— After three years and millions of dollars, Starkey
Hearing Technologies recently unveiled a next-generation
hearing aid that promises to channel both realistic
speech and authentic-sounding music to the hard of
of the Minneapolis-area manufacturer said their new Muse
hearing aid uses separate "signal processors"
for the first time. They are banking on it to be a hit
with baby boomers, veterans and others who will not be
separated from their music even as they age and lose
some ability to hear.
hearing aids have long helped convey speech, the task of
relaying authentic-sounding music has proved elusive.
The complex range of quickly shifting frequencies and
gyrating combinations of bass, midrange and treble have
made music hard to capture realistically.
we refused to the accept that music can’t sound
good," said David Fabry, Starkey vice president of
audiology and professional relations.
determination paid off. In January, Starkey introduced
its wireless Muse hearing aid and four other "Made
For Life" hearing products during the Starkey Expo
in Las Vegas.
March, the company brought Muse and its other high-tech
products to audiology customers in South Africa, New
Zealand and Australia. In mid-April, the products head
to the American Academy of Audiologists conference in
Phoenix and then to the Department of Veterans Affairs
500 researchers and product developers worked on the new
hearing aids. The company worked with musicians and
focus groups to make sure the device captured music in a
full-bodied way, said officials.
declined to discuss Muse’s market potential but said
it is "significant" because it brings a level
of technology to the industry that is not currently
is a milestone for us," Fabry said. "We
certainly expect this to contribute to the bottom
new high-definition Muse is wireless and models either
fit behind the ear, sit visibly inside the ear or hide
invisibly inside the ear canal. Prices range from $1,500
to $3,000 per ear.
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uses more powerful microchips than in the past and new
software that allows users to seamlessly hear words and
music, whether they are on a smartphone or Blue Tooth
device or listening to iTunes, a live concert or
conversations in quiet libraries or noisy restaurants.
device employs Starkey’s new 900sync wireless
technology, Synergy hardware platform and Acuity
operating software to process multiple sounds
simultaneously. It lets audiologists custom fit patients
by adjusting 24 channels or bands and can synchronize
sounds entering the ears of a patient wearing two very
different hearing aids.
excited to fit my first patient with these," said
Stephanie Rogers, head audiologist for Audibel Hearing
Healthcare’s 10 stores in Mississippi and Alabama. She
trained to use the devices at Starkey’s headquarters
and likes what she saw. Muse’s bandwidth is 10,000
hertz, compared to the old 6,000 to 8,000 hertz limits
of Starkey’s past products.
will help my patients get that full music sound,"
Rogers said. "My patients with high frequency
hearing loss often complain that they can’t hear the
lyrics in the music or vice versa. Or that the music
sounds flat. It’s an area we are always battling and
asking how can we make music more pleasant."
new technology is allowing more flexibility in Starkey
products and could be a hit among her aging baby boomer
patients who are beginning to experience hearing loss,
and who refuse to be separated from their music, she
timing is perfect, Fabry said.
8,000 baby boomers are turning 70 every day, according
means the market is expanding, Fabry said.
Muse, Starkey launched its iPhone-compatible "Halo
2" device, new tinnitus controls and a new wireless
"SurfLink" remote microphone that lets hearing
aid users zero in on speeches even during noisy
conventions and seminars.
fresh investments are expected to help Starkey, which
has been accused by some in the industry of lagging
behind its European rivals in technology developments.
company recently dropped from the second-place to
third-place supplier for the Department of Veterans
Affairs. Officials hope the new updates will change
of the most significant aspects of this platform is that
we built it to optimize sound quality for both music and
for speech, which are both critical hearing
environments," Fabry said. "It is a very
has been through much turmoil in the past year, with a
mass firing of several executives and ensuing legal
battles. The company has maintained that it has the
talent to move ahead despite the challenges associated
with the turnover.