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Earmolds from Unitron

Bill Christman, MA, CCC-A

March 16, 2009
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Interview with Unitron's Bill Christman



CAROLYN SMAKA: Today I'm speaking with Bill Christman from Unitron. Welcome, Bill.

BILL CHRISTMAN: Thank you.

SMAKA: Today we're talking about a new offering from Unitron - earmolds! Tell me how this came about.

CHRISTMAN: Well, we're always looking for ways to further benefit or add value for our customers. By producing earmolds, we're allowing one-stop convenience for customers ordering Behind-the-Ear (BTE) instruments. Now, professionals can order BTE instruments from us and have an earmolds shipped out in the same package. The digital shell processing we utilize in our custom instrument manufacturing allows us to build earmolds, so why not? So we began offering earmolds on November 1st, 2008.

SMAKA: What is the process for ordering earmolds - do you have a new order form?

CHRISTMAN: Yes, we have a BTE and earmold order form that can be sent in along with the ear impressions. We can mail or fax the order forms to professionals, and they're also available for download on our Web site, along with all of our other forms, www.unitronhearing.us/ccus/professionals/resources_us/downloads_us.htm

Once the earmolds are built, we will ship them right along with the BTEs back to the customer. When earmolds are ordered with a BTE order, the earmolds are shipped with no additional shipping charges.

SMAKA: What is the turnaround time?

CHRISTMAN: About 2 -3 days.

SMAKA: That's great! What type of earmold product offering - styles, materials, colors - is available?

CHRISTMAN: We're starting with a basic offering but you'll see it's pretty comprehensive and covers many of the typical fittings that professionals see in their offices. We offer nine different styles: skeleton, full shell, half shell, semi skeleton, canal, canal with lock, CROS, a hollow sleeve mold and a solid sleeve mold. We're building them in three different materials: an acrylic, a silicone, and a soft silicone. There are two different earmold finishes - gloss and satin - and three colors to choose from: clear, translucent pink, and translucent brown.



Click Here to View Larger Version of Table (PDF)

SMAKA: That's a lot of offerings! I was under the impression that the digital shell process couldn't make silicone earmolds.

CHRISTMAN: The digital shell process is for the acrylic styles at this point. We know that most earmolds sold today are acrylic, but there is a time when professionals want or need silicone earmolds - for pediatric fittings or super power fittings, for example - so we do have the option available. Within the next six months to a year, we'll make the silicone earmolds via our digital shell manufacturing process, but right now we're making them in our shell lab.

SMAKA: If I get my earmolds from Unitron but I have to do a tubing change or something like that, can I just use the supplies I have in my office?

CHRISTMAN: You certainly could. We also offer earmold supplies as part of the one-stop convenience for customers. We offer impression material, oto blocks, all the different types of tubing that we use in our earmolds, and various modification tools and supplies.

SMAKA: You mentioned you started offering earmolds on November 1st?

CHRISTMAN: Yes, we have actually had been manufacturing them for several months prior to that on a limited basis, but we waited until we had the capacity to handle all our customers' orders before making it available for everyone.



SMAKA: Excellent. What has the response been so far?

CHRISTMAN: The response has been very, very positive. While we anticipated that offering earmolds would be a benefit for our customers, even we were somewhat surprised at how many positive comments have come back about our earmolds. We are hearing many positive comments about how well the earmolds fit and they look good in their clients' ears. Also, people seem really excited about getting earmolds back in their offices so quickly, and they really love the idea of avoiding an extra shipping charge by having the earmold come directly with the BTE.

SMAKA: Now what if somebody had an older BTE, say a US 80PPL and the patient just needs a new earmold but isn't ready for a new instrument just yet. Can a customer order just an earmold from Unitron without a new BTE order?

CHRISTMAN: Absolutely! They can order earmolds only. We've actually had many orders for just earmolds - which has also been somewhat surprising for us. The reasons have been varied - they're putting them on older products, BTEs they have on their shelves, etc. The order form definitely allows customers to order earmolds only.

SMAKA: I would think if I'm already shipping some stuff to Unitron say I have some custom orders lined up and they're in the FedEx bag and then I have a patient come in for an earmold, why wouldn't I just send the earmold order in the same bag to Unitron?

CHRISTMAN: Exactly. I'd also like to mention a new earmold modification class that we'll be offering at some state meetings or regional seminars. Michael Phillips has been doing a very popular custom hearing aid modification course for years, and now he's beginning to offer an earmold modification class. It's a hands-on course where you modify canal tips, drill out vents, and get to learn and practice making all the possible in-office earmold modifications you can imagine.

SMAKA: I remember learning to drill out vents in a hands-on hearing aid modification course and making a few mistakes - whoops, internal feedback! But at least it wasn't a patient's aid! (laughs)

CHRISTMAN: (laughs). It will be the same type of course but for earmolds. One aspect of the classes that attendees have found very useful has been learning how to make modifications to silicone earmolds. I think many clinicians are somewhat unsure of the best way to modify the silicone earmolds and this class gives some great opportunity for hands-on experience.

SMAKA: That's great! It sounds like you have 95% or more of earmold fittings covered with your current offerings, and with 2 - 3 day turnaround time I can understand why it's taking off.

CHRISTMAN: Yes, it's a pretty comprehensive earmold line and we'll look at expanding it in time. We're really pleased to offer this service and convenience to our customers.

SMAKA: Thanks for taking the time for this interview today. It's always nice to speak with our friends at Unitron.

CHRISTMAN: Same here! It was my pleasure.

More information about earmolds and other products and services at Unitron, please visit www.unitronhearing.us or the Unitron Web Channel at AudiologyOnline, www.audiologyonline.com/channels/unitron_hearing.asp.

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bill christman

Bill Christman, MA, CCC-A

Audiology & Product Manager Unitron Hearing, US

Bill Christman, M.A., CCC-A has been with Unitron Hearing for 6 years. He returned to the US Headquarters in November 2003 after working as a member of the product definition and development team at the Unitron Hearing's headquarters in Kitchener, Ontario. During his two years in Kitchener, his primary responsibility was giving audiological input to the software development team. In addition, he provided product training and support for Unitron Hearing's North American and International group companies. In his current role as Audiology and Product Logistics Manager for Unitron Hearing, U.S., he continues to work closely with the product development team and oversees customer product training and education. Nothing to disclose



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