Interview with Kevin Mensink, Vice President of Marketing, GN ReSound
CAROLYN SMAKA: Hi Kevin, it's great to have you back to discuss the new Mini Microphone from ReSound. Can you provide an overview?
KEVIN MENSINK: Sure. The Mini Microphone is a great new addition to our 2.4 GHz Unite accessories line. The unique thing about the Mini Microphone is that we are connecting listeners to people. A lot of other connectivity devices have been about connecting people to things, like computers and MP3 players. In those cases, they may make the hearing aid work a little bit better, and help the person with hearing loss function closer to like someone without hearing loss would function. I think the Mini Microphone, however, frequently gives the wearer a definite advantage, even over those who may have good hearing.
SMAKA: An advantage? In what way?
MENSINK: Listening in a noisy restaurant is difficult, even if you have good hearing. Imagine having a device that allows someone's voice to be streamed directly into your ears, or in this case, through your hearing aids. This is a huge advantage. It marks a departure from what traditional connectivity has been able to do up to this point. The Mini Microphone takes people beyond hearing thresholds and allows them do things that maybe even normal hearing people can't do that well.
SMAKA: Would you refer to this as a companion microphone? We've heard that term used.
MENSINK: Yes. It's a microphone that a companion can wear on their lapel, or you can put it on a table at a meeting or a restaurant and it will pick up the voices around you and transmit those directly into the hearing aids. It enhances a person's ability to understand others around them and make them more comfortable in challenging listening situations.
SMAKA: Building wireless functionality on the 2.4 GHz technology platform is unique to ReSound. Does that provide any benefits in terms of the Mini Microphone?
MENSINK: Yes. I think the biggest advantage with our technology is that you don't need to have an intermediary device for connectivity. In this case, the Mini Mic is placed with the primary speaker and transmits directly to the hearing aids. With other technology, the person with hearing loss needs to use an intermediary device. Because we use 2.4 GHz, we have none of those intermediary devices, and the sound goes directly from the Mini Microphone into the hearing aids.
SMAKA: Which ReSound hearing aids is the Mini Microphone compatible with?
MENSINK: Alera is a full family of hearing aids including two receiver-in-the-canal options, most of them have wireless connectivity. It's those that the Mini Microphone will work with.
SMAKA: Can the Mini Microphone be offered to patients who were previously fit with an Alera?
MENSINK: Yes. That is one of the nice things about our open-software platform. We have been able to upgrade instruments, providing additional functionality and enhancements for patients who purchased Alera when it first came out. This means that those patients don't have to get new hearing aids in order to use the Mini Microphone. A simple software upgrade on our open platform updates their Alera hearing aids means they can start using the Mini Microphone today.
SMAKA: How do you recommend demonstrating the Mini Microphone in the office?
MENSINK: Many practices have a Unite Mini Microphone in the office. It's simple to pair it and demonstrate it right at the initial hearing aid fitting. They might have the patient's companion wear the Mini Microphone and then take a walk while speaking into it. Or they may turn on some background noise and show how much easier it is to hear their companion when using the Mini Microphone. It's simple for patients to immediately experience the benefit.
SMAKA: Demonstrating the Mini Microphone sounds more effective than just talking about its benefits.
MENSINK: Everyone pretty easily understands that if I put a microphone on the person talking and it goes directly into my hearing aid, that's going to be a better listening experience. But, you're absolutely right. The benefit is so tangible and immediately apparent to patients when they try it.
SMAKA: I see there are some support videos on your Web Site on how to set up and pair the Mini Microphone.
MENSINK: We do have a series of videos to help make it easy for professionals to fit and for patients to use. In the development of the Mini Microphone, we designed it to be very easy to pair not only for the professional pairing them in the software, but also for the patient at home in the event they lose the connection with their hearing aids. It's as simple as slipping the back cover off, pushing a button, and pushing a button on the hearing aid. We produced the videos so that they patients would have a resource as well.
We've also given customers an 800 number to provide to patients so they can call us and we will help them walk through that process at home, rather than occupying the clinician's phone and chair time.
SMAKA: Ah. That support is really great to see. Do you find today that consumers are more open to using accessories today? Even seniors today are using cell phones and Bluetooth headsets.
MENSINK: Definitely. I think patients are more comfortable than they used to be with wireless accessories. The Mini Microphone is one of the most practically beneficial accessories for hearing aids because it's applicable in so many situations in daily life. It's also the least technologically challenging for patients to understand and embrace. Everyone understands what a microphone does and everyone can understand the benefit of having a microphone sending sound directly into your ear. We found that people are routinely finding inventive ways to use this microphone at home, traveling, in the car, et cetera. They easily adapt it to their needs.
SMAKA: Could the Mini Microphone stream to more than one set of hearing aids? For example, you have a couple who both wear hearing aids in the same house. Can one microphone be used for both pairs of hearing aids?
MENSINK: Absolutely. All our accessories can be paired to multiple devices..
SMAKA: This does seem like a very intuitive device. Was there a reason it was released later than some of the other accessories? I'm wondering if there was something challenging in the development.
MENSINK: Actually, yes. Because it's not a stationary device, like the TV streamer or the phone clip, there are all sorts of environmental factors we had to consider. There was a lot we had to account for in its design and function to be able to make sure it's actually working in all the situations people want it to be working in.
SMAKA: Just from a technical aspect, how big is the Mini Microphone, and what is the transmission range?
MENSINK: The Mini Microphone will stream up to 7 meters, which is almost 23 feet. The unit itself is a little under 3 inches by 2 inches, so it is very discreet even if someone wears it on a shirt or a coat lapel. It also has a line-in connector so people can have that direct connection with their MP3 player or other audio device.
SMAKA: Great. Kevin, thanks for your time today and going over all these points with me.
MENSINK: You're welcome, anytime.
For more information about ReSound, visit http://www.gnresound.com/ or the ReSound web channel on AudiologyOnline.