This is a transcript of a Sonic live webinar on AudiologyOnline. Please download supplemental course materials.
Erin Reichert: Good afternoon. My name is Erin Reichert, and I am the Manager of the Audiology Services team at Sonic. I would like to welcome you to our Bliss introduction course. I am joined by a special guest joining us today, Kathy Landon, our VP of Branding and Professional Services at Sonic. Kathy is involved with product development, as well as Customer Care, Audiology Services and Marketing.
Kathy Landon: Thank you, Erin. Welcome everyone.
Erin Reichert: The goal this presentation is to teach you about Bliss and for you to enjoy everything that we have to offer with this product. We are most excited that this a fully-featured product lineup. We have our miniBTE, which is a form factor that a lot of you have known about with using Sonic products in the past, and a full line of custom devices. We are absolutely tickled pink, and I am going to show you a brief introductory video before we get into the product details.
Meet Bliss, everyone. I hope you enjoyed that video. I appreciate it because it gives a good view of the product lineup, and it highlights a lot of the features that we are going to talk about today.
Speech Variable Processing
In Bliss, much like in our Pep and Flip products, we are employing Speech Variable Processing, which results in natural sound. It is going to measure the incoming signal and apply the gain appropriately. For example, take very soft speech sounds. Speech Variable Processing ensures we absolutely preserve those soft speech cues at the most basic level to ensure high resolution, high quality and high fidelity so that sound is natural. The benefit is that it is going to make sound clear and natural. That is something Sonic has always been known for, and we continue to carry this through with products that we develop as it is very important for us.
We view Speech Variable Processing in three specific parts or three components. First, what is speech? It is complex and very dynamic. It is absolutely nothing like noise. It has peaks and troughs. Speech Variable Processing also puts special focus on the dynamic nature of speech, in other words, how fast it occurs. Amplification must be applied incredibly quickly. If you have a very fast attack and very fast release, we believe you are modeling the healthy cochlea. The third element of Speech Variable Processing is that it preserves frequency contrasts. What makes a sound special so that our brain knows it is a specific vowel or a specific consonant? It is the frequency contrast. It makes things clear and precise.
What we hear consistently from our patients who wear products with Speech Variable Processing is that it sounds bright and crisp. But more importantly, it sounds natural, and that is where Speech Variable Processing really does a phenomenal job.
In Figure 1, you can see that speech is very complex and dynamic. In this snapshot (Figure 1), you are taking a look at our tagline which is “Every day sounds better.” If you look at the amplitude of the /a/ of “every day,” you can see there is a heavy vowel there, thanks to my Minnesota accent. You can see the vowel is providing a lot of energy.
Figure 1. Speech waveform of “every day sounds better,” noting the amplitude differences between the vowel /a/ and the consonant /s/.
Consonants are very important to helping us distinguish the meaning of speech. When you look at the /s/ (Figure 1), you can see that this very small consonant does not carry a lot of energy. What is really important with Speech Variable Processing is the difference between the /a/ and the /s/.
Kathy: The other thing that is key to notice is that the very soft /s/ sound is following that much louder /a/ sound. You have a very sudden change in the amplitude between the power behind the /a/ sound in “everyday” and the /s/ in “sounds.” That very dramatic change in amplitude is critical when we take a closer look at how Speech Variable Processing works.
Erin: As you just heard and what you are going to see in this next video is the same line, “every day sounds better.” We are going to take the previous picture (Figure 1) and animate it so you can actually see what is going on.
Speech Variable Processing - Speed
As you can see, we have honed in on the /nd/, the /s/ and the /b/ of “sounds better.” So you have three different chunks of information that you are going to look at. In gray you have the original signal coming in.
Kathy: Again, it is important to notice how much more energy is behind that /nd/ sound, which then transfers to that very soft /s/ sound, and then to a much stronger sound again with the /b/. It is more important to notice how the amplitude changes from sound to sound than just how much amplitude there is behind the individual sounds.
Erin: In the video, you can see the blue and orange colors. The orange is going to be your fast-attack, slow-release system, which is more of a traditional amplifying process. The blue is the Speech Variable Processing, which is a fast-attack, fast-release system.
You can see on the /nd/ sound that everything is kind of homogenized. It is correctly amplifying to make sure we are giving enough signal for that hearing-impaired listener, because over time with the word “sound,” the hearing instrument knows exactly how it needs to prescribe the correct amount of gain. You can see it is amplifying things, just like you would expect it to.
