Interview with John Cariola, Au.D., Director of Product Management, Beltone
Topic: Beltone's myPAL and Wireless Accessories
John Cariola, Au.D.
CAROLYN SMAKA: Welcome back to AudiologyOnline, John. It's nice to talk with you again. Why don't we just jump right into our topic - can you give an overview of myPAL?
JOHN CARIOLA: Sure. Beltone myPAL™ is a wireless accessory for Beltone's True™ product line that was released in November 2011. It wirelessly streams sound directly to the Beltone True hearing aids via a 2.4 GHz signal, without the need for a relay device. It can be placed on a person's lapel, near a TV, or connected directly to an MP3 player, offering the hearing aid wearer excellent clarity and improved signal-to-noise ratio.
In addition to myPAL, the other wireless accessories available for the True product line include the TV link, the Phone link and a remote control.
SMAKA: What have you found with the different wireless application, which seems to be the most popular?
CARIOLA: Before we released the myPAL, the most popular accessory was the remote control. Second to that was our T.V. Link. Right now the myPAL is coming in second behind the remote control, most likely because the remote has a lot of flexibility and can be used in many instances where the other accessories can be only be used on a situational basis.
SMAKA: Can you go into a little more detail about the flexibility of myPAL and what particular situations it would be beneficial?
CARIOLA: Sure. myPAL has a wireless microphone so it can be given to a significant other in the car or at a restaurant, for example. That significant other wears it on their shirt or blouse, and their voice is picked up by the microphone and goes straight to the hearing aid, which helps by improving the signal-to-noise ratio. It also helps give them a better performance with their hearing instruments by helping to compensate for distance and noise.
Beltone myPAL personal audio link
It also has a 1/8-inch jack for plugging in mp3 players or any kind of sound device. You can connect your mp3 player, attach the myPAL, and go jogging or walking while listening to music directly through your hearing instruments. That has been a very popular application.
The myPAL can also serve as a kind of portable version of the TV Link. The TV Link is powered through an AC adapter, so it needs to be attached to the wall. Then you attach the output jacks from the T.V. to the TV Link, and that's how the sound is sent to the hearing instrument. With the myPAL, you can actually go to a friend's house or anywhere where there's a T.V. and you could put the myPAL in front of the speaker of the T.V. and it would send the sound straight to the hearing instrument.
SMAKA: What's the maximum distance for that kind of application?
CARIOLA: The distance is about 15 to 20 feet from the myPAL to the hearing instruments, depending on the situation. The performance of this product is exceeding our expectations. It's about in the range of our TV Link, but a little bit less. With the T.V. or in a situation where you have the person speaking wearing it, you would want to be within 15 to 20 feet.
SMAKA: Certainly for T.V. you really wouldn't need more than that in most cases. And for talks such as at a community center or senior center, you would just want to sit in the front or near the presenter.
CARIOLA: Exactly. If the presenter is using a podium, they would just leave the myPAL on the podium. If they're wearing the myPAL, it is generally a good idea to have line-of-sight. Even though it's a 2.4 gigahertz signal it's not being powered via AC, it is being powered by a rechargeable battery.
SMAKA: I would think with wireless accessories like these you would encourage professionals to demonstrate them in the office. It's kind of hard to explain in words the benefits to the patients. Are you seeing that the professionals are demonstrating these applications?
CARIOLA: Definitely. Many professionals are setting up specific rooms or a space in their lobby where people sit and try it out. They are attaching the TV Link to the T.V. that plays their videos about hearing loss in the waiting room. They attach the phone link to an office phone and call patients. Yes, the demonstration really helps put things in perspective of how well it's going to work. That has been a major aspect of convincing the people of how well hearing aids can help them.
SMAKA: I know one of the barriers I hear from professionals is cost. Consumers feel like investing in hearing aids should be enough, without having to spend more for accessories. So are some professionals packaging the hearing instruments plus any appropriate accessory as, "Here is my recommendation for your needs."
CARIOLA: It depends on the professional, but I would say most people are packaging the accessories, especially as they reach the top-of-the-line products. The remote control is probably the most common bundled device. Professionals with generally make that decision based on the patient's needs as well as consider the technology level of the hearing instruments.
SMAKA: With regard to the remote, what functionality does it provide?
CARIOLA: It will enable the wearer to change the programs and the volume on the hearing instruments, either binaurally or each ear separately. It will also turn on the wireless streaming. You press a button on the remote and it will go into the streaming mode to pick up from the TV Link or the myPAL. The remote also has the capability to go back to the initial settings if the patient doesn't remember what volume changes were made or what program they're in. It gets them back to the default setting.
SMAKA: It will mute the instruments, as well, I would guess?
SMAKA: What's the style of the remote, John?
CARIOLA: It's rectangular shaped, and probably around three inches by an inch-and-a-half or so. It's fairly small. It has physical push buttons for ease of use as well as a digital display that will show the current program and indicate bars for volume setting. In the software, the professional can manually change the program names and then these names will display on the remote.
SMAKA: It sounds pretty straight forward and it's exciting to see that Beltone has this available now.
CARIOLA: Yes, it is pretty straight forward. It's a nice little product, and it's very well received, and I think the flexibility it provides has been one of the reasons for its success. You're right about trying to convince people that they need additional accessories, especially after they just spent a lot of money on hearing instruments. People who are purchasing their second (or third, or fourth) set of instruments may be more receptive since they are aware that in some situations, even the best hearing instruments may not be enough.
SMAKA: That's a really good point. People who have experience with hearing aids know that they won't fix everything in all listening situations, so I would think they would be more open to the benefits that accessories could provide.
CARIOLA: Right, and on average, fifty percent of patients in a practice are repeat patients. I think the phone link makes sense to these patients, but not all seniors may have a cell phone.
However, many of the home phone landlines now have Bluetooth capability. With the Phone Link, you can set it up at home so that when the phone rings, the user will hear it in their hearing aids and they can answer it from wherever they are. If the home phone does not have Bluetooth, there are adaptors available.
SMAKA: That's great. I thought my parents were the last of the seniors to get cell phones. I would think today that most seniors do have cell phones.
CARIOLA: The oldest demographic may not be using cell phones as much. It's like how many of the older population are using the Internet? The number seems to be going up, but it is far less than what you see in younger demographics of course. As the population ages, the gaps will close as the current generation gets older, as they are already using cell phones, computers, etc. and will continue to as they age.
SMAKA: Absolutely. Well between the Phone Link, the remote control and myPAL, it seems like Beltone has really tried to address some of that wireless technology in a useable way for your customers. We wish you the best and hope to talk to you soon, John.
CARIOLA: We're excited about everything we are currently offering. Thanks for the time, Carolyn. It's always a pleasure.
For more information about Beltone, visit www.beltone.com or visit the Beltone web channel on AudiologyOnline.