Editor’s note: This is a transcript of a Starkey live webinar on AudiologyOnline. Download supplemental course materials.
After this course, participants will be able to:
- Identify the product lines utilizing the new Synergy platform
- Identify the algorithms that make up the Acuity Lifescape Analyzer
- Know what products are available in the CROS/BiCROS configuration
Synergy – Made for Life
Luis Camacho: I’m excited to introduce a recently released line of products and product families through the new Starkey platform, Synergy. Today’s session will be an overview of the new line. In upcoming courses, we will provide more detail about specific products, features and other information relevant to the new Synergy platform.
Over the last few years, Starkey has been focused not simply on hearing loss, but also on the concept of hearing as a major component of a person’s overall well being. We truly believe that to hear better is to live better. We’ve been conveying this message not only to hearing professionals, but also to the general public to raise awareness of the benefits of having the best hearing possible.
Hearing loss can impact many aspects of a person’s life. It can cause depression and high blood pressure. It can affect one’s ability to earn a good living. Adults with hearing loss experience a 30-40% faster decline in cognitive abilities compared to peers without hearing loss. It can affect a child’s ability to learn in school. Hearing loss affects all populations, regardless of age. A few years ago, Starkey began its quest to share the importance of hearing loss prevention and treatment. Through our hearing aid products, we are helping to provide the best hearing possible. That is our duty as hearing professionals.
It is also important to consider that our patients, and the people that help care for our patients, have changed over the course of the last few years. I have been working as an audiologist for over 25 years, and during that time we’ve constantly been told, “Be ready, the baby boomers are coming!” Well, the baby boomers are here - they are our patients. Just as importantly, they are the caregivers of many of our patients. This new generation of patient and caregiver is different from the previous generation. They aren’t afraid of technology. In fact, the baby boomer population seeks out and embraces new technology. They’re tied to their smartphones, on their tablets every day, and on their computers at all times.
Recent market studies have uncovered the top three reasons that drive people to get their hearing tested. They all revolve around stressful moments that the person has experienced. They may have been involved in an embarrassing situation; perhaps their work performance has suffered; or maybe they have a relationship problem or stressor. Again, this might be the patient’s experience themselves, or it might be the caregiver noticing a situation, which prompts them to come into your office.
Eighty-one percent of people are more pro-active with their healthcare as compared to ten years ago. These days, when people have a medical question or concern, rather than call the doctor, the first thing they are likely to do is to research the ailment online. Ultimately, if you do need to visit the doctor, you are armed with information. That’s how our patients are dealing with hearing loss today as well.
Seventy-seven percent of adults in the United States have a smartphone. People today are using technology to improve their lives (e.g., Fitbits, calorie tracker apps, etc.). With this in mind, we want to shift the conversation from just talking about hearing loss, to the concept of hearing gain -- using hearing aids to improve quality of life. As hearing healthcare professionals, we can offer this technology to hearing aid users to provide them something new that they have been missing. They can gain from and benefit from this technology.
Another finding from a recent market study indicates that for a user to be satisfied with their hearing aids, they require their hearing aids to perform well in at least 11 different environments. Our hearing aids need to be flexible, sophisticated and smart to adapt to the different environments and listening situations we find ourselves in each day (our home, the car, the subway, our workplace, outside on a windy day, on the telephone, etc.). The hearing aids that you offer your patients need to be able to adapt to all of these environments instantaneously and seamlessly to provide the satisfaction that they’re looking for in modern technology.
Adopting the philosophy of hearing gain, our new product line uses the slogan, “Made for Life.” Our hearing aids exist to enhance the user’s lifestyle, to assist them as they move throughout their everyday environments. Users will not only benefit in interpersonal situations as they communicate with friends, loved ones and co-workers, but also in other listening situations, such as enjoying music, watching television and talking on the telephone. We need to be focused on how this technology enhances lifestyle.
This video illustrates our emphasis on technology providing benefits and true meaning in a day-to-day activity.