Kathy: This is where that very dramatic contrast in amplitude is going to make a difference. The /s/ is a much quieter sound. The system is on a fast-attack, slow-release system, which is different than some of the other processing systems that you might find on the market. You are going to see that it is not applying enough gain to that soft /s/ sound. That is because it is still stuck on how much gain it needed to apply for the louder /nd/ sound. So a louder sound typically needs less gain, right? That is the whole point of amplification. We are amplifying soft sounds and controlling how much gain we are applying to loud sounds.
With the amount of gain that you have to apply to the louder /nd/ sound, if the system does not interpret how much gain to apply and release the amount of gain that it was applying quickly enough, then the system believes the very soft /s/ sound, which should get a lot more amplification, does not need very much amplification because it believes the input is still the /nd/ sound. It has not released the amount of amplification correctly. That is a problem with the systems that use a slow-release time.
If we take a look at what Speech Variable Processing does, which is that system in blue, you can see we are applying more gain to that /s/ sound, which is accurate because the /s/ sound is a very quiet sound. We have recovered quickly from the amount of gain that we are applying to the louder /nd/ sound and are now applying the correct amount of gain to the /s/.
What I think is interesting here is that by the end of that /s/ sound, you can see that both the fast-attack, slow-release system in orange and the very fast-attack, fast-release system (Speech Variable Processing) in blue have pretty much caught up with each other by the end of that /s/ sound. It is taken that long for that slow-release system to really figure it out. By that time, the /s/ sound is done. It does not do any good for a system to figure out how much amplification to apply to a sound once the sound is done. You need to be doing it real time to keep sound natural. The fact that we are able to apply the correct amount of gain to that soft /s/ sound right from the get-go is what is going to preserve the clarity of those soft consonants and preserve the naturalness of the sound coming the ear.
Erin: That is something with Speech Variable Processing that is, in my opinion, very critical because things are consistently changing in amplitude. As Kathy said, it is happening real time. You have the free release, if you will, from the /nd/ to the /s/. As I keep the animation going here, you are going to see that we have the /b/ coming all of a sudden. This is where, to me, it is a huge problem with your fast attack and slow release.
Traditional systems with a fast attack are still hanging onto the /s/, trying to figure out what to do. Then all of a sudden, they realize, uh-oh, we have got a really soft sound. That sound needs a lot of gain, which often ends up in over-amplification. This is a big problem. A lot of times we just think about things under-amplifying. But it is, in my opinion, what makes a hearing aid sound harsh. This is where your traditional system is not going to do the job at evaluating that specific amplitude.
If you take a look at the fast-attack, fast-release system, you have got your solution here with Speech Variable Processing, because it is so fast. It can react appropriately for that change in amplitude to make sure we are providing the correct amount of amplification for that /b/. If you look at the /nd/ to /b/, it is real time. The fact that Speech Variable Processing can actually keep up, to me, is astounding. But I am telling you, it works. This is what makes things sound natural and clear. This is what makes Sonic special and unique. I absolutely love this animation.
Frequency Contrast for Clarity
Kathy: Just to be clear, when we are talking about frequency contrast, what we think of as frequency contrast is the fingerprint of an individual sound. It is not just amplitude at a point in time, but across frequencies. In the next sample animation, you will see the sound /e/. The sound /e/ not only has a certain amount of energy behind it to give it amplitude, but it also has a frequency characteristic behind it as well. Across the frequencies, it has different shapes and it has different amplitudes at different frequencies. I like to think of this as a sound fingerprint.
When somebody is being fingerprinted, if they wiggle their finger as it is being put down on the paper, the fingerprint is going to be distorted, and you are going to lose the clarity of the markings. You might not be able to tell whose fingerprint that is because you have lost the precision in the fingerprint. To get a good fingerprint, you have to maintain the distinct swirls and shape and characteristics of a fingerprint. You need to be very precise. The same thing is true for sound. You have to keep this frequency contrast, the valleys and peaks across the frequencies, to keep the clarity of an individual sound. Let’s take a look at our animation here.
Speech Variable Processing - Frequency Contrast
For the sound /e/, you can see the fingerprint, the frequency contrast for that sound. A traditional multi-channel system tends to flatten that contrast or spectrum. It is going to smear the fingerprint, if you will. The reason for that is because the traditional multi-channel system is going to take the signal and divide it into a whole bunch of different frequency bands or components. Then it is going to process each of those frequencies separately. Then, at the end of that process, it is going to put it all back together. In the act of taking the sound apart, processing it and putting it back together, you are going to lose some of that contrast between the different frequencies. You are going to lose that clarity.
