In a world where hearing aid manufacturers are constantly introducing new features to the market, it’s easy to get distracted by all the shiny new offerings. With all the barriers in place to hearing aid acceptance, it’s important that a client’s actual experience with feature performance matches up to the marketing promises.

We get that. We always have, which is why Unitron takes a more practical approach to determining which features to invest in developing.

“We want our new hearing aid features to offer a tangible benefit to the end user,” says Jesse Sinclair, Senior Hearing Performance Audiologist. “We also firmly believe in accurately representing the listening experience they can reasonably expect from their hearing aids.”

This commitment to authentic impact extends into our research practices. Leonard Cornelisse, Lead System Architect and Manager, Hearing System Engineering at Unitron, says that even the way the team sets up studies is grounded in the reality of users. 

“We don’t believe in isolating a single feature and turning all the other features off to measure performance. That’s not how hearing aids operate in real life,” says Cornelisse. “We are more interested in understanding the total system performance.”

Accurately measuring the real-world performance of our hearing aid features is important, but how do these features make the short list for inclusion in the first place? According to our Chief Scientist, Henry Luo, it all comes down to user benefit. 

“We always want to understand what problem or difficulty the user is facing,” says Luo. “When we consider new features, we start the discussion with the potential for how the wearer will benefit. We explore opportunities to improve user benefit in known areas, along with new areas that aren’t well understood yet.”

All of this requires close collaboration between different groups within the organization, including experts in audiology, product management, market intelligence and R&D.

“Developing any feature in a silo can eventually lead to the realization that it’s not needed or beneficial in the real world,” says Luo. “We don't have this problem at Unitron. We drive innovation with our technology, while always keeping the user top of mind.”

The person wearing hearing aids is just one side of the equation. Developing successful new features also requires considering how they’ll impact performance of the existing features. 

For example, with the launch of the Vivante™ platform we introduced an 8th listening environment – conversation in loud noise. This is possible thanks to the binaural beamformer technology behind our HyperFocus microphone mode. It improves the signal-to-noise ratio during face-to-face conversations by exchanging audio between two hearing aids to create a narrower directional beam for speech coming from the front. 

“We wanted a feature that would provide even more benefit during conversations in really loud background noise,” says Cornelisse. “But it raised the question of how it would fit into the complexity of the system already in place. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to rethink how all the pieces work together.”

Adding binaural beamformer technology could seem like a me-too feature at first glance, since other manufacturers also use similar technology. But the way a feature looks on paper may not translate into actual real-world performance in the hearing aids.

“A person wearing Unitron hearing aids interacts with the whole system,” says Sinclair. “Even their experience with a feature that’s similar to one found in competitive devices will be completely different because of the larger context of how our hearing aids work.”

“The binaural beamformer technology behind HyperFocus can cause a problem if the speech target is not in front of the listener,” says Luo. “We advanced this technology to only activate it in the ideal situation. This approach avoids potential risks with the target being behind or to the side of the listener.”

Since the technology can quickly and accurately determine the direction from which speech is coming, it can intelligently inform the automatic system how and when to engage the aggressive binaural beamforming mode. We’re confident that it’s a strong feature with the potential to make a positive impact on the everyday lives of the people who wear our hearing aids. 

This confidence motivates our team to keep working through the complexity of adding new features to the system. 


Cornelisse likens the complexity of working on optimizing the whole hearing aid system to peeling an onion. Once you remove one layer, there are many more to deal with. 

“When I started working on the technology I remember thinking, ‘How hard can it be to solve these problems?’ It turns out the complexity is enormous because there are so many dimensions to think through,” says Cornelisse. “In the end, when we see the benefits for people wearing our hearing aids, the effort is always worth it.”

Luo and Sinclair couldn’t agree more. 

“Years ago, a client sent a message to our marketing team about an experience she had with her new hearing aids,” says Luo. “She had never been able to hear her son talking in the back seat of her car while she was driving. After being fit with Unitron hearing aids, she heard him clearly for the first time. She pulled her car over and cried. I was so happy to hear about her wonderful experience." 

Sinclair worked clinically as an audiologist before joining the Unitron team. That gave him first-hand experience seeing the impact on a client’s life by fitting them with the right hearing aids. These days that feeling persists in new ways. 

“Hearing loss often happens so gradually, it’s really easy for people to not even realize what they’re missing,” says Sinclair. “When you give someone access to those missing pieces again, it can really change their life for the better. The opportunity to work on the technology powering that experience is really rewarding.” 


For 60 years we’ve been solving meaningful challenges for the people who wear hearing aids and the hearing care professionals who help them along their hearing journey. This article is one in a series featuring insights from our internal experts who spend their days making sure you and your clients always love the experience. Easy to wear, easy to hear and easy for you – that’s the Unitron way.