For those of you that received the launch kit from Starkey, this video is on the flash drive that was included in the launch kit. It is designed so that you can play it in your office. There are also versions you could use for commercials in your local market. Notice that there is no talk about technology. There’s no mention of channels, bands, directional microphones, algorithms, or any of the technical components that comprise a great hearing aid. Patients don’t care about all that. They just want to be able to hear and understand their kids, listen to music comfortably, talk on the phone, and enjoy being outside on a beautiful day. They want the best life experience possible. That’s Starkey’s goal. With our new Synergy platform and products, we can provide a greater benefit than ever before.
This product release is Starkey’s most extensively researched, studied and validated product line in the 50-year history of the company. These hearing aids were fitted in the field for months before we decided they were ready to be released to the general hearing healthcare public.
I want to share a few quotes from some of the patients in these studies -- the feedback has been tremendous. These participants tested our hearing aids in a wide range of different listening environments with incredible positive feedback.
- “This is what I’ve been looking for, for years, being able to naturally hear my own singing voice and the harp playing.”
- “No comparison, these are wonderful -- best I’ve ever had.”
- “On a boat ride, the woman next to me with hearing aids kept putting her hands over her ears, the wind bothered her, I didn’t have that problem.”
- “Even riding in the car isn’t a problem with the windows open and the top off of our Corvette.”
The following audio recording is one additional testimonial. This patient was wearing our hearing aids through the clinical studies and had some incredible feedback to give us.
Essentially, he felt the music sound quality was incredible. This particular patient was an engineer, and they can be one of most discerning types of patients. They typically want the software to program their own hearing aids. This patient came away just floored by the sound quality, the performance and the overall experience of the Muse hearing aids.
Introducing the Synergy Platform
We are excited to introduce our new Synergy platform across three new product families. The Muse product family is a full product family, with all styles from CIC, half shell and full shell as well as a micro RIC product and 312 BTE. The SoundLens is an invisible in-the-canal (IIC) device, called SoundLens Synergy. Halo 2, is our second generation made for iPhone, 13 battery RIC product. All of these are driven by the same hardware and software systems.
One of the most common questions I hear is, “What is a platform?” The best analogy would be to think about your computer; you have an Intel chip in your laptop. If you have an iPhone, you have an A9 chip. In your Samsung device, you have another type of chip. The platform is the hardware -- the processor that runs everything. It is the basis for anything that we do with software. At Starkey, we have named this new hardware platform Synergy. The Synergy platform drives everything and it has a brand new quad core processor. It’s a smaller package processor, with more efficient power management. In other words, our hearing aids are able to perform better and do more things, while still maintaining the battery life that we’ve had before. We’re able to process a wider range of sound with less distortion, across 24 independently adjustable channels. The Synergy platform has five times the processing power of our previous platform. Because of its size, we can integrate our different wireless systems directly into it. It is efficient, powerful and low power.
Acuity – New Operating System
On top of our new platform, we have a new operating system. This is essentially the software that interacts with the processor and all the other software running in a hearing aid. Again, the best analogy is your computer or your smartphone. If you’re running a laptop with an Intel processor, you’re probably running Windows 10. Windows 10 is the operating system that allows you to simultaneously check email, watch a video on YouTube, surf the internet and shop online. In your iPhone, you have an A9 processor and the IOS9 operating system. That allows you to be on Twitter, while you’re listening to music, while you’re checking your email simultaneously. That’s what our new operating system, Acuity OS, allows us to do as well. All of our signal processing algorithms are working in parallel with each other, providing the best sound quality to the patient.
Within the Acuity operating system, we have a number of different algorithms and processing schemes that are working together, including:
- Acuity Speech Optimization - the core compression architecture
- Lifescape Analyzer - environmental management and detection algorithms
- Music Enhancement algorithm
- Multiflex Tinnitus Technology
- Limitless Wireless
Acuity Speech Optimization
This includes the core compression algorithms, and contributes to core sound quality. The patient’s first impression and initial reaction to hearing aid sound quality sets the stage for the patient either loving or hating their hearing aids. The initial brightness and clarity of sound when you first put a set of hearing aids on a patient -- that’s what the speech optimization compression architecture provides.
