Name: Henry Luo

Role: Chief scientist

Favourite sound: birds singing

For Henry Luo, there’s nothing quite like a game of golf after a busy week. It’s not just the exercise – it’s the challenge of continuously improving his game.

It’s an approach he brings to his work as well. “When you have an idea for a new technology, that’s your goal – just like the hole you want to hit in golf. Every time we start a project, we start with what we want to achieve, and then we find the strategy and technology to make it happen.”

And Henry knows all about meeting goals. He comes from a long line of medical doctors, and originally dreamed of becoming a doctor too. Instead, he pursued a career in biomedical engineering, determined to use his engineering background to help people. His career has taken him across the globe. He grew up in China, studied in England, and worked in Japan and the United States before coming to Canada to lead the team at Unitron.

“I was working in navigation and sonar for military, but I really wanted to put my efforts towards helping people hear better. At the time, hearing aid technology was very simple,” recalls Henry. “We didn’t even have digital hearing aids. I knew there was this huge need for new digital technology and that’s where I wanted to innovate.”

At Unitron, Henry leads a team that collaborates with many different areas of the company, including engineers, audiologists, and systems integration with software and hardware – not to mention people with hearing loss. They also partner with researchers from universities on advanced studies.

One of their award-winning achievements? In 2013, Henry received the Manning Innovation Award for anti-shock technology – a feature that allows a hearing aid to automatically detect and soften the impact of a sudden, sharp sound like a knife dropping on a plate. Today, it’s used in more than 20 million hearing instruments.

Ultimately, it’s not the accolades that Henry strives for. “I'm really happy to see people benefit from our work. Not just to help them hear better, but also to help protect their hearing.”

“We’re uncovering new ground in making hearing aids intelligent enough to always know where you are, what type of environment you’re in, and where your speech target is,” explains Henry. “For example, traditional hearing aids always assume the speaker is in front of you, but real life isn’t like that.”

Today, Henry and his team continue to pioneer new technologies in hearing aids They’re using artificial intelligence to tackle some of the biggest challenges that people with hearing loss experience, such as following conversations in noisy environments and understanding which direction noise is coming from.

“We’re developing the technology to allow people to hear better. Maybe even better than those without hearing loss. This is not a single project and not a single technology,” says Henry. “It's a philosophy for continuing to innovate to help people.”