Adapt or die. This was my take home message from the launch of the Resound Linx 3D the other week. A series of international speakers were talking about why independent hearing aid businesses are still relevant but only if they evolve to keep up with technological change.
They explained about disruptive technology and how companies in other industries have failed when they have ignored the opportunity to change. To me it felt a bit like Resound were trying to hold the hand of some of the more antiquated businesses that have struggled with the dramatic changes in hearing care over the last 5 years. They can’t sit back anymore because the future of audiology is here. Now.
Why is it so scary to some audiologists?
It is scary to some audiologists because it demonstrates the emergence of robotics within the hearing aid industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing and it won’t be long before we have direct Bluetooth connectivity to televisions or even smart home devices like the Amazon echo. I imagine a future whereby a lot of the basic fine tuning that is already automated within hearing aid software is built in to these devices. A simple instruction like, “Alexis, please improve clarity in noise on my hearing aid” could initiate an upload of a new setting based upon the manufacturers recommendations. The possibilities really are endless but some audiologists feel it removes them from the equation meaning that their current business models are obsolete.
Why is the Resound Linx 3D a good thing?
To me, the Linx 3D is incredibly exciting and can be used in a number of different ways:
Improving efficiency and driving down cost
I can see a lot of businesses using it to create a more efficient service. They would sell the hearing aids cheap, unbundle the services and go for large volume sales to create a profit. If you remove appointments and expertise out of the equation hearing aids suddenly become a lot cheaper. This means that private hearing aid technology will be more readily available for people who at present feel it is too expensive or just can’t afford it.
Improving service delivery and complimenting care pathways
The above business model also makes it much easier for service driven businesses to differentiate themselves from the crowd and really stand out. Tele-audiology can be used to compliment the care-pathway rather than subtracting from it.
For example, I program up your new Resound Linx 3D hearing aids and schedule you a two week follow up. Within 24 hours you realise the settings aren’t quite right. Instead of waiting until the next appointment you can send a request via the app for adjustment. I will get a notification on my computer about this and as soon as I have time available I would send across the amended settings. This means that problems are rectified much quicker, and with less hassle than was ever possible resulting in a better outcome for everybody.
What else does it feature?
The original app was probably the most intuitive app on the market but they have improved this further with the new Resound Smart 3D app. They have added better fine tuning capabilities to allow users to adjust the Bass, Middle and Treble under the Sound Enhancement option. They also allow the user to make quick adjustments to pre-installed programmes and the all new ‘request assistance’ feature which is the ability to make direct contact with your audiologist.
Resound Smart 3D App
Music and Streaming
On streaming music from my iPhone I found that the best sound quality came from the bass boost feature. As I have normal hearing I found the receiver produced a bit too much top end and so the bass boost seemed to equalize this for me and produced a richer sound. I could hear clearly on the phone when communicating with friends and family through the hearing aid. You do still have to hold the phone near your mouth to utilise the microphone but if you wanted you can purchase a remote microphone, like the Resound Multi Mic, which allows you to be completely hands free.
Resound Multi Mic
Hearing Aid Features
Resound announced the launch of binaural directionality III which aims to assist the user in background noise. What I find particularly interesting is that Resound and Oticon have moved away from beamforming technology.
Beamforming is much like looking down a toilet roll. When you look down a toilet roll all the peripheral vision is blocked out. With beamforming technology the goal is to block out all of the peripheral noise and focus purely on the speaker in front of you. It is effective at improving signal to noise ratios and enable you to hear better in noise. However, it is often dependent on the speaker being in front and so it is still difficult to follow real world multi-talker conversations.
To beamform or not to beamform
It appears that there is now a significant divide in opinion amongst manufacturers about what is optimal for the patient in terms of beamforming. I feel that perhaps the manufacturers using the open approach are trying to justify why they don’t use the technology because they are focussing on connectivity and there simply isn’t enough room in the devices to do both.
Phonak and Sivantos have invested heavily in beamforming technology. Sivantos were later to the market with iPhone connectivity whereas Phonak aren’t there yet. I doubt we will see any backtracking from them and so I presume this divide will continue for some time.
I have had positive outcomes from both approaches and so clearly either strategy is effective. I guess it will come down to personal choice and professional recommendations based on individual needs.
Hearing Aid Software and Notification Centre
The new hearing aid software is very intuitive and uses the new ‘burger’ menu. To access the remote fine tuning features it is essential that consent is obtained from the individual to allow the transmission of data over the cloud. Resound have assured us that they are using the most stringent data protection rules and regulations to ensure data is safe and privacy is maintained.
The notification centre to alert the audiologist of any fine tuning requirements sits in the task panel in the bottom right hand side of the screen. Unfortunately, clicking on the message does not directly open the software on Sycle which is the system I and many other independents use. This is easily overcome by looking at who the message is from and then just opening the patient file on the database. The message will be ready and waiting when you open the software. If you are just running from a standard NOAH database then it will open absolutely fine from the task panel.
What I love most about Resound is that they haven’t rushed the Linx 3D to market. It has been released in all conceivable formats including custom. Too often manufacturers push out the behind the ear hearing aids and then slowly release the other ones which I find incredibly frustrating. So well done Resound! Let’s just hope that the custom hearing aid is an improvement on their last attempt as I had some difficulties with reliability.
Resound have once again taken the lead on the connectivity side of things. My initial impressions of the new Linx 3D are excellent and the tele-audiology features will revolutionise the way care is delivered to patients. The future holds limitless possibilities and I look forward to seeing this technology advance and become more readily available. In the meantime, Resound are out in front and I can see this doing very well indeed.
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