Let’s zoom in here a little bit and see what that looks like. You can see in this particular frequency region where we had a very distinct difference between the peak of one frequency and the valley of the next, a traditional multi-channel system loses the distinction between those frequencies. Let’s take a look at what Speech Variable Processing does.
Because Speech Variable Processing does not take the signal apart or process pieces separately and then put them back together, we are able to maintain this contrast. We process the entire wideband spectrum at one go. You can see from the original uncompressed signal and then the signal processed through Speech Variable Processing that we have maintained the peak-to-trough ratio across those frequencies. That is going to maintain the clarity. It is what is going to keep each of those individual sounds, vowels and consonants, sounding unique and different and clear. You are keeping your fingerprint clean with the Speech Variable Processing system.
Erin: It is what makes an E an E. It is what makes all the speech signals understandable by your brain. To me, this aspect in our industry does not necessarily get talked about enough because there are other jazzy features. Do not get me wrong, adaptive feedback cancellation, directional systems and noise reduction are of huge importance. But when you take a look at the frequency contrast and what makes speech unique, you have to talk amplitude. I think it is important they way Speech Variable Processing preserves speech and how quickly it does it. This is paramount. You cannot see, but Kathy is nodding her head saying, “Yes.”
It is really important to think about this as hearing care professionals. We want to make sure we are giving everyone the best shot to hear. That is why we are in this industry. This is something that is almost like an old-school technology concept. This is a big deal.
Here are the rest of our jazzy features, if you will. Like I said, I am not saying these are not important features, because they are. But I always ask myself, “What makes us special?” Everything makes Bliss special, but Speech Variable Processing, in my opinion, is best in class.
Sonic has always been known to handle noise well. We handle it with a lot of different mechanisms with the Bliss products. First, we have our soft-noise reduction. In other words, it is expansion. For many moons people did not understand what the term expansion was. Here at Sonic, we believe in story talk. But what does expansion do? It reduces the soft noise. These are low-level sounds of fans or heating and air conditioning systems or refrigerators. These are all those noisy little things that a normal-hearing person’s brain has heard all its life. So what do we do? We ignore them because our brain knows it is not a warning signal. Just ignore it.
When you have a hearing-impaired listener wearing their hearing aid for the first time, I loved it. Throughout all my fittings they would say, “What is that sound?” And I would say, “I do not hear anything. Tell me what it is.” They said, “Well, it is consistent. It is constantly happening.” So I would say, “Clap when you hear it.” And they would sit there and start clapping like a clock ticking, because they had never heard a clock tick. They would hear heating systems or air conditioners. All of those things are noisy when your brain does not know to ignore them, and we want to make things comfortable. So what are we going to employ? Our Soft Noise Reduction. It subtracts those annoying sounds. They are gone. Sonic has always done a very good job of making speech a priority in noise reduction. What is king at Sonic? Speech. That is how we live. That is what we do every single day.
The Speech Priority Noise Reduction is going to attenuate steady-state noise, but you want to keep the modulated speech signal unmodified. You do not want to touch that. That is what is important: the signal, the energy. It is the notion of why we talk to people. It is just going to provide comfort, because comfort is important, but we also want to preserve underlying speech signal.
What else do we do with noise? We offer Wind Noise Reduction. Any one of you that has had a patient who golfs knows this scenario: “I cannot wear my hearing aid when I’m golfing. It is too noisy. I get wind in the microphone.” The Wind Noise Reduction in Bliss does a phenomenal job. It is going to decrease sensitivity to wind noise in the low frequencies without modifying amplification of speech-related frequencies. Wind is different than speech. We do not want to touch speech because speech is king. You want to provide comfort. Wind is noisy, especially through a microphone.
Now, nobody likes an impulse sound. In general, the word impulse is just not a very positive word. Impulse Noise Reduction uses fast-acting compression to suppress loud, unexpected sounds. The benefit is simple. It is just going to improve comfort. Think about dishes clanking. Think about cupboards slamming. It can aggressively handle any sound that is loud out of the blue. We want that gone. Impulse Noise Reduction does a really good job.
We have a new demonstration system that we are using, and if anyone is attending any upcoming meetings or Audiology NOW! in Anaheim, we will definitely have it there. It is such a cool system. You can listen to our hearing instrument with it. But the Impulse Noise Reduction, to me, is one of the biggest wows of the instrument, because it does a great job of keeping the rest of the speech signal intact, but yet taking away that signal that you want to jump out of your skin from.
