Participate in a Co-Creation Workshop to Design Future Hearing Aids

Have you ever wondered how hearing aids were designed? One step in the process is getting designers and hearing aid users together in a co-creation workshop. You can be a part of this.

At Phonak, the person who manages design of new products is Martyn. He works with the top design and innovation experts from around the world to create the hearing aids of the future: look and feel, colours, interaction — pretty much all that makes our hearing aids quasi an extension of ourselves, in addition to processing sound in a way that improves our daily lives.

I spent some time on the phone yesterday with Nataliya, an independent innovation consultant who is going to be running some of these co-creation workshops in New York as part of the design process for the next generation of hearing aids.

martyn-design-workshopParticipants will be shown design ideas and given the opportunity to comment on them and even adjust them or create their own ideas — with the help of designers who will be there to draw things directly. There will also be talk of future trends like the so-called “wearable technology” and the “internet of things“. And drinks. And food. I wish New York were a bit closer to Lausanne so I could take part!

The philosophy behind this kind of approach is to be able to address real needs of real people, and come up with creative solutions to the problems we face as hearing aid users. We’ve all run into these situations where the reality of available solutions fall short of our expectations for our hearing aids and what they should be able to do for us. This is the opportunity to bring about change for the future.

Nataliya is looking for participants for her workshops: hearing-aid users, of course, whatever the brand, but also people who have hearing loss and might be thinking of getting a hearing aid at some point. Or who are managing OK without.

The main groups will be children (with their parents), teenagers, professionally active adults (40-65), and retired people (65+) along with a significant other, member of their family, or caregiver.

Would you like to share your ideas and take part in shaping the future of hearing aid design? If you are interested, give us your details and Nataliya will be in touch. You’ll of course be compensated for your time if you participate in a workshop.

14 thoughts on “Participate in a Co-Creation Workshop to Design Future Hearing Aids”

  1. I have bilateral hearing aids for tinnitus and hearing loss for almost a year. I have them following Meningitis.

  2. I’ve worn hearing aides since I was 8 years old. I am now closely approaching 58 and definitely have ideas about possible design improvements and aesthetics. Would love to participate in workshops. My hearing aide provider is A+ Hearing in LR, AR.

  3. I’m not sure which/what form you are referring to, so I would guess not. If you will direct me to the form location, I will certainly fill it out.

  4. Consumers cannot comment on what they need if they are not being educated by their audiologists and hearing care providers on the features that are currently in their hearing aids and that come (nearly) free. Dr. Mark Ross demonstrated (as did I by polling over 300 consumers), that less than 50% of them are ever told about the telecoil benefits. Manufacturers would do well to include clear and easy to read handouts in their consumer materials about the telecoils. That telecoils are hugely beneficial to consumers was confirmed in a large study – see

  5. Juliette, I agree it sucks that many people are not aware of what current hearing aids can do, or what their functionality is. Or what exists.

    But for a future design workshop, the idea is to go beyond what exists and what we’re told we need and want. And it’s not just about telecoils (telecoils, by the way, are a technical functionality that doesn’t really fall under “design” that we’re talking about here.)

    When I was first fitted with hearing aids, roughly two weeks in, after “OMG I can hear stuff so comfortably” I immediately turned to the internet assuming there was going to be a simple way for my hearing aids to connect directly to my phone. Or for me to fiddle with the settings directly. I didn’t need an audiologist or hearing care professional to tell me that was what I wanted. That was my expectation as somebody who is comfortable with today’s technology. And I was appalled to realise how far from reality my expectations were.

    I really don’t see why people should be seen as incapable of having their own ideas about their hearing aid needs.

  6. Stephanie – you make some great points. And I agree that hearing aids should be re-programmable (“tweakable” = is that a word?) by the end user to some extent. I am sure that many of my clients would have liked this – especially my engineer clients! And using a smart phone makes a lot of sense. I sure hope Phonak is listening.

    Having personally fit thousands of hearing instruments what frustrated me was that some make instruments beeped when you changed programs, where one beep is program one, 2 beeps program 2 and 3 beeps program 3 etc. This required the person to remember what the settings were for. Another make offered number prompts like “one”, “two” and “three”. But on the Phonak instruments a musical tone sequence meant you were in program 1, 1 beep meant you were in program 2 -and 2 beeps meant you are in program 3 – try explaining that to a person with memory issues. Why not offer clear (or even programmable/customizable) voice prompts? That way the user can specify Home, Church (where the instrument is on M+T or T-only), Restaurant etc. Plus why not offer a sensor in the telecoil that warns the user when they are in a looped environment because the t-coil is picking up speech signals (not just EMI). Again – some of my older clients find out after a funeral (where they heard nothing) that a funeral home or church offered a loop – well, by then they missed the eulogies and comments made at the gathering (these thing have all happened to my clients – and yes they forget to turn their telecoil on, after all many of my clients are well in their 80’s and 90’s..and do not remember well). A sensor warning might have helped.The same sensor could warn them that the T-coil is no longer picking up magnetic speech signals and a second voice prompt could remind the user to switch the instrument back to program 1.

    While I am on my soapbox – what is absolutely needed is that the telecoil gain setting is 100% transparent in the fitting software. That way the audiologist can be certain that after they have verified the insertion gain of the instruments using using Real-Ear as being appropriate for the user’s hearing loss, and they switch the telecoil on, that the telecoil setting offers the exact same gain settings to the equivalent magnetic input level. (Where 100mA/m equals 70dB SPL or 31.6 mA/m =60dB SPL).

  7. I have been longing for waterproof hearing aids for kids since I got them. ( When I was 2 years old) I am 13 now.

  8. @Juliette: Widex has awesome voice prompts (starting with the Clear in 2011 — I like the UK English woman); and Starkey has it as well, including custom prompts which are synthesized on the fly (“Please return to Jane Doe Audiology for your six month service checkup”). However, Widex’ 8-syllable “Audibility Extender” is a PITA!

    Also, Phonak has limited voice prompts when used with the ComPilot.

  9. Dan/Juliette, about the voice prompts: I absolutely hate them, because they prevent me from hearing what the other person is saying! If I need to switch programmes, or turn off the compilot, and I lose a second or two because it’s covered by some “programme 1” or “compilot off” prompt, it kind of defeats the purpose. What I’m dreaming of is google glass-like visual prompts for this kind of stuff. Not quite round the corner, but when we’re all wearing our smart glasses or smart contacts, maybe we can think about it!

  10. You are right, voice prompts can be good and bad. Some of my experienced clients liked the beeps, but many of my older (and perhaps more forgetful?) clients absolutely love the voice prompts. (As do their spouses/children/caregivers who are helping the hearing aid user manage the hearing aids). Good thing the MFRs offer both. Yes – managing instruments (without any prompt but just visual clues) via a smart phone would be even better. 🙂

  11. Yes, Yes, yes to tweakable by the user.

    Give me the ability to tune out my horrible kitchen fan oven or my bubbling tropical fish tank and I would be really tempted to buy top of the range hearing aids.

    (Listening to you iPhone is easy, £10 neck loop of EBay)

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