Good quality ingredients make a difference in food . . . and in hearing aids
As Phonak celebrates 75 years, Audiologist Anna Biggins reflects on her favorite feature that she considers a ‘quality ingredient’ in Phonak hearing aids.
A previous VP of Marketing at Phonak once gave each of us on his team a copy of a book, “Never mind the sizzle where’s the sausage?”
Written by David Taylor, it is a cautionary tale told in an amusing way about the importance of making sure that brand messaging is based on substance, not spin.
Recently, with Phonak’s 75th anniversary, this book came into my mind again. And how it’s not enough to just talk about any old sausage. The sausage you’re selling has to be a quality product! (Just ask Michelin starred chef, Michel Roux Jr., if you don’t believe me. He is passionate about reminding everyone to only use the best quality ingredients you can find.)
How does all this talk of sizzle, sausage and ingredients relate to hearing aids?
Well, I was thinking to myself: If I could pick my one favorite Phonak feature (my go-to ingredient) for a hearing aid, what would it be?
Since there are so many Phonak features that improve hearing performance, it wasn’t an easy choice. But my favorite has to be SoundRecover. Why? Mostly because this feature has had a big impact on my professional career before I even started working for Phonak.
Why SoundRecover is my favorite Phonak feature
Prior to my present job, I worked for years as a clinical Audiologist in the UK. I fit a lot of hearing aids during that time.
In 2007, I received a pamphlet from Phonak UK about a digital hearing aid for severe-to-profound hearing loss, and there was an explanation about a new feature called SoundRecover.
SoundRecover is a frequency lowering signal processing available in Phonak hearing instruments. The aim of this feature is to lower high-frequency sounds into an audible range if these high- frequency sounds cannot be made audible via conventional hearing aid processing.
Simply put, it restores audibility for sounds that may fall outside of a person’s audible frequency range.
I clearly remember using the piano keyboard analogy printed in the pamphlet to explain to one of the ENT consultants how frequency lowering worked.
Between us we figured it out and I decided to order the hearing aids and try out this new feature.
I was not disappointed.
My clinical experience with SoundRecover
In my clinic, children and adults with poor perception of high frequency sounds reported that with SoundRecover, they could hear sounds they had never heard before, like reverse signals in the car. When I conducted speech intelligibility assessments, their speech audibility seemed improved.
Let me explain why.
When hearing sensitivity is so poor in the high frequencies that it is not possible to provide sufficient gain and achieve audibility, it can cause difficulties:
Recognizing certain speech sounds, such as the fricative consonants /f/, /s/, and /sh/.
Hearing and identifying high-pitched environmental sounds, such as birdsongs, alarms, and some musical sounds.
Particularly for young children, in learning to produce speech sounds that contain mainly high frequencies.
Particularly for adults, in maintaining speech quality.
The SoundRecover feature shifts the input energy in this unaidable frequency range to reside in a lower range of output frequencies that are aidable.
This innovation felt like a cosmic shift in hearing aid technology at the time.
When I then came to work for Phonak, I learned more about how the feature worked. I even worked with colleagues to come up with new and novel ways to describe how it worked and what the benefits were.
Not without a little controversy
I think it’s worth mentioning that SoundRecover caused a little controversy in the Audiology world. Fundamentally, frequency lowering is an amplification technique that distorts the input signal and some audiologists questioned the benefit of signal distortion.
Slowly and surely many non-believers have changed their viewpoints, as research has shown that for some hearing losses, particularly high-frequency hearing losses, this induced alteration can be beneficial.1-2 For example, in one study, SoundRecover was shown to improve the detection and recognition of voiceless high-frequency phonemes.1
How SoundRecover helps detect speech sounds
With frequency lowering, important high-frequency speech cues produce an altered but audible output result.
With practice, someone with a high-frequency hearing loss can come to recognize these altered speech cues as representative of the original high-frequency phonemes that were produced. Once the cues are recognized by the hearing aid wearer, important sounds for speech understanding (like /s/) begin to return.
I like the quote from Andrea Bohnert, Senior ATA-F in Audiology and Pedaudiology at the University Medical School, Clinic for ENT and Communication Disorders, which sums up how I feel about SoundRecover.
“With SoundRecover, you expand the audible range to provide more information. I have a problem reducing information for young children, but I have no problem providing more information and ultimately this is what we do with SoundRecover”
So here I end my homage to SoundRecover and I why I believe it is not only is it the best ingredient in a hearing aid but an essential one.
In other words . . . SoundRecover helps people hear the sausage sizzle!
We invite you to read a previous blog post on Naída™ Paradise that features SoundRecover2.
Fulton, B. & Ebbing, S. (2016). SoundRecover2 More audibility of high-frequency sounds for adults with severe to profound hearing loss. Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from https://www.phonakpro.com, accessed July 19. 2022.
Wolfe, J. (2016). SoundRecover2 for Pediatrics: Audibility where it matters most. Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from https://www.phonakpro.com, accessed July 19. 2022.