CochlearTM and GN Hearing – a Smart Hearing Alliance

Sound Connection | Issue 30 | June 2018

The Smart Hearing Alliance (SHA) between CochlearTM and GN Hearing has been making its mark in hearing health, with a series of innovations that benefit current and potential cochlear implant recipients. In this dialogue, two key leaders of the SHA offer insights into why the project has been remarkably successful and what patients and hearing health professionals should watch out for in the future.

Jan Janssen (JJ) is Chief Technology Officer at Cochlear. He specialises in technology and product innovation and has been active in the field of implantable hearing devices for more than 20 years.

 

Pär Thuresson (PT) is Senior Vice President Research & Development at GN Hearing. He has solid experience in leading and developing international organisations and R&D functions within the high-tech area. Pär Thuresson holds an MSc in electrical engineering and his background includes management positions at Sony Mobile, Sony Ericsson and Saab Combitech.

 

Editor: Please explain how the Smart Hearing Alliance originated and why this is such an important initiative in the industry.

JJ: The roots of the SHA go back to 2011, when Cochlear and GN Hearing decided to begin working together in the area of wireless connectivity. Many people with a cochlear implant use a hearing instrument on the other side, and the SHA collaboration makes it possible to achieve a seamless integration between a GN hearing instrument and a Cochlear Nucleus® Sound Processor in terms of connectivity. Also, aside from improved speech understanding and better spatial awareness, the ability to hear with two ears and to localise sound makes us safer in the world. There’s also a marked and positive difference in speech and language development for people of all ages when they can hear bilaterally.

PT: And it goes further than that. When I speak to patients, their needs are clear. It’s not enough just to be aware of sound – the world requires connectivity. People want to be a part of life – and in order to do that, of course they want to clearly understand phone calls, and to stream music and audio while they are with other people. They want to use apps that have audio. Streaming to the cochlear implant sound processor and the hearing aid at the same time is critical for optimal listening.

Editor: What are the relative strengths that make Cochlear and GN Hearing have such a good strategic alliance?

PT: To have a strong strategic alliance, you need two strong participants. And both our organisations are strong players in their respective markets. GN Hearing is the technological market leader in the hearing aid space, particularly in connectivity and sound quality. Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions.

JJ: There’s also a strong cultural and technological match. The companies have a similar ethos and approach to technological challenges.

Editor: What has the SHA delivered so far?

JJ: The collaboration began in 2011 and the first outcomes were the True Wireless devices – the Cochlear Mini Microphone, Phone Clip and TV- Streamer – that became available for Cochlear Baha® Sound Processors patients in 2013 and Cochlear Nucleus 6 Sound Processor recipients in 2015.

PT: Simplicity is key for us – because it is a strong benefit for our users. So, another thing is the ability to use the made for iPhone (MFi) functionality in the hearing devices. With the launch of the ReSound LiNX 3D™ or ReSound ENZO 3D, and the Cochlear Nucleus 7 Sound Processor in 2017, patients can now also connect to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. This provides our patients with the benefit of direct bimodal streaming of any sound, straight from these Apple devices, simultaneously to the Resound hearing device and the Cochlear sound processor. The built-in accessibility feature in these Apple devices, manages the hearing aid and cochlear implant sound processor together in a really simple way.

JJ: There have been valuable deliverables for professionals as well. We hosted a seminar in Brussels, which was a workshop for subject experts about optimising hybrid and bimodal solutions. There were 140 professionals, all working to understand the challenges, demonstrate expertise and share their knowledge. That is the kind of ‘behind the scenes’ benefit of the SHA that pushes us all forward to deliver valuable results for patients.

Editor: What can we expect from the Smart Hearing Alliance in the future?

JJ: The SHA also means that the scientific community network across both companies is aligned and focused on improving the bimodal experience, both through its own work and other initiatives. The first outcomes from clinical studies are already indicating clinical benefits and steering future innovation.

PT: From that, we’ll see many things that are already possible with acoustic solutions being extended to implanted devices.

For more information about the Smart Hearing Alliance, please contact Karin Rødsjø, Strategic Alliances Program Manager (krodsjo@cochlear.com) at Cochlear LTD or Astrid Haastrup, Manager, Segment Strategies Pediatrics at GN Hearing (ahaastrup@gnresound.com).