With these new products, we have an approach that provides maximum audibility and overall comfort to deliver what we call “the Starkey sound quality.” We are the first manufacturer to offer a twin compressor approach. We’re extending the bandwidth. We’re expanding our channel and band structure and offering the ability to boost output for those patients that need a little bit more “oomph” from their hearing aids.
Historically, hearing aid companies have focused mainly on improvement in hearing speech sounds. As the hearing healthcare professional, you could adjust the compression characteristics, but the main goal was to maximize clarity for speech. At Starkey, not only do we continue to provide excellent comprehension of speech, but now we also have a second compressor focused solely on music. Recent studies have shown that music is a key component in people’s lives. The vast majority of our patients interact with music every single day, and feel that music is a major part of their life. In most cases, we simply have had to tell our patients that music may not sound the way it did before, because we want to help you hear and understand speech. With this new platform and product family, Starkey is able to improve both speech sounds and music enjoyment, unmatched by any other hearing aid manufacturer in the industry.
Speech Optimization will provide for maximum comfort and clarity of speech. Also, we now have an automatic system to identify and enhance music when it occurs in the environment. In addition, the bandwidth is extended to 10,000 Hz (up from 8,000 Hz). We have the most adjustable channels and bands in the industry. We have 24 channels and bands in our premium technology. Each can be independently adjusted. Furthermore, all of the noise management and comfort algorithms work independently with each one of these channels.
Lastly, we offer MPO Boost. This is for patients who have a history of using linear hearing aids. If they like extended output, can activate MPO Boost and provide up to 5 dB of additional output in each individual channel. This is a unique need. It’s not that every one of your patients will want this, but when you need it, you have it available.
Of course, we still have all of the systems that we previously utilized including Auto Experience Manager and WhistleFree Feedback Cancellation system (our unique approach to frequency lowering). Within the Synergy platform, the Acuity Operating System allows for the algorithms and features to interact more seamlessly than ever before.
Muse Product Family
Let’s take a look at the hearing aids themselves. In the Muse product family, which is a full line, we have custom devices as well as two newly designed standard products. The Micro RIC 312 device has a telecoil, as well as a push button. The Mini 312 BTE also has a telecoil and a physical push button. These all come in three technology levels: the i1600, the i2000 and the i2400. For those of you new to Starkey, the “i” designates it as a wireless device. The 1600 designates 16 channels and bands. The 2000 is 20 channels and bands, and the 2400 is the premier 24 channel and band product.
The Mini BTE is one of our 900 megahertz (MHz) wireless systems. It can be programmed wirelessly, or wired, if need be. It has a telecoil and thin tube option. It is a 60 gain device, and a very flexible BTE. The Micro RIC is also 900 MHz, and it too can be programmed wired if necessary. It has stock receivers, with 50 and 60 gain, as well as custom receivers that can be 50, 60 or 70 gain. The custom products are available in all of the typical custom styles. They are 900 MHz with wired or wireless programming, and there is up to 70 gain in these devices. In custom products, we can definitely provide more gain than any other manufacturer.
Question: Any idea when the 13 battery BTE will released with higher gain?
We do not have a date at this time.
We’re excited to introduce the first wireless IIC (invisible in the canal) from Starkey. Starkey invented the IIC product category and we are now introducing 900 MHz - a wireless device - in the IIC family. It is only available wireless in the i2400 technology level. SoundLens Synergy is the only product family that we are offering non-wireless options. You can get these non-wireless in the 1600, 2000 and 2400 tech levels; if you want it wireless, it’s only available in the i2400.
The SoundLens Synergy is 900 MHz wireless in the i2400 tech level; it does have auto-phone capability and the option for wired programming. If space allows, we can get up to 50 gain in the IIC device.