Kathy: It is really important to us to maintain speech clarity and speech understanding in noise. We have four systems dedicated to eliminating all of the possible sources of noise. We have Soft Noise Reduction for soft, constant sounds. We have Speech Priority Noise Reduction for steady-state noise. We have Wind Noise Reduction to deal with wind, and we have Impulse Noise Reduction to deal with impulsive sounds.
At the end of the day, we want to get rid of all of the sounds that might be in the way of speech and conversations, or in the way of the things that you want to hear when you are trying to connect with somebody. This four-pronged approach to dealing with noise is very important in our strategy of keeping speech clear and understandable.
Erin: Another way we cut through the noise is with our feedback reduction system. A lot of people do not think about a feedback canceller as a noise helper, but that is exactly what it is doing. The Adaptive Feedback Cancellation removes feedback signals before they are noticeable. The benefit here is squeal-free, easy listening.
I actually really like the graphic in Figure 2 because it is a simple snapshot of exactly what the feedback canceller is doing. We have the incoming signal. The first step here is important. We are going to memorize that signal characteristic. The hearing instrument has a little database, if you will. It is just going to remember the signal coming in, and then it is going to ask, “Have we heard this signal in the last five milliseconds?” If the answer is yes, it will immediately remove it. It will apply inverse phase cancellation, and the feedback is gone.
Figure 2. Feedback cancellation flowchart.
If the signal has not been there in the last five seconds, we are going to check if there is feedback? Did this signal introduce feedback? Is it a problem signal? If it is not, we are going to send a signal right to the receiver. But if there is feedback, we are going to use inverse phase cancellation.
For those of you who do not know, I manage the technical support team here at Sonic. I cannot express to you how rockstar this feedback canceller is. I was one of those people that said, “You are going to have feedback in an instrument like the sun comes up and the sun goes down.” You can always try to do something to get that hearing instrument to whistle because that is just the nature of the beast when you have a microphone and receiver so close together.
When we launched our Flip device 13 months ago, which is our newest receiver in the canal product, it had this same Adaptive Feedback Cancellation. I cannot even believe I can say this now, but the technical support team here at Sonic globally has not taken a single inquiry of how to manage or get rid of feedback. Feedback is an honest-to-goodness thing of the past. I cannot express to you how excited I am that the Bliss product is using this feedback canceller, and now we have it in our RIC product. We are going to have it in our brand new miniBTE design, as well as our customs. This, to me, is awesome. There is just no other way to say it. I cannot wait to say 13 months from now that we still have no problems with our feedback canceller. This is tried; it is tested; it works, and I cannot wait for you to experience it. Your patients should not have feedback. There is no reason you need to spend time in your day troubleshooting feedback.
We focus on what matters here. Directional systems offer both fixed and adaptive options. Depending on the situation, who knows what your patient needs? That is why you are the expert, and we give you all the tools within your software to be able to go ahead and configure it. The benefit here is that it allows patients to focus on the things they want to hear – the important everyday sounds that are happening, typically, right in front of their nose.
Process with Precision
We process with precision. No one wants to monkey around with an instrument. When was the last time you had someone walk in your door and say, “I want a hearing aid that has a lot of buttons that I can press and manual options to operate it?” Outside of your engineering patients, that rarely ever happens. We offer a universal program with our Bliss product, and it is really optimized for speech-related cues, maximizing speech intelligibility and noise. That is a goal. Speech is king. The benefit here is to deliver hands-free operation, giving patients a seamless, easy-listening experience. The universal program is going to do a great job 98% of the time. That is why you have your other program availabilities to configure what your patient needs. You have the availability to set your patient up with other programs within the software.
Binaural Environment Classification is a nice feature; Kathy is nodding her head “yes.” It takes input from both devices. Your left and your right aids, presuming a binaural fitting, are working together to create this 360-degree analysis of the environment. It then selects the best setting for that universal program.
There are a lot of things happening behind the scenes of what the hearing instrument is doing. It is analyzing if there is wind, background noise, or some other low-level signal. Is there speech? How loud is the speech? Is the speech coming from the right or from the left or the front? The Binaural Environment Classification is going to take that snapshot and make sure the hearing aids are optimized to be able to handle that specific moment in challenging and changing environments, 98%, maybe even 99% of the time. The Binaural Environment Classification really does a nice job of handling the noise to make sure that patient is going to have the best success that they can.
