Ashley Wright, AuD, is a research audiologist at the Phonak Audiology Research Center (PARC) in Aurora, IL. Her core responsibility is to manage internal research projects, which includes study design, data collection, statistical analysis, and report writing. She also conducts competitive benchmarking and coordinates external studies.
In this article, Ashley shares insights into audiological research at PARC, including what goes into designing a study, why not all results are shared and why external collaborations are so valuable for learning about product performance.
Here are 5 things you might not know about industry research at PARC:
1. Designing a study takes time
It can take months of planning to design a study, sometimes even longer! To start, you need a research question, such as “does this feature provide a benefit to the user and how much of one?” The question needs to be specific and measurable to get the best results possible. Once you know your question, you then have to determine how you will go about answering it. There are many considerations that go into this part, which is why planning can be such a lengthy experience. You need to consider the classic combination of who, what, when, where, and why.
If the study is investigating a new feature or product, then there is also considerable planning across departments as the prototype develops. This is usually an exciting time, and it’s during this process that the researcher can demonstrate their creativity and the applicability of their clinical knowledge.
2. Studies must meet both internal and external standards
Being impartial for studies is important for any industry. A business is intrinsically invested in promoting its own product, and, in an ideal world, a business would be equally invested in upholding ethical standards, but we know that’s not always the case. To address this concern, Sonova has policies in place that ensure studies do not progress without thoroughly checking for bias and illogical study design. We also must meet regulatory standards for medical devices and ethical standards for human subjects research.
Furthermore, since we are located in the US, the FDA may choose to audit our study activities at any time, so we take great care to properly maintain documentation of our studies, including the results of our data collection and statistical analyses.
3. Not all study results are shared
We do not share the results of every study, but not for the reasons you may think! Simply put, not every study is intended to be shared. Many studies are conducted on an exploratory basis. Meaning, the measured outcome is intended to build a case for further research or support product development, not to make claims. For example, pilot testing is fairly routine and is used to determine study feasibility. The results of pilot testing are not typically published because the sample is likely too small to draw any statistically significant conclusions. With that in mind, it would actually be irresponsible to share the results as doing so would be analogous to making false claims.
4. New testing methods and external collaborations are valued
I really enjoy studies that introduce a new testing method. You know I’m having a good day when one of my participants says “that was interesting,” or “I haven’t done that before!” It’s very satisfying to see our participants so engaged with our research, and their enthusiasm confirms that we’re asking the right questions.
Another favorite of mine is our external study collaborations. Working with our colleagues in clinical practice and academia provides a fantastic opportunity for them to have devices and funding to pursue their research interests and for us to learn from their invaluable expertise. This symbiotic relationship is particularly evident in Lyric® research.
PARC is equipped to perform Lyric research internally, but we simply do not fit Lyric as often as an experienced provider who sees patients year round. Experienced Lyric providers have well-honed skills that significantly reduce the possibility of fitting errors, which, in turn, reduces the effect of those errors on the study results. In return, the collaborating provider gets an inside look at an upcoming product and can have a direct impact on that product’s development through their involvement and feedback.
5. Current research is focusing on hearing and well-being
It’s becoming clearer that we are approaching a period of rapid growth for Audiology as we delve deeper into the relationship between hearing loss and our overall health. Whether that relationship proves to be causal or correlational, the role of hearing care and the capabilities of hearing care solutions will surely evolve. To that end, I’m excited to see what innovations Sonova will bring to the table, and I look forward to putting them to the test!
If you would like to learn about research specific to a product or feature, I would recommend the evidence library at phonakpro.com. We also contribute to trade and peer reviewed journals, such as The Hearing Review and Ear and Hearing