After my write up of the Oticon Opn 2 and 3 product launch Oticon sent me an email to help resolve some of the points I raised within my article. As a new blogger, I was a little put out by the email at first as I realised that by voicing my opinions on a topic I am also inviting people to challenge them. The email highlighted that perhaps I needed to be more critical and balanced in the way I question certain strategies because a company will always fight to protect their reputation. A few emails were bounced back and forth and what I found was that Oticon have a culture that is very receptive to constructive feedback. They did not email me to confront me or to tackle me on the negative points of my article but merely to ask why I felt that way and how they can improve. As such, I feel I owe it to them and to you as my readers to re-address some of the points I mentioned previously.
One of the items Oticon raised was why I felt their marketing strategy was ‘aggressive’ towards beamforming technology as used by Phonak and Sivantos. On reflection, I am unsure why I used this term other than to perhaps exaggerate or dramatize the context. Essentially, Oticon were just telling their story and to do so they had to differentiate themselves from the competition. They were certainly not slandering the competition and as such I would certainly revise the use of this word.
In my original article I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the new 3 dot system that was used to differentiate between technology levels as it creates ambiguity around the differences between the models. They justified that they did this because it helps the clinician to focus more on the overall benefits of the hearing aids rather than individual features. This highlights how I practice as a clinician as I like to spend time going over the different features and how each feature may benefit the end-user in kind. This is quite a scientific approach to take whereas other clinicians may be more rehabilitative and will focus more on the overall benefit of the hearing aid. Neither way is wrong in the right balance but I can now understand why Oticon have taken this route. They also highlighted that if I did wish to look at the specific features of each technology level I can refer to the software which has a ‘feature overview’.
Comparison of OSN Navigator and Adaptive Directionality
Previously, I compared their OSN navigator to adaptive directionality. I was perhaps too loose with my wording. I should have perhaps compared OSN navigator to multi-channel adaptive directionality (I’ll call it MCAD for short). MCAD is when the hearing aid samples the environment and adjusts the null points (the parts the hearing aid wants to ignore) as per the loudest noise input. For example, there is a loud fan in a quiet room. The hearing aid will detect this and create a null point in the direction of the fan thus minimising the gain and the respective noise interference. The hearing aid can do this many times over to many different sources of noise in the same environment using multiple channels to help reduce background noise and emphasise speech.
I used this argument with Oticon and they advised that where OSN differs is that it ‘locks on’ to speech sources meaning that wherever speech is detected a null point would never be applied. They also added that the balancing aspect of OSN, although similar in its application to MCAD is applied much more selectively/sparingly and thus keeping the sound scape much more ‘open’ than the competitors. They then explained that most of the signal to noise improvements occur due to the application of their noise reduction algorithm which reduces diffuse noise between words.
As such, it appears that there certainly are similarities between OSN navigator and multi-channel adaptive directionality as I originally suspected but where Oticon differs is the application of this technology and how it integrates it with their noise reduction algorithm. The balance they have achieved appears to be working very well for a lot of individuals and perhaps in future we may see other manufacturers easing off the strength of their directionality systems to achieve similar results.
In summary, I have learnt a great deal from this exchange with Oticon. They challenged my article on some very relevant points which has resulted in me re-evaluating my original article. Reflective practice is drilled in to us as clinicians and is certainly something I take seriously. It is all too easy to store knowledge that fits our belief system and so by questioning this we open ourselves up to new perspectives and ideas and in turn this should ultimately result in better patient outcomes. In future, I hope to see more of my articles challenged by manufacturers to create an envirnoment where we as audiologists aren’t afraid to examine technology in finer detail. Like today, I will always admit where I misrepresented a topic and as such we can all learn together as a community.