Hearing Matters Podcast

Sonic Radiant feat. Scott Bunnell | Sr. Global Product Manager

June 22, 2021 Hearing Matters Season 2 Episode 30
Hearing Matters Podcast
Sonic Radiant feat. Scott Bunnell | Sr. Global Product Manager
Show Notes Transcript

About the Hearing Matters Podcast
 
The Hearing Matters Podcast discusses hearing technology (more commonly known as hearing aids), best practices, and a growing national epidemic - Hearing Loss. The show is hosted by father and son - Blaise Delfino, M.S., HIS, and Dr. Gregory Delfino, CCC-A. Blaise Delfino and Dr. Gregory Delfino treat patients with hearing loss at Audiology Services, located in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and East Stroudsburg, PA.
 

The Newest Technology

In this episode Blaise Delfino discusses the newest hearing technology with Scott Bunnell, senior global product manager of Sonic Innovation. Scott says the newest hearing aid is called the Radiant. It uses a new technology platform known as Extend. This latest processing chip has more power and more memory than Sonic's previous chip. It also has a new way of processing sound, new compression technology and noise management and reduction. It uses 24 bands, whereas the old platform used only 16.

Joint Compression System

Scott says the new technology uses a combined compression system that has both fast and slow capability. The slow compression handles the narrow band noises, such as vacuum cleaners and blenders, and keeps them at bay. The fast compression emphasizes every part of speech and puts the emphasis where it is needed. 

 Increased Connectivity

The new Radiant hearing aid is also now able to be connected to an Android phone. In the past it was only able to connect to an iPhone. Audiologists can also do remote fittings and fine adjustments. This is especially important for those who are physically unable to come to the office and those who are out of town. 

The Radiant also has a new open/closed dome that keeps its shape better in the ear canal and is more comfortable because of changes in venting.

Great for Musicians

Scott, who is a musician himself, explains that hearing aids were first made for people to be able to hear speech. Listening to music was not something companies considered. He says the wave lengths of speech are predictable as are the frequency ranges. Music however has a wider range of frequencies and an extended range. Because of that the new Radiant has a smart music program that enables wearers to really enjoy music. 

Final Advice

After giving a brief history of his musical life as a singer and guitar player, Scott offered the following advice. “If you have hearing loss, don’t wait to do something,” he says. “The longer you wait the worse the hearing loss becomes. Untreated hearing loss is the number one risk factor for acquiring dementia. Don’t listen to the horror stories about hearing aids. They are nothing like they used to be. They’re great.”  

Blaise Delfino:

You're tuned into the Hearing Matters Podcast with Dr. Gregory Delfino, and Blaise Delfino of Audiology Services and Fader Plugs, the show that discusses hearing technology, best practices, and a growing national epidemic: hearing loss. If you tuned in last week, you joined myself and Scott Bunnel from Sonic, and we talked about all things hearing aids, Sonic's history, compression, digital signal processing, but on this episode, we are going to talk about Sonics, newest hearing aid, the Radiant. Scott, welcome back to the Hearing Matters Podcast, it's great to see you again.

Scott Bunnel:

Yeah, it's great to see you again Blaise, and thanks for having me.

Blaise Delfino:

Last week's episode, we had a blast really deep diving into the hearing aid itself when it comes to processing. And I have to tell you, we are incredibly excited for this episode, because Sonic just released their newest platform. And we know that Sonic released the Sonic Radiant, which is on a brand new technology platform called Extend. Scott, tell us a little bit more what is, you know, new with the new Radiant hearing aid on this Extend platform?

