find themselves in a whole new world. Sounds are experienced differently; they have to get used to handling the device, and use it the next morning for the first time. The batteries need changing; you need to connect to the TV and to your smartphone, and so on. Some people have no problems with this, but others need help. The worst is when negative impressions develop during this time and questions arise that are not answered in due course. This can lead to failure of fitting. To make this blind spot visible to the hearing aid specialist, we developed the TeleCare tool. TeleCare is a cloud-based solution enabling rapid communication between the specialist and the end user via the myHearing app, developed on the basis of the same technology we used for our TouchControl system.
Your goal, as you mentioned to us in an interview, is market leadership. How far are you on the road to the top?
Honsig:We are making good ground and are ahead of our plans.