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Introducing Oticon Sensei!

Ben Zalm Fernée, AuD

September 30, 2013
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Interview with Ben Zalm Fernée, AuD, Product Manager - Pediatrics, Oticon A/S


Carolyn Smaka:   Hi Ben, thanks for joining.  Tell me about the new pediatric product, Sensei.

Ben Fernée:  We are launching a new product that is going to significantly change the way we think about fitting hearing aids to children. The Sensei uses Oticon’s new Inium platform and has features never before seen in a pediatric product that not only ensure excellent sound quality, but also make it easier for clinicians to adhere to best practice guidelines.

Carolyn: That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more about some of these features?

Ben: We are introducing a new feature called EasyRECD. This makes it easier than ever to incorporate the individual child’s ear canal acoustics into the fitting. During development, we were not attempting to replace RECD measurements but instead to offer an alternative that is just as accurate, more cost effective, and more time efficient. We worked with Professor Shane Moodie, an expert in this area, to help guide us in both the development and testing phases. We have some new hardware that we know pediatric audiologists are going to love. This includes a probe tube that uses a magnetic attachment.

Carolyn: A magnetic probe tube. What does it connect to?

Ben: The magnet in the probe tube connects to a magnet in the programming module. The magnet facilitates correct probe tube positioning, eliminating a potential source of variability across measurements.

Sensei BTE with magnetic probe tube attached to the programming module.

Carolyn: How do measurements performed with EasyRECD compare with using external measurement equipment?

Ben:  I am glad you asked that. The measurements are extremely close. In the usability tests, the measurements were consistently within 1-2 dB of each other. In addition to being highly accurate, clinicians in the usability tests praised how easy the system is to use. That’s one of the reasons we named the system EasyRECD. Clinicians liked how fast the system is to use. Most audiologists could complete the EasyRECD measurement within two or three minutes, and this includes the time taken to calibrate the system.

Carolyn:  What are some of the other features in Sensei?

Ben: We use the Speech Guard E compression system in Sensei. We have been conducting several clinical trials on this feature to see how it performs with children. The results so far have been extremely positive. Two manuscripts have been submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals, so we hope to share these results with you very shortly.

Carolyn:  Great. We know that FM is a big consideration in pediatric fittings. Is Sensei compatible with FM systems?

Ben: Yes, dedicated and universal FM receivers can be used with Sensei. We believe that all hearing impaired students should have access to FM, no matter what FM system is already in place in the classroom. To help promote compatibility and make it easier for educational audiologists, we have introduced a new feature called the FM Compatibility Filter. When the filter is activated, FM receivers and transmitters from other manufacturers can be mixed and matched without any compatibility issues.

Carolyn:  Tell me about this new feature, VoicePriority i.

Ben: VoicePriority i adjusts FM gain based on both the noise level and the SNR surrounding the student. In development, it made much more sense to place the noise detectors in the actual hearing instrument, rather than in the FM transmitter as is done in other FM systems. VoicePriority i ensures that FM gain adjustments in the classroom occur only when necessary and also are only applied to the student wearing the FM system.

Carolyn:  Just to clarify, why is putting the noise detectors in the hearing aid advantageous compared to the FM transmitter?

Ben: In other dynamic systems, noise detectors are placed in the FM transmitter. The FM transmitter is worn by the teacher who is often up to 30 feet away from the student wearing the FM receiver. Therefore, noise around the teacher will result in every student getting their FM gain increased, even if they do not need it. VoicePriority i adjusts FM gain based on noise levels around the student which makes a lot more sense.

Oticon Genie software showing FM controls for VoicePriority I™ and FM Compatibility Filter.

Carolyn:  We are hearing a lot about water proofing and water resistance with new hearing aids. Was this tested in the Sensei?

Ben: Yes. The device has an IP57 classification, meaning it is both water and dust resistant. Our previous dedicated pediatric hearing instrument, Safari also had this classification, and it proved to be extremely reliable. You can find a short video about IP57 classification and how robust the Sensei is, on our website http://www.pro.oticonusa.com/pediatrics.aspx. In addition, Sensei hearing solutions are hypo-allergenic and phthalates free and feature a tamper-resistant battery door.

Carolyn: Does the Sensei come in different models for different hearing losses?

Ben: Yes, Sensei comes in two price levels with two BTE models in a range of colors with various couplings to the ear. There is a 13 battery BTE that is suitable for losses up to 90 dB HL and the 312 battery BTE suitable for losses up to 75 dB HL. The fitting ranges are calculated using the pediatric DSL v5.0a rationale. Both BTEs can be used with a conventional earmold, or our new Corda miniFit thin tubes.

From left to right: Sensei BTE Power with 13 battery, Sensei BTE with 312 battery and Corda miniFit thin tube, Sensei RITE BTE with 60 receiver unit, Sensei RITE BTE with Power Mould and 100 receiver unit.

Carolyn: What is Corda miniFit?

Ben: We have a new Corda miniFit or thin tube system. This is available with thin tubes and slightly thicker tubes for power BTEs. The power tubes give those children concerned about the look of their BTE a discreet, almost invisible coupling to the ear. We also have new smaller tube lengths, especially for children with small ears.

Carolyn: That sounds great. Does Sensei offer a receiver-in-canal model?

Ben: Yes, there is a Sensei receiver-in-the-ear version that can be fit with three different receiver units. All models in the Sensei family are also FM compatible.

Carolyn:  Are there any features to make using Sensei easier for parents or caregivers?

Ben: Sensei has an intelligent LED light. The light has a new feature called SmartFit Trainer that monitors earmold placement. When parents insert the earmold, the light will rapidly blink if the earmold is not inserted correctly. The light will blink for 10 seconds, so it is very obvious. It gives parents the option to reposition the earmold for a better insertion. The light can also be used to monitor the fit of the earmold. As children’s ears are not fully grown until the age of about 10, an earmold that triggers the light to go off with every insertion could indicate that it is time to return to the audiologist for a replacement.

Carolyn:  Can the light be turned off for older children?

Ben:  Yes, all of the functions of the Sensei LED are configurable in the Genie software. Indications include not only checking the earmold insertion, but also checking the battery status, program and preferred volume level. Our Amigo FM receivers also have an LED to indicate that an FM signal is received.

Carolyn:  It sounds like you have made a product that makes it easy for both parents to use, and also for audiologists to fit and adhere to best practice guidelines.

Ben:  Yes, those two points were major considerations during the Sensei’s development. We wanted to make a truly dedicated pediatric hearing aid.  At Oticon, our aim is to make it easier for audiologists to give the each child the best possible auditory and cognitive development.  It is our intent to support hearing care professionals, children and their families with flexible, high-performing solutions that adapt to the unique developmental and lifestyle needs of the each child.  This is our audiological Intent – to provide a better future for every child with hearing loss.

Carolyn:  Well Ben, thanks for talking with me today.

Ben:  My pleasure.

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ben zalm fern e

Ben Zalm Fernée, AuD

Ben Zalm Fernée currently serves as National Audiology Manager at Oticon Australia. Up until July 2013, he was the Product Manager in Oticon Pediatrics, Denmark. Ben is an Audiologist from Australia.  He completed a Bachelor of Speech Pathology, then a Master of Audiology at the University of Queensland. He went on to complete his Au.D in the US.  He has worked as an Audiologist for many years in both the clinical setting and also in manufacturing, in Brisbane Australia, and Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.  In his work as Product Manager at Oticon Denmark, Ben was involved in the development of all new pediatric hearing instruments from Oticon, including hearing instruments and FM systems.