Scott Bunnel:

Yeah, for sure. This is a brand new platform. So every few years, we've come out with a new platform was the technology platform, the biggest thing we have is a new microchip, we have a new microchip processor with more processing power, more memory. Well, we call this new platform, the Extend platform because we've really had a tremendous success in the old platform, which was called sound DNA. And that's where the Captivate product came, which is a product that you that you've also been able to work with, I believe. So the sounding a platform had a lot of new technology, including this compression algorithm that we touched on the last time we spoke, and some new features like direct to iPhone. So with the new Extend platform, we call the Extend platform, because we're extending a lot of the successes we had on that old platform onto this new platform, we have some brand new way of processing the sounds, some new compression technology, and some new noise management technology. But there's also other technologies that we've already developed in the past and that we're continuing to use. And we saw here and there, we've added some improvements. And then we've added some brand new kind of features as well, some new exciting features, the Radiant product and the extend platform to talk about what's different in processing in noise management, or directionality noise reduction system that make up the Radiant the Radiant noise management system, we're now doing that on 24 bands. Well, the old system was 16 bands, we have some new features in the software, when it comes to directionality, we're cleaning that signal better than we ever had before with a finer resolution. And then with processing the sound, we talked about our smart compression algorithm, which you know, is kind of different than a way that a lot of other manufacturers do compression. And we use that to again, to be able to vary the amount of compression in a speech and noise environment, we brought that to kind of a different level. And with Radiant technology, we have a thing called Radiant speech processing and it uses a joint compression system. So it uses two compression systems and one a slow compression system, which is based on a 24 band architecture. And then a fast compression system, which is kind of based on our old speech variable processing system, which we don't break up the signal into different, you know, multi channel compression, but we use that wideband signal analysis. So we use very, very fast compression, we're using phonemic compression. So every part of speech, every phoneme of speech gets the accurate amount of of amplification it needs also, you need a very fast system to be able to do that. And so we provide the best possible sound quality with that fast system, we use the slower system in that 24 band architecture and address the noise. So when the noise becomes part of the environment, we want to make sure that we can keep it at bay and adjust how we handle noise because one of the things you don't want to do when you're using compression is negate the positive effects of your directionality noise reduction system.

Blaise Delfino:

Correct

Scott Bunnel:

Right? You want to keep those positive effects intact. And so this this new system with a joint that slow in the fast system can really do that. And one of the things that it really excels at is handling narrowband noise. So that 24 band architecture is really concentrated in the high frequencies and those narrowband noises in the environment like the vacuum cleaner. For instance, you've ever been when you were a kid, you're watching TV, and someone comes in with a vacuum cleaner and you're like, turn that thing off, I can't hear anything. You think about hearing aid users, right. So the narrowband noise sounds like vacuum cleaners, blenders, things like that. Those are very persistent and hard to deal with. And this new platform and this new technology can really keep those sounds at bay and just concentrate on the speech. So that's the processing part. The other part is connectivity, right. So connectivity is very important to people. Some people have iPhones, some people have Android phones. And before old technology was only direct to iPhone and now we're adding this ability to stream directly from your Android phone, as well as your iPhone to your hearing aids.

Blaise Delfino:

It's a big step. That's huge, more connectivity for different patients, whether they have an iPhone or an Android.

Scott Bunnel:

Right, exactly. We've also added remote fitting. So I don't know if you've had a chance to use this yet, Blaise, but you know with the pandemic where, of course, telehealth became huge.

Blaise Delfino:

Absolutely, absolutely.

Scott Bunnel:

And we were a little slow to the game. But we've we did finally, able to launch this remote fitting th s this ability to properly progr m your patients hearing aids whi e they sit at home and you sit n your office and you can actual y sit in your home too, prob bly bring your laptop hom or something if you want to. Bu it just gives that added laye of flexibility for you and your you and your patients they live far to town are there they're aid up in bed from an injury or all kinds of reas

Blaise Delfino:

And that's that's definitely a game changer, Scott. Because when we talk about accessibility and having gone through the pandemic, and you know, not being able to see patients face to face, this remote fitting software, and actually the remote fitting being implemented into the software, and having the ability to make those fine tune and basic tuning adjustments remotely for our patients, we've used it, our patients appreciate it. In the event, there's an emergency a patient needs to connect with you, and maybe they're out of town, we can help them remotely. So that's a big win for Sonic 100%. Absolutely.

Scott Bunnel:

Right and we're really happy about that, we've actually added a tool in the software for personalization

Blaise Delfino:

Love that

Scott Bunnel:

Will help with your first fit accuracy. It's called the personalization tool. We've added a new dome, a new dome system, which is the open concept in here. And it's been on thing for a long time now, right. And previously open domes are kind of flimsy and they had a loses shape in the ear canal. And you know, people with a little bit of a collapsing canal can have a problem.