Bliss is fully connected. Obviously this goes with the caveat of making sure you are using a wireless model. But Bliss does come fully ready to use with Bluetooth-compatible devices. We offer our SoundGate, the TV adapter, telephone adapter and the RC-P, which is your standard remote. All of these connectivity options are available on the miniBTE model, the ITE-PDW (in the ear- power directional wireless) and the ITC-PDW (in the canal-power directional wireless).
Some of you may not recognize what all of those little letters are, so it is probably a good time to call out what that is. For all of you previous Sonic users out there, the PD is something familiar that you have seen. The P stands for power, D for directionality, but the W is a new one. That just stands for wireless. That is telling you it is a wireless-compatible product. If we were to throw those letters behind our miniBTE, it would be the longest product name ever, so it is just our miniBTE model.
For those of you who have not had experience with the SoundGate, I highly recommend it. We have had excellent success and people are very happy with the SoundGate and the TV adapter. What I like about this system is that there are no Godzilla lips, if you will. There is no delay from TV to sound. It is real time, and people have been very pleased with the sound quality coming through there.
The phone adapter is definitely a nice product, as well. One thing to note with the phone adapter is it will only work with a landline phone. If you are using Comcast or Charter Phone or Vonage, it, unfortunately, not work. Sometimes we have heard people that people can make it work, but you are having problems with it on those platforms, there is not a whole lot we can do to help. You know, the phone adapter works for phones. The phone company comes out to your house, hooks up a phone line and you are good to go. If your patient has that, by all means go with the phone adapter. It does a great job. But remember, you still have your SoundGate that the patient wears around their neck, and if their cell phone has Bluetooth, they can connect to the phone through that mechanism. A good thing to note is that our miniBTE, ITE-PDW and ITC-PDW are all fully connected.
Programmed to Please
We have many options here with programming. For those of you who have used our software, you may be using EXPRESSFit 2012, but this year we are launching with the Bliss product EXPRESSfit 2013. I will be recording another course with an introduction to the EXPRESSfit 2013 that we will go through. There are some nice updates.
This has data logging, just as you want. You can see nice snapshots and historical performance of what the hearing instruments are doing. You can see if the patient is adjusting the volume a lot, or if they are accidentally hanging out in the telephone program. Some people call it Big Brother; I guess you could look at it that way. But it is a nice feature within the software to help troubleshoot where necessary.
Our hearing instruments also, depending on the model, have data learning. A clinician told me recently that they really like this feature for their snowbird patients. This feature is off by default in the software, but you can turn it on, and it allows the hearing instrument to learn what is happening with user changes over time. It will make a maximum swing or increase or decrease of 6 dB depending on how much the patient is adjusting it in a 20-hour cycle. After 20 hours it is going to analyze the changes and say, “Okay, this patient turned up their instruments 5 dB.” The instrument will then go in a one-increment step and increase the gain by 1dB. Then it will take another 20-hour snapshot. Now, for the audiologist that has the Snowbirds that leave town for a season, that patient might not be back to the office for six months. So you are letting the hearing instrument work for you. You are letting the hearing instrument make sure that the patient is getting exactly what they need. We also offer programming for the wireless Bliss product via nEARcom.
You have a lot of different programming options. Kathy, do you remember how many programming environments we have here?
Kathy: It is more than 10. Figure 3 is a nice snapshot of how many we have for the most common situations. You are going to find the majority of situations that most patients experience are preconfigured in the software. A preconfigured environment is nothing more than a preconfigured set of features that are combined to optimize directionality and noise options. It takes the guesswork out. You do not have to sit there and go, “Okay, wait. They are watching television. Now what kind of directional pattern do I want, and how should I set it?” Just pick TV. It is simple. That way if the patient does not get what they need out of the universal program, they can simply move to their television program and have a nice environment specifically set up for that.
Figure 3. Environment details for programming options in Bliss.
You can see that not every environment is available in Bliss 80, but Bliss 100 actually offers quite a few different environment options. One thing that we do have with the Bliss product that is a little bit different from our Flip product, which has a similar environment list, is that we do offer direct-audio input (DAI) and FM connectivity capabilities through our miniBTE. That is a nice feature for those who find that they want connectivity to an FM system and not just connectivity to a Bluetooth device. There is an optional boot that you can attach to that miniBTE, and then you can actually use that as an input type for that specific environment.