This is our 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) wireless product family. The newly designed RIC 13 device has a telecoil with loop support and a physical push button, and is available in all three of the technology levels. It too uses the stock 50 and 60 gain receivers, and you have the option to have the custom 50, 60 and 70 gain receivers as well. This can be programmed wired or wirelessly, depending on what hardware you have in your office for programming.
SnapFit Smart Receivers
We’re introducing SnapFit Smart Receivers for both the Muse RIC and the Halo 2 RIC device. With these new receivers, the Inspire software will be able to read and identify the matrix of that receiver. No longer will you have to input if it’s a 50, 60 or 70 gain receiver while you’re doing the fitting -- the software will identify that automatically. You can use the old receivers on the new devices -- it’s the same pin connector. However, in that case, the software will not be able to identify the matrix. At the same time, you could use the new SnapFit Smart Receivers on old devices like Z Series, or 3 Series, but again the software would not be able to read out the matrix for that fitting. The only time the matrix can be identified by the software is with the new Synergy RICs, Muse and Halo 2 with the new SnapFit Smart Receiver. We’re also soon introducing new ear buds for the receivers. They have a slightly different design for maximizing comfort and they also provide even more accurate acoustic modeling in the Inspire software.
Figure 1 is a quick snapshot that compares features across the three technology levels: i1600, i2000 and i2400. For each level, you can see the channel and band structure; the type of flexibility each one has for the different algorithms (music, wind noise, machine noise, et cetera); the directionality options; and the strength that you have for your noise management. We follow the same structure that we’ve done in the past. Essentially, an i2400 has maximum flexibility, you have a moderate level of flexibility in an i2000, and then down to the basic flexibility in an i1600.
Figure 1. Technology Tier Portfolio.
Question: What do you define as flexibility?
The number of programming options you have – for example, how much you can adjust a particular feature. If we look at the i2400 under Lifescape Analyzer for music, we have four different settings. For wind noise management, there are also four different settings that we can choose depending on how aggressively we want to the system to attack wind noise. For the i2000, there are two different settings for both of these features. For the i1600, essentially these features are either on or off.
It’s important when completing your hearing aid evaluation, to truly find out how often the patient is in these different environments. If they lead a very quiet lifestyle, they may not need very aggressive noise or wind management. If someone is regularly in a variety of dynamic listening environments, they will need maximum flexibility, and you can set their settings as aggressively as needed.
Acuity Lifescape Analyzer
Starkey has been very good at identifying listening environments up to this point, and with our new processor, we’re even better. We are taking essentially the same approach that we have always have taken in terms of:
- Adaptive directionality
- Fast acting noise management
- Wind reduction
- Expansion for quiet environments
- Machine noise algorithm for high intensity, low signal-to-noise ratio situations
- Ear-to-ear binaural processing, allowing for the best decisions to be made between the two hearing aids
With the new acuity Lifescape analyzer, running on the new platform with the new operating system, we are able to identify these environments even more accurately. As a result, we allow these systems to run in parallel or independently more seamlessly than before. The key is for this process to occur unnoticed by the patient; to let the hearing aids inconspicuously and efficiently perform as needed to maximize hearing.
We are the only hearing aid manufacturer offering dual compressors for a dedicated music approach. There are two methods we use in our devices to handle music: Automatic Music Classification and Dedicated Music Memory.
Automatic Music Classification. This occurs in the Acuity Lifescape Analyzer with a dedicated music algorithm. If music is occurring spontaneously in the environment, the hearing aids can identify music and enhance it if the patient wants it to be enhanced. For example, the person is at a shopping mall and music is playing in the background. If speech is not the primary signal, the music algorithm will kick in automatically and enhance the sound quality of the music using the music twin compressor. If the environment were to change and speech were to become the primary signal, the music algorithm deactivates and switches back to speech and noise mode. For many patients, that’s all they need.
Dedicated Music Memory. You can create a unique Dedicated Music Memory for when the patient wants to actively listen to music in the environment. In other words, they would use this memory for when they are listening to music through the hearing aid microphones (e.g., live music, playing a musical instrument, listening to a concert, listening to music on their stereo, singing in the choir, etc.), not for when they are wirelessly streaming music. This program would use only the second twin compressor that is designed for music. This dedicated music approach is unique to Starkey.