Blaise Delfino:

Yes.

Scott Bunnel:

And we've added this new dome, called the open bass dome, it uses these, these little tunnels if you will, but it's a different shape. And it helps keep the shape of the dome in the ear better. So it kind of kind of holds in some of these a little bit of the low and mid frequencies that scientists tend to escape, but also maintains the venting and actually vents closer to the eardrum. So we've added that for more comfort for better, you know we have more flexibility with that dome, less chance for feedback.

Blaise Delfino:

And that's nice for streaming too, Scott

Scott Bunnel:

Exactly better streaming.

Blaise Delfino:

You know with Sonic going from that sound DNA to now this Extend platform, first of all the research and development that had to have been put into this Extend platform. Incredible. I mean the the minds behind this and just working as a team and working as an organization. Anytime you introduce a new platform. Holy smokes, that is a huge deal. So congratulations to Sonic for introducing this brand new platform. And you myself and my father, we all have something in common. We're all musicians so we all have a passion for music, you sing, you play guitar. And I was interested to learn that we all are musicians. So I know that we've had in the past patients who struggle with hearing aids when it comes to listening to music, especially live music. Now with our Sonic patients, we find that they do really well with the Smart Music Program for listening to music. So can you sort of tell us more about the Smart Music Program and why our patients who have such a great appreciation for music, really enjoy listening to music with this Smart Music Program?

Scott Bunnel:

Yeah, it's been a big win for us. The Smart Music Program does things a little bit differently. The problem is that hearing aids were developed for speech in general the research and development and over the years and years has been developed for speech because the number one reason why they're going to you're going to buy a hearing aid is so you can communicate better, and you can hear speech better and improve your life. But music is extremely important to people. And that's a big part of some people's lives, right. And music is so different from speech right? Music is very unpredictable, speeches are predictable. The spectral and loudness characteristics of music and speech are vastly different. And we know speech we know what speech is gonna look like on a waveform because you know the human because we know about the physiology of the human body, and our throat and the larynx and our voice, how we create sound. And that's how we have voice recognition software, right and that which is a big part of pretty much everything we do it seems like these days, right? So we know what speech is and we know like how loud speech can get and how soft it can get. We know the frequency range of speech, right? But but music can have a much wider frequency range, and it can get a lot louder than speech. Well over 110 decibels, speech can't get over 95 decibels. So typically hearing aids are designed to not let any more inputs in after 95 decibels. So the kind of the sounds that kind of shaped music that are important that get above that 95 decibels, that can get it up to 110 115 decibels for not letting those in,s then the output is not going to be as desirable and it's not going to sound as good. Make sense a lot of musicians and people who enjoy live music, kind of complain that it just doesn't sound as natural as it could. So with the smart music program, we actually have this thing called an Extended Dynamic Range, which will allow higher inputs adaptively allow higher inputs into the system before it's digitized. So the outputs can maintain those real important qualities of speech. And so to me, that's the most important thing, being able to let let those important musical qualities into the hearing aids before it's digitized.

Blaise Delfino:

And Scott, when we talk about music, first and foremost, with hearing aids being designed to really focus on speech, we know that speech is that neuro muscular process. Language is a code in which ideas are shared. So with the implementation, and fitting of hearing technology, well, speech is really important, because that's how we as social beings communicate, right Speech and Language. But what is our universal language? That's music. And as humans, many of us, if not, the majority of us really do enjoy music. So the fact that now, especially with this smart music program, that patients are able to experience with the radiant hearing instrument, and I know that the smart music program was on that sound DNA platform as well.

Scott Bunnel:

Correct.

Blaise Delfino:

So the fact that patients have this available to them, and individuals, whether they are musicians, or they are just huge concert goers, or you know, even hobbyist musicians, either way, it doesn't matter, they're now able to really enjoy that music. And you know that guitar solo with treble and that is just so amazing, because music has always been difficult for individuals who present with hearing loss.