Erin: As I have mentioned periodically throughout this presentation, we have a variety of models to match your patients’ needs. We have our miniBTE and then we are offering four new custom models in the Sonic lineup.
First is the miniBTE. Some of you may think it looks a lot like the miniBTE of the Velocity series. Yes, it looks similar, but it has all new guts. It is a new top-shelf device. This is a product that has been adored by many. It is a very small, attractive design. For the amount of gain you can get out of this instrument, it is a really nice product. The cool thing is that we also offer ear hook and thin-tube options. The battery life is fantastic with a 13 battery. There is a large programming button right at the bottom of the device that you can see in Figure 4. A little door that flips out is your programming cable port. The door is shut, and that is your programming button.
Figure 4. Bliss miniBTE lineup.
We offer wireless connectivity, auto telephone, DAI and a tamper-resistant lock. Everything that you know and love about our Sonic products we carry through in this new miniBTE. You can see that we also have a lot of color options. The bottom row (Figure 4) shows our metallic miniBTEs; those are available for both the Bliss 80 and the Bliss 100. The metallic options add a nice shimmer and shine. It is just so nice to have all of these different color options.
Kathy: More importantly, we make sure all of the components are coated to resist moisture and debris. The microphones are covered. You can see on the back of the device (Figure 4) that there are a couple of little grill marks, and underneath that is a gortex membrane which helps to protect that rear microphone and keep moisture away from that. All of the plastics are also coated so that these products are very robust in their ability to repel sweat and humidity.
The size of this is impressive, given that it does use a size 13 battery. If you look at other products on the market that are in this size with this feature set, you are typically going to find a size 312 battery, which is fine. But for those patients who do not want to be changing the batteries all the time, either from a cost perspective or a dexterity perspective, the size 13 battery is a nice plus, without having to give up any cosmetics in terms of the size of the product itself.
Erin: As Kathy mentioned with the protection, not only are you repelling against moisture but you are also repelling against debris. Debris includes dust, skin flakes, dirt, anything in the air. Debris can easily settle on microphones. And those covers truly do a good job of repelling moisture and debris. The plastics have what we call hydrophobic coating. It is impregnated into the plastic. Hydrophobic – literally meaning fear of water.
This design is a tight design. It is snug, but the batteries still can get oxygen, which is what you need with a zinc-air battery. And the battery life is phenomenal. This is an excellent, excellent product when it comes to battery life.
Many of you have asked, “When is your new custom line coming out?” We are so thrilled with our Bliss custom devices and the new features that we are offering. We have four models. We have the ITEPDW and the ITCPDW. The last two will get people excited. We are offering now a CIC power, which we are thrilled about. The final one is a CIC. So if you really want a push button on your CIC, you are going to want to order that CIC Power.
We also have a brand new wax system. It is called ProWax, and it looks really similar to our NoWax system, but it is even better. It is Nano-coated and does a great job of repelling any kind of debris and moisture. It is a little bit shorter, which enables us to build smaller instruments. If we can have smaller parts to go in the instrument, we can make a smaller instrument. If you are familiar with Sonic custom hearing aids, you know that we make really good itty-bitty hearing aids.
We also have new microphone covers to protect against debris, and they are called T-caps and O-caps, depending on if you have a directional model or a non-directional model. You can change those right in your office. Again, there is wireless connectivity on a couple of the models, and then you have got a telecoil and auto telephone as options on your wireless models as well. This is a very nice value add-on to our custom lineup at Sonic.
Kathy: Once people really experienced Flip and these signal processing features in a RIC product they say, “This is fantastic. When can I get this in a custom?” Not every patient is the right candidate for a receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) product, and not everyone likes to fit RIC products in every situation. With Bliss, it is nice to be able to bring the processing power, great sound quality, and all of the features that people have really liked in our Flip product to a more traditional BTE, and of course to the custom instrument.
Erin: Not only are we bringing it in our custom line, but also in our Bliss 100 and Bliss 80. You have two different price points to make sure you can serve all your patients that you need right from the get-go. That is another thing that is important.
Figure 5 is a picture of our color options for the miniBTE as well as the custom faceplate. You have 10 miniBTE colors and four different faceplate options with the custom devices. If you order a beige faceplate, you are going to get a beige shell just like you normally would, as shown in the pictures here. If you order a light brown, medium brown or dark brown faceplate, your shell color will actually be clear. That is just one thing to note.
Figure 5. Color options for the Bliss miniBTE and custom products.
