Hearing tests may not have changed much since the 1940s, but today’s hearing instruments do much more than amplify sound. While an audiogram can tell you the quietest sound a patient can hear, it can’t tell you how and what they want to hear. For patients with severe-to-profound hearing loss, getting a new hearing instrument, often means a lot of fine tuning and follow-ups to get it “just right”. 

It’s those diverse needs, experiences and preferences that make it so rewarding – albeit frustrating – to fit Super Power. Because Super Power patients only make up about 10%1 of a hearing care professional’s (HCPs) average caseload, it can be challenging to meet expectations at the first fit. Unitron knew that the new Max family of Super Power hearing instruments would have to do more than offer superior technology – they had to improve the first fit experience itself.

As a contributing industrial partner to a $9 million, five-year Ontario Research Foundation (ORF) grant, Unitron teamed up with the Western University’s National Centre for Audiology (NCA) to evaluate a new software-fitting approach: three Super Power pre-set options to choose from to improve the first fit experience.

The partnership is a win-win for industry and academia: through the university, Unitron gains access to lab facilities and experts in the field as well as rigorous academic research to assess new innovations. At the NCA, faculty and graduate students have the opportunity to help solve real-world problems in industry. The NCA’s Translational Research Unit was developed in part to enable the quick turnaround of collaborative research – helping to bring insights to market on tight timelines.

“These funding opportunities allow interdisciplinary teams to come together to complete research and create devices in ways that industries or universities couldn’t achieve working alone,” says NCA director Dr. Susan Scollie. “This type of research promotes a mix of industry, university and hearing aid user input.”

“Given their wealth of experience studying problems associated with hearing loss, NCA faculty bring a unique and expert perspective to our work,” says Dr. Donald Hayes, Director of Audiology at Unitron. “With the high calibre of the faculty combined with a world-class research facility, our collaboration has yielded huge benefits.”

While field trials were happening at Unitron HQ, the NCA brought in their own participants with severe-to-profound hearing loss to validate the three Super Power pre-sets: Classic, Conventional and Current. As the names suggest, Classic is designed for patients who prefer a time-honored approach to sound processing, with little to no signal processing and no directionality. Conventional suits patients seeking a more traditional approach to amplification, with moderate signal processing and some directionality. Current is geared for patients who want the latest and greatest approach to sound processing, with advanced signal processing and directionality.

Based on a series of tests, participants were initially assigned to one of these pre-sets based on their preferences. Unitron R&D and Audiology teams then used the research data to validate and further refine the three Super Power pre-sets in Unitron TrueFit fitting software v3.7.

“Fitting patients with this degree of hearing loss can present unique challenges including previous hearing aid technology and frequency gain characteristics,” says Dr. Paula Folkeard, Research Audiologist at the NCA. “The pre-sets provide different starting points for this diverse group.”

However, implementing the pre-sets outside of a research setting had to be quick and easy so HCPs can make the most of their limited time with patients. Unitron developed a Max clinical fitting guide to help HCPs configure the Max family of hearing instruments, including a questionnaire for the wearer, that helps them choose the appropriate Super Power pre-set together with their HCP for a better first fit.  

“’Fitting Super Power is now super easy’ isn’t just words on paper – it’s backed by evidence-based research,” says Dr. Donald Hayes. “Our collaboration will change the way Super Power patients are fitted in the future.”

1 2018 ANOVUM survey results N = 294 HHCP