Observations

 In the last several years, the hearing industry has witnessed great change in its products. Not only were 83% of all the hearing instruments dispensed in 2004 of the digital technology type, but HR projects that close to 40% of audiologists’ and 25% of hearing instrument specialists’ fittings utilized directional microphones last year. This month’s issue focuses on getting the most out of this new technology, with particular emphasis on high frequency hearing losses. In the “Why didn’t I think of that?” category, private-practice audiologist John Tongen, AuD, and Kevin Fire, PhD, of the University of North Dakota present a simple, innovative method for modifying common speech discrimination testing. Called “Visual Speech Discrimination” (VSD), their technique involves the simple use of a basic slide-show type of software program (eg, Microsoft® PowerPoint®) to show the patient his/her errors in real-time as the clinician performs the test. The authors say the results of using this method are not unlike those from an eye exam: the vision-impaired patient immediately recognizes and comes to grips with the fact that he/she is not functioning at a 20/20 level.

David Fabry, PhD, director of clinical research at Phonak and the former head of the Mayo Clinic’s audiology section, provides a perspective on four different types of directional microphone systems, analyzing their relative strengths and limitations in the article that starts on p 22. Noting also that directional systems may not for everyone, Fabry advocates the use of tests (eg, HINT, SIN, QuickSIN, etc) that define signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) hearing loss, and he presents an interesting chart on p 81 that matches the different microphone technologies—omni, fixed, and adaptive directional systems, as well as FM systems—to a person’s SNR loss. Francis Kuk, PhD, and his colleagues present Part 3 of a primer on solving ampclusion problems in advanced digital hearing instruments, with particular focus on high frequency hearing losses (p 36). Likewise, hearing instrument specialist Larry Brethower, BC-HIS, and audiologist Jay McSpaden, PhD, BC-HIS, offer tips for fitting digital instruments on patients who have high frequency hearing losses, and show why fitting advanced aids using the “old analog methods” presents a high risk of failure (p 30). This edition of HR also features a unique, “tough-love” chapter excerpt from the just-released consumer book, How Hearing Loss Impacts Relationships: Motivating Your Loved One (Auricle Ink, 2005), by Richard Carmen, AuD, plus articles about a new application service provider business tool (p 44) and the marketing of hearing aid batteries (p 26).

Cochlear purchases Entific Medical Systems. In early March, Australian-based Cochlear Ltd (US offices in Englewood, Colo), makers of the Nucleus cochlear implant, purchased Entific Medical Systems, which is headquartered in Goteborg, Sweden (US offices in Columbus, Ohio), from the Swiss-Swedish group Nobel Biocare Holding AG for $152 million. Entific has developed and marketed the Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) system, a bone-conduction implant designed for conductive and mixed hearing losses which has also seen widespread use in cases of single-sided deafness (see Marshall Chasin’s article, “Assessment Methods for Bone Anchored and Bone Conduction Hearing Aids,” in the December 2001 HR). Besides having complementary product lines and possible synergies in R & D, the two companies say that their distribution also will be bolstered by one another. Entific reports that more than 25,000 patients use the BAHA, and its parent group has experienced more than 35% in annual revenue growth during the past 5 years. Cochlear, until last year when its profits slumped, experienced over 20% profit growth during the previous 7 years and reports that there are about 60,000 people worldwide who have been implanted with their devices.

Karl Strom
Editor-In-Chief