What if getting a new pair of glasses involved numerous trips to the optometrist’s office and lots of fine tuning? All the time and uncertainty might make you hesitant to give up your familiar pair – despite the opportunity to see better.
While most people with glasses don’t face that challenge, the same can’t be said for many people who rely on hearing instruments. As an audiologist and trainer, Leah Vusich saw how fitting hearing instruments could be a long, repetitive process – especially for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss.
They’re known as “Super Power” patients for the types of hearing aids they wear, but their individuality defies a single label. These patients are at different ages and stages of their lives, and have different needs and preferences. With their previous experience with amplification, they know what they want to hear and how they want to hear it – and you can’t read that from an audiogram.
Each patient has their own expectations and preferences when it comes to getting new hearing aids. Some patients want the latest features such as noise reduction, directional microphones and full sound processing. Others simply want the maximum amount of amplification available. Many want a little of both.
However, these patients only make up about 5-10% of a hearing healthcare professional’s (HHCP’s) typical case load, so even the most skilled professionals don’t necessarily have a lot of experience with Super Power hearing aids. Super Power fittings are different because these patients rely on their hearing aids to help them participate in everyday life.
It’s a small wonder that in a recent survey of 300 HHCPs*, the words “challenging” and “frustrating” topped the list when they described the Super Power fitting experience. Starting with one default setting in fitting software just wasn’t cutting it – nearly 70% of respondents* said they had to change those settings in order to improve first fit acceptance. Because of the variation in patients’ sound processing preferences, it often takes a lot of fine tuning and follow-up appointments to get it “just right”.
As a Unitron Product Manager, Leah recognized that creating a superior hearing aid with advanced technology was only part of the solution. Improving the fitting experience itself would be a game changer for the patient – and the HHCP.
“We asked ourselves: how can we make it easier to fit Super Power?” says Leah.
“We wanted our new solution to reduce the ‘challenging’ aspect, and let them enjoy the rewarding part,” says Vince Yang, Product Manager at Unitron. “That drove our design decisions: to save hearing healthcare professionals some time so they can focus on their patients instead of software.”
Leah knew that such a diverse group of patients needs diverse starting points too. She wondered if the Super Power fitting process could be improved through software.
She came up with the idea of adding evidence-based Super Power pre-sets to Unitron TrueFit fitting software v3.7. Each Super Power pre-set would offer a specific configuration of sound processing features for a better first fit, which can be changed anytime and further configured.
But would HHCPs find it useful? In the survey, an astonishing 95% of respondents* felt that higher patient satisfaction was the most important benefit of this feature, followed closely by a better first fit acceptance. The majority of respondents also anticipated fewer and shorter follow-up appointments with the pre-set options.
Deciding which settings applied to each pre-set wasn’t done in the boardroom. Unitron partnered with the National Centre for Audiology at Western University to gain real-world input from patients. Data from field trials provided the evidence for the final settings.
Vince worked with HHCPs to test the software.
“I was pleasantly surprised how smoothly the fitting sessions went. Patients were happy from the beginning, and a great experience was achieved with very few adjustments,” says Vince. “The pre-sets truly made a difference in first fit acceptance. You can go into a potentially difficult fitting with confidence.”
The three Super Power pre-sets for the new Max: a family of Super Power hearing instruments include:
- Classic: a time-honored approach to sound processing, with little to no signal processing and no directionality.
- Conventional: a more traditional approach to amplification plus moderate signal processing and some directionality.
- Current: the “latest and greatest” features, with advanced signal processing and binaural directionality.
“The choice of Super Power pre-sets on Max offers a better starting point, and reduces the number of steps it takes to give patients the initial experience they expect,” says Leah. “Our goal with Max is to make life easier – and that starts right at the first fit.”
* Anovum (2018) Unitron Max Super Power Research n=294