If there is a situation where you needed to have a shell color match that faceplate, you can go ahead and give customer service a call. We can see what we can do, because we always want to make sure we are providing what your patient needs. But by default, those other colors are going to get a clear shell.
The model feature summary is shown in Figure 6. It is a snapshot of all the different devices from the CIC up through the miniBTE. What is your standard and what is your option? So what does the CIC have? It is going to have a size 10 battery, and that is pretty much it on the outside, because it is teeny tiny. It does have Speech Variable Processing, Speech Priority Noise Reduction, and Adaptive Feedback Canceller. You still have all the cool, wonderful things that make that hearing instrument terrific. But you do not have directionality, and you do not have wireless capabilities – the other things that you gain as product size increases.
Figure 6. Model feature summary.
The miniBTE has a couple different options. You can connect regular tubing with a custom mold via an ear hook. For those of you who do not know, Sonic has a full ear mold lab, as well. In my opinion, we have really aggressive pricing, and we make really nice ear molds. So if you have any ear mold orders and you want to try Bliss, we would be happy to make one for you.
You also have an option for a thin-tube configuration, which comes in two different sizes. We have five dome options. But you also have your custom mold option for your thin tube, which a lot of people may not think about. The standard thin tubing that Sonic has always had is a .9 millimeter. The 1.3 millimeter tubing is a newer feature to sonic. It is available in our Velocity products as well as our Pep product. We have had a lot of positive customer reports regarding the 1.3 millimeter tube.
Not everyone wants a 13 tube with an ear hook, and the 1.3 millimeter tube is a bridge to get people closer to an ear hook so that they can have a hearing aid with more gain in three to five years. As hearing loss progresses, they are going to need that ear hook. But right now they want something discreet, so it is kind of a step. It is going to give you more low and mid-frequency information.
Then you have all your different dome options (Figure 7). We do have some new domes to our lineup. We have got the small vent and large vent dome. Those are new additions to our Sonic product offering, and they are available in all the various different sizes that you can in Figure 6.
Figure 7. Thin tube and dome options.
The miniBTE fitting range (Figure 8) shows different shaded regions for with the .9, the 1.3 and the ear hook configurations. You can fit up to a flat 90-dB loss. Even the ITEPDW and CICPDW, can fit out to a 90-dB loss. Your CICP and CIC are there in the shaded regions (Figure 9). The CIC can fit up to 75 dB and 85 dB in a CICP.
Figure 8. miniBTE and ITEPDW fitting ranges.
Figure 9. ITCPDW and CIC/CICP fitting ranges.
Kathy: As was mentioned, Bliss is available in two different technology levels, Bliss 100 and Bliss 80. They are both based on the Speech Variable Processing platform, but the frequency bandwidth is different. Bliss 100 actually has a frequency bandwidth of 10 kHz. Bliss 80 has a bandwidth of 8 kHz. So there is a little bit of difference in sound quality there, especially if you are going to be listening to music.
We also offer more flexibility in the Speech Priority Noise Reduction options with the Bliss 100 model. We have a special form of directionality called Hybrid Adaptive Directionality available only on the Bliss 100 model. There are a few more programmable environments for Bliss 100. It just makes it a little easier for you to configure. The data learning feature is only available in the Bliss 100 product as well.
The Non-Telephone Ear Control is a great convenience feature. This is a way to set up what the ear that does not have the telephone is doing when the telephone receiver is brought up to the ear. You can set it up to either mute the non-telephone side or attenuate the response, and this will happen automatically when the patient answers the telephone. That is a feature exclusive to the Bliss 100 model.
Bliss is being introduced at these two higher technology levels, and I would like to compare it to our current Velocity products. First off, these two lines are built on completely different signal processing systems, and that is very important. The Velocity 24 and Velocity 12 system use our older-style Sonic sound platform. You are going to access Velocity through the EXPRESSfit 6.4 fitting software, because it is a different platform. The Bliss 100 and the Bliss 80 both make use of the Speech Variable Processing system, which is the new system that is exclusive to the EXPRESSfit 2013 fitting software.
If we take a side-by-side look, the feedback cancellation in the Bliss product is the next generation. There are some added features this categorization of incoming sounds, and that little extra step makes a world of difference. That little extra step is only available in our Bliss product, not our Velocity products. Both of these product lineups have great Soft Noise Reduction. They both have great noise reduction features, and both are optimized for speech. But only Bliss has both wind and impulse noise reduction features, specifically designed to combat those situations. The Velocity products do not.