MultiFlex Tinnitus Technology
This tool allows you to provide tinnitus management with your patients. In the past, this was focused solely on a particular hearing aid style. For instance, in our last product release, a tinnitus stimulus was only available in the Micro RIC style. MultiFlex Tinnitus is now a feature that is available in all of the Synergy platform products (all Muse devices, all Synergy SoundLens devices and the Halo 2). It is available in all technology levels. In addition, we are taking advantage of the expanded bandwidth and also providing indicators if the patient is given the ability to adjust the tinnitus stimulus. Multiflex Tinnitus is a feature in the software; you can active or deactivate it as needed on a patient-to-patient basis.
Limitless Wireless Connectivity
We expect all hearing aids today include wireless technology, and that’s no exception at Starkey. We are the only manufacturer that gives you two wireless options for your patients, depending on what they need. For example, a patient may only need a remote control; another patient may just need to hear the TV better; another might be tied to their iPhone at all times -- you have different wireless options for different patients.
Muse and SoundLens Synergy have the 900 MHz platform with all the SurfLink accessories available across the different hearing aid styles. Halo 2 has the 2.4 GHz platform, commonly thought of as “Made for iPhone.” It is compatible with some Android phones as well, but at this time, there is no phone or media streaming capability with Android devices. For full flexibility, you do need to have an Apple mobile device. Again, this is available in the new 13 RIC style.
900sync is the latest generation of our 900 MHz wireless platform. With this release, we have improved our Stream Boost settings. Stream Boost is the automatic streaming memory that kicks in when the hearing aids detect a wireless stream. We’ve enhanced the frequency response for even better, more robust sound quality. We are also introducing a new SurfLink media streamer, SurfLink Media 2. This provides and has the ability to send a brand new 900 MHz wireless codec to the Muse devices. It essentially is sending more information for an even clearer, crisper stereo sound quality. It will work with older devices as well, but will only stream in the standard streaming quality for older devices.
With the Muse products and the SoundLens Synergy, we are also introducing Ear-to-Ear Phone streaming. If the hearing aids are programmed with either a telecoil memory or an acoustic phone memory, they will automatically stream the signal to the opposite ear when the patient puts the telephone (either a landline or cell phone) to their hearing aid. This allows for binaural phone hearing, and can potentially improve telephone speech understanding by up to 15%. This is separate from streaming a phone call to the hearing aids, from the SurfLink mobile.
With Muse, we also have now CROS/BiCROS configurations. This is available in either the Mini BTE or the Micro RIC style, in all three technology levels, and they come standard with a physical push button and a telecoil. You can fit it in a CROS or BiCROS configuration and you can mix and match the settings within the software. It is easy to set up and easy to use.
Lastly, we’re excited to introduce our new 900 MHz SurfLink remote microphone. It is easy to sync to a set of Muse hearing aids. It will stream to the hearing aids either in an omni or a directional mode, and it includes an accelerometer. Based on the physical position of the microphone, it will automatically go into either the appropriate omni or directional mode, and you can stream continuously up to six and a half hours with it.
That was a very quick overview of the 900sync products. We have upcoming courses specifically on CROS/BiCROS, as well as on 900sync and all the accessories, how to enable features in the software, and more. For more details on those products, take a look at our upcoming courses.
Question: Is the remote microphone reverse compatible to 3 and Z series?
The remote microphone is compatible with the Muse, the SoundLens Synergy wireless and the Z series, but is not compatible back to the 3 series products.
Halo 2 - Wireless Connectivity
I’ve already given you the basic information on Halo 2. This is a 13 battery RIC with a physical push button and a telecoil. We’re sticking to a 13 battery on Halo for the time being as the 2.4 GHz platform requires a lot of battery power. People with these devices stream a lot and they want maximum battery life.
Question: Are there any plans for custom Halos?
