April 24, 2008

NEWARK, Calif — The April 15 New York Times carried an article about the Lyric hearing device made by InSound Medical, Newark, Calif.

Lyric was premiered at an American Academy of Audiology (AAA) convention seminar in Charlotte by InSound Medical’s VP of Marketing Susan Whichard, and Mark Sanford, MS, who dispenses the device in his practice. It is a disposable deep-fitting device that is inserted completely into the ear canal to a depth about 4 mm from the tympanic membrane (TM).

Lyric is marketed as the first 100% invisible extended wear hearing solution that isn’t a cochlear or middle-ear implant. Taking advantage of the device’s extremely close proximity to the TM, the device—which is placed by an ENT doctor—is designed to provide improved sound quality, hassle-free 24-hour operation, and unbeatable cosmetics. The deep-fitting programmable device is also said to provide less distortion, improved sound localization, better protection from wind noise, more security/retention of fit, and complete ease of use with telephones. Lyric is disposable and is discarded after 120 days or when the battery ceases to function.

Lyric is currently fitted by audiologists who work with ENT physicians who perform the actual placement of the device. This placement requires no surgery or anesthetic and is done as a same-day fitting. A wireless, handheld programming device called HandFit™ resembles a Palm Pilot and is used in its programming. For patients, the SoundLync™ is a magnetic adjustment tool that allows the user to adjust volume, turn the device on/off, or put it in sleep mode. The same magnet also has a removal tool so that, if there is a need for the patient to remove the device, it can be done quickly and safely.

The device reportedly has a fairly broad fitting range, with 35 dB average functional gain at 2500 Hz. However, in terms of physical fit, the company says that about 50% of adult ears with the appropriate loss characteristics can be fit with the device, but it plans that future developments will bring this percentage to about 80%. It currently has 4 off-the-shelf non-customizable sizes for the right and left ears.

Lyric is currently being used by about 500 hearing-impaired people, and InSound Medical plans a controlled regional product rollout—currently about a dozen hearing care offices in California, New Jersey, and Florida—with possibly 80-100 practices offering the device by the end of 2008. Patients pay for the device on a subscription basis in a range of about $1450-$2000 per year per ear.
InSound Medical Inc, is a privately held, venture-backed company based in Newark, Calif, founded by engineers, ENT physicians, audiologists, and hearing scientists from Silicon Valley and the University of California, San Francisco. A major investor in the company is Johnson & Johnson.