The directionality features are very similar between the two products. The hybrid adaptive directionality found in Bliss 100 is a nice variation. It sets the hearing aid up in a way that is most similar to what your ear naturally does when it is hearing with a healthy cochlea.
Binaural Coordination does not exist in Velocity because Velocity is not a wireless system. So all of the things where you can push a push button on one side and change the programs in both aids are only available in Bliss. Or whether you are classifying what type of environment you are in and sending that information to the other ear or the Non-Telephone Ear Control that I talked about, all of those features are possible because of the Binaural Coordination system. Again, that is only with the Bliss product.
The number of fitting programs is fairly similar. Model-wise, we do have wireless models in Bliss that we do not have in the Velocity System. We will be adding additional models over time to the Bliss custom model lineup, and you will see those coming in the not-too-distant future to add more flexibility. Then, of course, all of the accessories we talked about are only available because of the wireless connectivity.
As with every product that Sonic develops, we base our entire product and service development on our Sonic 4S Foundation. This 4S Foundation is made up of honoring sound that is natural, keeping speech understanding and noise a priority, providing simplicity in all that we do, and creating styles that stand out that look good and that are easy to operate and use.
These are the things that we are very dedicated to here at Sonic. Bliss does a nice job of taking those 4S Foundation points and turning them into features that result in benefit, which ultimately gives you delighted patients. Speech Variable Processing is all about keeping sound that is natural. When sound is natural, you are going to have unobtrusive listening comfort for that patient. You are going to have a happy patient.
When you have Speech Priority Noise Reduction and Soft Noise Reduction and the different directionality features we have, you are going to keep speech clear and in the forefront. You are honoring speech understanding in noise. That is going to result in people having great one-on-one conversations with their friends and loved ones. Keeping conversations in the forefront is going to result in delighted patients.
The features that we have with all of the wireless connectivity and the Binaural Coordination make it easy for patients to operate their aids. That is how we take care of simplicity in all we do. When operating a hearing aid is simple, or even hands-free in the case of the universal program, that is going to result in delighted patients.
The new miniBTE style is a beautiful-looking product. That product is discreet. It is beautiful when you see it in the hand. As always, we are really dedicated to making our in-the-ear products as small as we can for the patient. When you honor style that stands out, you are going to have solutions that are comfortable for the patient to wear, and they are not going to mind wearing them. They are not going to be embarrassed. And that is going to result in delighted patients. That is what the 4S Foundation is all about- ultimately making your patients happy by giving them products that are going to stay on their ear so they can hear better and be happy patients that are going to refer their friends and family; it is good for everybody.
Erin: I absolutely love this graphic (Figure 10) because, being a Sonic employee, it encompasses everything. It keeps us honest in what we are doing. I talk about our 4S I in every single presentation I give because it is the essence of Sonic: natural sound, speech understanding in noise, simplicity in all we do, and a style that stands out. That is Sonic.
Figure 10. Sonic 4S Foundation features.
What is the goal here? Delighted patients. That is how we develop our products. That is why we come to work every day. That is why we are so excited to introduce Bliss to the market. Bliss users that we have had in our market preference study are delighted. They could not wait to give us testimonials and talk about the product.
Bliss is truly a delightful product. It is something to make you smile. Bliss is a feeling evoker. It is natural; it is positive; it is a great experience – and we are all about making an experience. You want your patients to have a positive experience. That is why we are so pleased with the Bliss 100 and Bliss 80. There are a lot of features that distinguish amongst the two of them, and we really feel that this is going to be a big value added in your practice and your product offering.
Does anyone have any questions right at this point? If anyone is interested in training or follow-up from their sales rep, or if you want to have a discussion about this product, we have one number. That is all you need to know, and it will bring you right into our customer service team. They are the best at what they do. They can usually answer any question you have, but if they are not there, we are more than willing to funnel you on to the next person to get your information and we can have someone contact you. That number is 888-423-7834. It is the number at which you can reach anyone at Sonic. You are welcome to ask for me directly. My name, again, is Erin Reichert. I want to thank you for taking the time to join us today. I am very honored that you took time from your day to join me and Kathy for this discussion. Thank you very much.
Kathy: Thank you, everybody.
Cite this content as:
Landon, K., and Reichert, E. (2013, February). Meet bliss, from Sonic - Find joy in every sound. AudiologyOnline, Article #11620. Retrieved from www.audiologyonline.com