If you were to dig back in the Unitron archives, you’d find a tagline from 2002 that still rings true today: “Practical solutions for everyday hearing.” Prioritizing comfort and ease for those wearing hearing aids has long been a key guiding principle. This mindset took on deeper significance in 2012.

During this time the design and look of hearing aids were increasingly important when it came to wearer acceptance and expectations around choice. We were committed to solving real-world problems with each new hearing aid versus simply introducing a “new look and feel” to the market. This meant doubling down on removing barriers for wearers. 

“We already had people coming in for field trials to test the sound quality of new products,” says Corey Banham, who spent 26 years focusing on product design and management at Unitron. “So, we also used those sessions to learn what wearers truly wanted. The insights were channeled into designing our hearing aids to fit seamlessly into people’s lives.”

The learning from this research gave rise to the design philosophy and brand design values that still guide us today. This philosophy consists of three tried-and-true pillars: comfort, aesthetics and ease of use.

Comfort encompasses the psychological aspect of how hearing aids look in the hand and on the ear, along with the wearer’s perception of whether they will be comfortable to wear all day. At a time when there were a lot of products with square edges on the market, we engaged our design philosophy to lead us down a different path. According to Unitron Mechanical Engineering Manager, Andrei Burean, comfort became a grounding design principle.

“We’re selling products that people don't really want to buy,” says Burean. “In order to convince people to wear a hearing aid, we optimize for comfort. We use high-end CAD 3D modeling tools to visualize and control the device curvature down to a micron level. We also use simulation software before we invest in manufacturing. These tools help ensure the comfort meets our high standards.”

Making sure hearing aids feel good to wear won’t get you far it they don’t look comfortable at first glance. This is where the second pillar of our design philosophy comes into play. 

There was a time when all hearing aids looked like medical devices (yep, ours did too). We leaned into our design philosophy to completely revolutionize the way hearing aids looked, with a focus on discretion, shape, color, and finish among other things. 

This approach transformed hearing aids into something that people actually wanted to wear. It also won us a lot of prestigious awards. We earned our first Red Dot design award for Moxi™ Kiss in 2012, and we've won a Red Dot award for many of the form factors we’ve introduced since.

Another early win on the aesthetics side was in 2016 when we introduce the world’s smallest RIC at that time – Moxi Now. This product was the direct result of applying our design philosophy to what the market was demanding in hearing aid discretion. 

Our Moxi V-RS RIC (receiver in canal) product is a current example of our aesthetics principle in action. We designed it to look less like a hearing aid and more like something people expect from a consumer electronics wearable. The thinner design also makes it fit more seamlessly with eyeglasses. 

Over the years we’ve discovered that making hearing aids easy for wearers to love in their everyday lives is about finding new ways to deliver control with less effort. Our continuous focus on adding features that deliver ease of use has culminated in some noteworthy innovations:

  1. Simple rechargeability. Wearers want their device to work when they need it and feel confident that it’s charged and ready for wherever their day takes them. We designed our recent chargers with magnetic pull insertion to help make it easy for people to take their hearing aids in and out of the charger.
     
  2. Multifunction button. In the past, the push buttons and controls weren’t always top of mind, according to Mark Schmidt, our Director of Hardware Architecture and Systems. “It used to be a chunky switch that we put on a hearing aid,” says Schmidt. “Now the placement is considered very carefully.” Today, our multifunction button is easy to find and engage with on the hearing aid, whether a wearer is answering calls, adjusting volume, or changing programs. 

  3. Bluetooth connectivity. Our Made For All compatibility and true hands-free technology let wearers stream directly to their hearing aids using their favorite Bluetooth-capable devices. The hearing aids can also connect with two devices simultaneously and pair with up to eight devices.

  4. Proven durability. All the RIC and BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids we offer today have earned an IP68 rating, providing the peace of mind that they’re resistant to moisture, debris and dust. 

As we look to the future of hearing aid design, it’s important to find the balance between being at the forefront of innovation and moving at a pace the market will accept. Our internal experts have a few notable predictions around where hearing aid wearability is headed. 

  • User control. We want hearing aids to be easy to control, but we must ensure the experience still feels accessible and familiar to wearers who don't use apps or even smartphones. Even though some people like to use an app to control functions like volume and change programs, we do our best to make these adjustments on the hearing aid itself.

  • Rechargeability. We can only move as fast as the technology limitations allow. As battery sizes become smaller our hearing aids can too. But as Schmidt points out, “those smaller batteries need to provide enough energy to run the device all day and still allow for a small form factor.” 
    Burean and Schmidt believe we’ll experience big leaps in the next few years that will make an all-rechargeable future possible for hearing aids. “It’s clear that we are moving into the rechargeable era,” says Burean. “Everyone is getting comfortable with smartphones too and all our electronic household devices are being run by apps. Interest in apps continues to grow.”

  • Consumer technology integration. Samson Berhane from our product management team predicts we’ll see a future where the stigma of wearing hearing aids is finally reduced, thanks to the popularity of wearables.
     

“As the functionality in consumer technologies gets integrated with hearing aids, it will have the natural effect of reducing the stigma,” says Berhane. “Whether it’s wearables or other optimizing technologies, the mindset may shift towards enjoying a customized experience that enhances their abilities.” 

Wherever hearing aid technology takes us down the road, we’ll arrive there confidently. Our team will continue to trust our tried-and-true design philosophy to guide us in bringing hearing aids to market that are easy to wear and even easier to love.

“Other brands may choose to focus on creating hearing aids that look different all the time, but the consistency is lacking,” says Banham. “Our three pillars of comfort, aesthetics and ease of use keep the focus on what matters most to wearers – the experience. This approach ultimately delivers peace of mind for hearing aid wearers and the professionals who care for them.

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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.