I do not have a timeline on those. I do know that our next potential product would probably be a 312 RIC, but we are very concerned about that reduced battery life when you go down to anything below a 13 battery.
Question: What about TV link compatibility?
At this time no. At this time, Starkey is pushing for a universal 2.4 GHz platform. Currently, the only streaming platform utilizing Bluetooth low energy is Apple. You can do some streaming with the other 2.4 GHz devices that are on the market, but they’re not using Bluetooth low energy. They are using a significantly older and lower quality version of 2.4 GHz. We don’t want to go there. We are pushing the Bluetooth consortium to develop a universal Bluetooth low energy streaming protocol with the hearing aid manufacturers. We think that’s the future of 2.4 GHz technology, and that’s where Starkey is headed. I don’t have a timeline on it but until that happens, I don’t see us coming up with different accessories that have to utilize a lower quality stream.
TruLink has also been updated to generation 3.0. It has a cleaner look and a new memory interface. It also includes the ability to have the patient control and manipulate their tinnitus stimulus, if that has been enabled in the hearing aids. We will be presenting an upcoming course on Halo 2 and TruLink 3 that will provide all the details, as well as demonstrations of the TruLink app.
Lastly, we have refreshed our Inspire software. Inspire has been evolving over the course of the last seven or eight years. We are now at Inspire X (Inspire “10” using the Roman numeral for 10). The current version is 2016.0 and most of you are probably already running this and using it. It should have been in your office or on your Inspire updater on March 1st. This is a refresh of the software -- it’s not a total makeover.
At Starkey, we conduct usability studies with hearing professionals who have regularly used our software, as well as those who have never used our software. We find out what hearing professionals like and don’t like about the software. Based on their opinions and ideas, we have improved and evolved the software to the next level. It has a cleaner look. We’ve eliminated icons that were confusing. We’ve focused all of the software navigation tools, adjustment screens and fitting screens on the left navigation bar so that they are easily identified. You’ll also notice that we’re no longer using marketing terms in the software. For example, instead of “Pure Way Feedback Eliminator,” you’ll see “Feedback Canceller.” Instead of “Spectral IQ,” it reads “Frequency Lowering.” We’re using generic terms that very easily define the purpose of each particular feature. For those of you who have been using the software, you probably found it looks a little different but it’s easier to navigate than ever before. It’s familiar. For those of you who haven’t used Starkey, I think you’re going find the software incredibly intuitive and easy to use with little or no training. If you want a full run down of the software, we’re offering an upcoming 60-minute course with a software walk-through for Inspire X.
I hope that your take-away from today’s session is that Starkey is now offering the widest range of products, the widest flexibility of wireless connectivity, and the easiest to use hearing aids for your patients. We truly think that these products are made for today’s patients’ lifestyles, whether that involves seamless noise management or a dedicated, unique music algorithm. You should be able to offer a hearing aid and wireless option for any patient that walks in your door.
On Twitter, you can follow Starkey (@Starkeyhearing) or the Starkey Hearing Foundation (@Starkeycares). My Twitter handle is @CamachoAudio, and you can contact me via email, Luis_Camacho@starkey.com.
Question: Is TruLink 3.0 only compatible with Halo 2?
The answer to that is no. Your patients can feel comfortable updating TruLink to the 3.0 version. If they do that and they’re using the previous generation of Halo, they just won’t see the features that are specific to Halo 2. There’s no tinnitus on there for instance, but yes, they can use the newest version of TruLink with their previous Halo devices.
Question: Is there a hearing loss simulator in the new Inspire?
Yes. We still have the hearing loss simulator. It is essentially just like the previous version of Inspire. It is now listed on the left navigation bar under pre-fitting tools. If you go to pre-fitting, you’ll see the hearing loss simulator, and also the ability to simulate hearing aids. Order and service is there as well under pre-fitting.
Camacho, L.F. (2016, April). Synergy - Made for life. AudiologyOnline, Article 16965. Retrieved from www.audiologyonline.com