Beyond all the changes taking place within the pages of the last few issues of this magazine, a couple of other things have gotten me thinking about product innovations within the industry and how such things come about.

In December, I basically had a front-row seat at the Starkey Winter Conference in Newport Beach, Calif, where the company essentially unveiled its new art-meets-science operating philosophy—one I’ve dubbed “Starkey-ology”—that’s aimed at taking a long-view approach to product research and development through evidence-based design. I can envision such an innovative focus paying huge dividends in bringing products to market that are practically proven before they get there.

On the other end of the spectrum is a press release about a hearing product I’ve had in my office for a couple of months now. It was sent to me from an agency based in Washington, Pa, that touts the innovative nature of an inventor’s Oral Hearing Aid Device.

The reason you haven’t read about it in this magazine is because for one thing, frankly, the device strikes me as somewhat medieval. Essentially, it’s an orthodontic appliance that fastens to the teeth, purportedly enabling received sounds to be conducted through the jaw, nasal cavities, and nerves to the brain. Power and volume are accessed by a side-mounted controller, but the literature doesn’t explain to what it’s mounted. And that’s part of the other thing that fuels my doubt: the lack of information available. The Web site provided in the press materials is simply an invention services portal, offering no connection to the device. Hyping the device as “the real deal,” the PR agency’s cover letter states that the inventor has gone through considerable research and development and that the device is patent-pending.

Well, an admittedly brief Internet search reveals nothing specifically related to any patents for that instrument or inventor, but it does show others have recently looked into mouths for hearing-impairment solutions. On the World Intellectual Property Organization Web site (, there’s a company called Sonitus Medical in Menlo Park, Calif, that filed a US provisional patent application in 2006 for its “Oral-Based Hearing Aid Appliance.”

But as skeptical as I am about such devices, it’s tempered by applause for the attempt. Because it is from just such attempts, be it on grand scales such as Starkey’s, or on far smaller ones such as that of an individual looking for a viable option to traditional instruments, that innovations rise.

Will Campbell
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