d03a.jpg (7664 bytes)Jerry Ruzicka,
Starkey Laboratories

Starkey Laboratories, founded in 1967 in Eden Prairie, Minn, is the world’s largest manufacturer and developer of custom hearing instruments. HR recently spoke with the company’s president, Jerry Ruzicka.

q What role does technology play in what you do?
Our hearing research and technology team develops digital technology by conducting a series of experiments comparing normal to impaired hearing, generating a scientific hypothesis about how hearing loss affects the auditory system. An algorithm is then designed and tested using research subjects to determine if signal processing makes an improvement. If it does, then the algorithm can be further developed.

q What are some of the new products that best reflect what Starkey is all about?
By taking advantage of our flexible digital platforms and common functionality, we’re able to use research-derived technology to offer patients maximum audibility and comfort whether they are wearing our entry-level Endeavour or the flagship Axent II products. Our newest product, Arista, takes advantage of several of Starkey’s proven signal processing modules. Arista features 3-channel compression, expansion, and adaptive noise management; 7-band advanced filter shaping; and a robust feedback management system. We’ve also developed a new Consumer Aural Rehabilitation and Education (CARE) software program. CARE’s 15 interactive modules provide a flexible education and presentation tool to better explain the facets of the better hearing process.

q What do you see as the pros and cons of the hearing health care industry?
We’ve been waiting for the baby boomers to reach their mature years, and those days are here. That’s very exciting and we think market share will increase over the next few years. But because we are a relatively low volume industry, selling about 2 million units a year, research and development costs continue to make technology expensive. We need to continue working hard to explain the benefits of better hearing and improved communication to help patients overcome price objections.

d03b.jpg (11937 bytes)Allan Gross, MA FAAA
E-A-R Auditory Systems

HR recently spoke with Allan Gross, MA FAAA, manager of E-A-R Auditory Systems, Indianapolis, about products, technology, and other industry-related topics.

q Tell us about your company’s products.
E-A-R Auditory Systems is a business unit within Aearo Co. The company’s personal safety products are sold under the “E-A-R,” “AO Safety,” and “Peltor” brands. The E-A-RTONE 3A and 5A Insert Earphones minimize or completely resolve many of the problems that a hearing health care professional may encounter when using a supra-aural earphone. Insert earphones make the testing process more reliable and less time-consuming for the provider, and more comfortable for the patient.

q What role does technology play in what you do?
a Take a step in any direction within Auditory Systems and you will bump into technology. In the production phase, technology facilitates most of what we do from the testing and adjustment of individual components to the final “burn-in” and computerized testing of each and every assembled E-A-RTONE set. Even the development of the E-A-R Plug foam, originally used for hearing protection and later applied to the E-A-RLINK tips, is an interesting mix of technology and creative application of material.

q How do you see the industry progressing in terms of future trends?
The trend in diagnostic equipment is moving towards greater computerization of the mechanics involved in the evaluation of hearing and balance function. Equipment presently exists that can perform a variety of assessments far beyond the capability of the traditional “self-recorded” pure-tone air-conduction test. Multi-function diagnostic instruments that can alter their identity as required will become more common. Where an office yesterday may have had as many as five or more separate instruments to accomplish a complete evaluation, the office of tomorrow will have one or two. As the potential of Bluetooth (a technology that allows electronic devices to communicate without a hard-wire connection) manifests itself in diagnostic equipment, that process will accelerate, and sever the patient/hardware tether as well. Hearing health care professionals, as a result, will increasingly be able to devote more time to interpretation, counseling, treatment, and research.