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Wtgn Man Gets World's 1st HighTech Hearing Aid

Wellington Man Gets New Hearing Aid Technology First in World

International German technology developer and manufacturer Siemens has been trialling its newest hearing aid with a Wellington man, via Bay Audiology in Lower Hutt prior to unveiling it during a massive global launch in Germany on 20th October (21st October NZ time). The man is one of only a handful of people who have seen the product or used it outside Siemens. (All others are in Australia.)

The hearing aid, marketed under the name ‘Acuris’, is regarded by Siemens as a breakthrough product and at the leading edge of new hearing technology. Siemens last launched another digitally leading edge product in hearing instruments three years ago, and this is the most important new generation technology since.

‘Acuris’ is unique globally because it has wireless adjustment between the two hearing aids. The hearing aid in one ear automatically alters the aid in the other ear, through a wireless signal. The hearing instrument is the first in the world to offer this technology. It is known as a binaural system and will adjust instantly to the acoustic environment, meaning that speech clarity can be fine-tuned against background noise automatically. The technology also carries a remote control for manual adjustment.

New Zealand triallist and patient, twenty four year old Clem Devine, has suffered from a severe to profound hearing loss since birth. He requires a hearing aid for both ears to allow him to work full time as a graphic designer. He was fitted with the aids by Wellington based audiologist Andrew Campbell, after Siemens agreed to the pre-launch usage under strict controls. Clem will report back to Siemens Germany on all aspects of the use of the aids, and has been in a unique position to do so. Mr Campbell says that because of his hearing loss and his experience with aids, Clem is able to recognise tiny changes in noise and hearing instrument response.

“The wireless technology is pretty cool. You can have three or four different settings and differentiate them by a tiny amount. While these hearing aids are more suited to people with less hearing loss than I’ve got, I’ve been very impressed with them,” Clem said.

Mr Campbell says that the product is the first of a likely family of new digital, wireless products which will soon allow users to use their hearing aids to connect to mobile phones, through a radio signal.

“It’s a major advancement,” he says. “It uses wireless technology similar to that in computers but unheard of in our field. It’s likely to be the beginnings of hearing aids talking to mobile phones.”

“In the future in hearing aids, there’ll be innovations such as the ability to wear one invisibly in your ear canal. It’ll be custom made. You’ll be able to dial through your mobile phone that’s in your briefcase, using your hearing aid.”

Mr Campbell says that it is now standard for people with hearing loss to be fitted with two hearing aids. This helps balance the ears for hearing. Otherwise the long term risk is that the ear which is unaided can become less effective.

Siemens New Zealand spokesperson, and the product manager responsible for the launch in New Zealand Catherine Camp, says New Zealand was chosen as a site to allow pre-launch feedback and qualitative trialling because of New Zealand’s track record on understanding and adopting new technology.

“It’s a good market to assess a product in,” she says. “The feedback Clem offers will be taken back to Germany and reviewed, and may well be incorporated in different models in the future.”

Siemens is one of the world’s largest producers of communications, phone, transportation, logistics, and infrastructure technology and services. The New Zealand company is a subsidiary of Siemens Medical Solutions – parent Siemens AG one of the largest suppliers of healthcare equipment in the world. Siemens, headquartered in Munich, employs 450,000 people in 193 countries.

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