Digitisation was the focus of the 63rd International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians, held in Hannover from 17 to 19 October 2018. More than 8000 delegates from 83 countries took part.
For hearing aid acousticians and manufacturers of hearing systems, digitisation is nothing new. What is new is that thanks to growing acceptance of technological advances and suitable fitting provided by hearing aid acousticians, customers may enjoy a multitude of new possibilities. This means more quality of life for the individual’s everyday life.
- New EUHA president voted in Beate Gromke from Leipzig.
- Martin Blecker, the previous EUHA President, was awarded the EUHA’s Golden Badge of Honour
- EUHA Sponsorship Award: EUHA Vice President, Eva Keil-Becker, presented the award to Leif Johannsen.
- Prof Dr Karin Schorn presented the Research Award of the Research Association of German Hearing Aid Acousticians (FDHA) to Prof Dr rer nat Jürgen Kießling.
Those who did not manage to attend the congress, or wish to recap in peace and quiet what they heard, will soon be able to watch all the presentations online at www.euha.tv
Report by Elizabeth Duffy, Capital Audiology, London, UK
Having completed a full morning clinic, I arrived at Heathrow in anticipation to travel to our annual EUHA conference. This year was the 63rd EUHA congress, being hosted in Hannover.
With a swift baggage reclaim and taxi awaiting, we headed straight for the RAYOVAC audiologist of the Year awards.
Our 9pm arrival was in perfect timing for a welcome drink and food with colleagues and old friends. Entertainment and music followed the announcement of the European Audiologist of the Year 2018, this year awarded to France.
By the stroke of midnight, and with a taxi waiting, we cab-shared back to the hotel in the vicinity of the Messe at Hannover.
Thursday morning registration went without delay and, once badged up, we were in. The first striking difference this year was how impressive the manufacturers stands were and the increase in delegate numbers. The floor was definitely buzzing.
I’ve always found the visit to EUHA a great insight into the technology changes that are driving out industry. This year, the official launch of the Otoscan ear scanner by Otometrics was attracting a lot of attention. It’s been coming to the market over the past four years in various forms, but it was great to see a live public demonstration of the official product. Equally exciting are the desktop open scanners for impression scanning, demonstrating how the ‘theatre’ of modern manufacturing techniques has been integrated in to the end users’ journey in the provision/customisation of their hearing aids.
Overall, the launch of new technology from all the leading manufactures sums up that there is a very high standard to hearing aid technology now; that it’s a given we have improved bandwidth, dynamic range, faster processing, better battery life, rechargeable options, ear to ear communication, connectivity adaptive microphones etc such that when correctly fitted, programmed and properly fine-tuned, audiologists can better meet the auditory needs of all aided hearing-impaired individuals. But what’s driving the industry forward is what else a hearing aid can do. Technology is leading us forward into heath monitoring devices, translation via mobile phone streaming (in pretty much real time), fall detection and gait referencing, blood and heartrate monitoring.
The future appears to promise seamless connectivity. This will, in time, also become an expectation and a standard feature in all the ear level worn devices. Therefore, it’s left me wondering how the role of the audiologist will change. There will need to be a greater understanding and awareness of the crossover between other disciplines such as neurology, cognition, vestibular function and the diversity of physiological measurements we will be able to monitor. This perhaps is a future that offers new opportunities for an audiologist to deliver a wider scope of practice and puts the health in ‘hearing healthcare’ or the audiologists intelligence into ‘AI’.
Report by Jonathan Ormerod, Hearing Aid Audiologist
Once again, EUHA was the place to visit to see all the latest technology and trends in the hearing instrument market.
Traditionally, EUHA used to be very much a ‘German’ affair and was originally focused on the domestic market. In recent years, it has become a huge, international exhibition and now rivals the AudiologyNow! meeting in the US as the largest gathering of audiology professionals in the world. This year there were over 8000 visitors over the three days from over 80 countries and, apart from a topical academic programme, most visitors were there to experience the enormous trade exhibition.
EUHA is the only place to see every hearing aid manufacturer and most of the supporting manufacturers and suppliers of everything from audiological test equipment to ear mould production. Whatever you are looking for in the audiology profession, you are likely to find it at EUHA. The congress is a hive of commercial activity with networking going on all around the venue. Hearing instrument distributors and audiologists from around the world descend on the event to meet their customers and suppliers.
This year, all of the ‘Big 6’ hearing aid manufacturers had their latest products on show and previewed new technology coming in the next six months.
Phonak launched its new ‘Marvel’ product and, to the delight of its customers and shareholders, has brought a superb hearing aid to the market. The Marvel offers state-of -the-art processing features, full wireless capability, including Bluetooth connection to both Android and iOS devices, great design features and built-in Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery. New apps are also available, including a remote programming app. From an audiologist’s perspective, this is the best hearing aid Phonak has ever brought to the market and they are rightly very proud of it.
Starkey, the only privately-owned hearing aid manufacturer, rolled-out its big guns with owner, Bill Austin; President, Brandon Sawalich; and new Chief Technology Officer, Achin Bhowmik, on hand to launch their latest technology, the ‘Livio AI’. Aside from offering all of the newest features common to most manufacturers, faster processing, improved wireless connectivity, MFI (made for iPhone), Telehealth remote programming and much more, the Livio is the first hearing aid to incorporate health sensors and is set to become the ‘Fitbit for your ear’. Starkey is very excited about the device, which is taking hearing healthcare in a completely new direction. The app to control it offers revolutionary features, such as instant language translation (imagine that on holiday!) and the health monitoring features include something called ‘fall detection’. The device incorporates an accelerometer which monitors the user’s attitude and can alert someone (through the phone app) if the user falls over! Livio AI (artificial intelligence) will be available in Europe in April 2019 and I am reliably informed that there will also be a rechargeable version.
Resound showed its latest Linx ‘Quattro’ range and, again, it is the best hearing aid they have ever produced. I listened to a pair in the exhibition hall (a very noisy environment) and the sound quality was very impressive. The adaptive microphone system allowed me to hear someone walk around behind me and I did not miss anything they said. The sense of spatial awareness they gave me was better than any hearing aid I have worn before. The Quattro is also a beautifully-packaged design and the rechargeable system is one of the neatest on the market. Once again, remote programming is something Resound are promoting heavily.
Sivantos was showing its newest instrument, the ‘Styletto’. A very neat slim RIC (receiver-in-canal) design which will do a lot to attract a younger market to wear hearing aids. Sivantos should be congratulated for this approach. As expected from the company, which was formerly part of Siemens, its product is of the highest quality.
Oticon launched long-awaited ITE, ITC and CIC versions of its superb ‘Opn’ ‘Brain Hearing’ technology. While the market around the world is now dominated by RIC products, there will certainly still be demand for in-the-ear versions. The ITE Opn is also the first in-ear MFI hearing aid on the market.
Widex has only recently launched its latest platform, the ‘Evoke’, and it was good to see this product on show. Like most manufacturers, Widex has gone down the MFI route and its app is one of the best-looking. It also launched a new TV streaming device to go with the product.
Among the many ‘second-tier’ manufacturers exhibiting, several deserve a mention. It was good to see Bernafon showing its latest ‘Zerena’ range. As a sister company to Oticon (within the William Demant group), Bernafon use the same processing chip as Oticon, so there are many similarities between the products. It is nice to see the Bernafon brand riding high again and its Swiss background is a very reassuring marketing story for consumers.
Unitron also showed its new ‘Max’ high-power BTE. As it is a sister-company of Phonak (part of the Sonova group), it is about time Unitron completed its range with a product to suit profound hearing losses.
Audio Service, a German brand and part of Sivantos, showed its latest ‘Mood G5’ product. It was nice to see companies from the US, Japan, China Korea and even Russia offering good quality hearing aids also.
The technology trends across all the manufacturers continue to develop. Speech processing is improving with every generation of device. Connectivity is now a standard feature with all the leading brands, enabling hearing aids to connect with a variety of streaming devices. Smart phone connection and control functions are also becoming the norm. As virtually everyone on the planet now has a smart phone, so their hearing aid will be linked to and controlled by it in the future. Rechargeable hearing aids are also becoming much better and may eventually make conventional batteries redundant. The market seems to be moving towards adopting lithium-ion as the standard rechargeable battery and silver oxide seems to be disappearing. This is largely due to the poor reliability of the Z Power system over the past year. A great shame as it is a very practical design.
Remote programming of hearing aids using telehealth apps are also now appearing from many manufacturers and this is of some concern to many audiologists. Not least because end-users of hearing aids will expect instant attention from their audiologist at any time of the day or night!
There was also a lot of talk around the exhibition hall about OTC (over the counter) hearing aids and many were on show and available from mainly Far Eastern manufacturers. Recent legislation changes in the US will soon allow basic hearing devices to be offered over the counter in various forms. While many see this as a threat to audiology professionals, those of us who have practised alongside the UK National Health Service free provision of hearing aids for many years have seen how good these types of instruments are at introducing more people to basic hearing aids and then encouraging them to seek something better. OTC devices will work in the same way and in the UK could well replace much of the NHS provision in the future.
If you have not been to a EUHA Congress, do make the effort to go. It is an opportunity to meet all of the key players in the profession and will give you a much clearer picture of what is going on in the audiology world.
Report by Tom Aerts, Hoorcentrum Aerts, Herentals, Belgium
The main topic of the 63rd EUHA Congress was digitalisation. The lectures gave an insight into current technology but, even more, they gave a taste of what the future in the hearing aid industry will bring. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning were among the words used most in the lectures. Hearing aid manufactures have been working for several years to make their hearing aids smarter and smarter so they can learn to be the individualised solution they should be. Dr Dave Fabry, who was invited for two lectures, spoke about a new hearing aid with motion sensors. It will be possible to track your mental and physical activity, and will give a signal to the emergency person chosen when the hearing aid wearer experiences a fall. The round table talk was about the digital revolution. Since there are more phones than people in the world, there is no other way of life than being connected. The discussion led us through possible apps for hearing aids, as well as for tinnitus, and to changing hearing aids over the internet. In this way, audiologists can help more people on an individual basis, and will be able to track the performance of hearing aids (e.g. you can see the data logging of the hearing aid in the application). Of course, this is only possible if the client first consents to such procedure as specified in the General Data Protection Regulation.
A trending lecture and presentation at the exhibition was Otoscan. The option to make a scan of the ear canal is an attractive proposal for many audiologists and clients. Deeper fitting, fewer remakes, and faster online orders – it does sound appealing. Even if we don’t use it right away, there is a new possibility in impression-taking with EasyView Otoblock. It has a window so we can keep our sight on the eardrum while placing the cotton.
The trade exhibition is an ideal place to meet product specialists, but to also to explore new possibilities on the hearing aid market. It was striking to see how much effort hearing manufactures were putting into trying to pull visitors into the world of their hearing aids (and succeeded in doing so). Using special displays that took us to the future, sound samples, life presentations, etc, manufacturers made sure that you couldn’t pass their booths without visiting. It is clear that hearing aids will offer more and more possibilities in the future. The market will not be restricted to hearing impaired people. The long expected connections to Android phones, as we have seen with Apple, is finally possible. Of course, our future hearing aids will still be rechargeable and the sound will become closer to natural sound. Different hearing aids might also offer the possibility to translate speech in real time. This would surely make our next trip abroad easier.