Scott Bunnel:

Yeah, it has for a long time. We're getting a lot better, and that smart music program has kind of exemplified that. Like you were saying music is really important to a lot of people and we're starting to get that now as marinade manufacturers. And so we use a smart music program and we're actually developing something new but I can't talk about it, but

Blaise Delfino:

Well, it's it's definitely exciting

Scott Bunnel:

Gotta come back on again, at some point talk about it. But we're really excited about what's coming up.

Blaise Delfino:

Scott, while we're on the subject of music, and you being a musician, tell us how you got your start with singing and playing guitar in bands.

Scott Bunnel:

Oh, man, I'd love to do that. It's kind of a funny story. You know, I've always loved music. I grew up in a musical household, my mom dragged me to to musicals. I always loved music, I grew up in the 80s, you know, which was a real this time of real a lot of experimentation with lots of different musical genres. And I was doing just that I was listening to all kinds of different music The Clash was one of my favorite bands, I had a friend who played guitar, and I was thik I was a junior junior in high school. And he's like, Hey, man, you want to play? You want to sing some Clash songs in my band. Now I grew up in California so that's how they talk, right? So like, Yeah, sure. I'll try it. You know, I had no idea.

Blaise Delfino:

I'll give it a shot, sure.

Scott Bunnel:

Right. I'll just start singing well, wasn't really singing it, it was more like yelling at the time. Because I had no idea what I was doing. We had barely had any equipment. I was singing through a bass amp.

Blaise Delfino:

Oh, yeah. Been there.

Scott Bunnel:

But so we practiced in the garage for a little bit. And I told my brother says, you know, I got this band going, you know, we're called the blind dates.

Blaise Delfino:

Very cool.

Scott Bunnel:

Yeah. And so he was a freshman in college, and he says, hey, we know we're gonna have a toga party in my dorm, why don't you guys come and play? And we got really excited and we practiced and we practiced and we learned just about every easy three, four chord song you could you could learn, you know, as long as it didn't require a, you know, a great singing voice.

Blaise Delfino:

Or a solo

Scott Bunnel:

Well, we're we're trying to write, yeah, exactly. So we've played so we learned everything we could you know, the songs by The Clash, and, you know, the Rolling Stones, The Who things like that. So we were the blind dates, and we have even had this big sign made and we're super excited for this first gig, right? It was, it was a total disaster. We didn't have any equipment. So you know good as anybody. You know better than anybody the importance of monitoring, and in the ear monitoring is by far the best choice for musician.

Blaise Delfino:

Absolutely. Yep. Yep.

Scott Bunnel:

And we didn't know anything about monitors or PA system. And so I'm singing through this Bass Amp. And it's now it's way over in the corner because we're for whatever reason. And you know, if you can't hear yourself sing, you're just totally lost. So if you don't have any monitors, and your monitors aren't mixed properly, you're totally lost.

Blaise Delfino:

You're yelling, you're yelling at that point.

Scott Bunnel:

And I was yelling big time and so halfway through like the first set, I totally lost my voice. I couldn't even talk. I couldn't sing, couldn't talk. You know, to put it in a nutshell, you know, we had it end up playing instrumentals for the rest of the night, three or four chord instrumentals. So it was it was a it was not the greatest, you know, it's very disappointing, but still, just that taste of it made me still want to pursue

Blaise Delfino:

It was exciting, it was exhilerating. You got to play live, that is awesome.

Scott Bunnel:

Yeah and, you know, as you I don't know, if you probably agree, but playing live music is just about as most fun you can ever do.

Blaise Delfino:

Crazy exhilarating, absolutely, absolutely. You know, Scott, when when, you know, you're sharing your start as a musician, and I hope that, you know, other hearing healthcare professionals tied into this, you know, how important is it too. We we work every single day to help individuals on the road to better hearing, but you still play, you still write music? I mean, the importance of, of playing music. It's It's so healthy, and I'm sure it's gotten you through, you know, through a lot, you know, throughout life.

Scott Bunnel:

That's absolutely true. I mean, many times in my life where I just pick up a guitar and sing is calms your mood takes the stress away. And that's why I really feel for people with hearing loss. And Firstly, people who are deaf, you know, especially they're deaf and later in life, and not to be able to hear music that would just be devastating.

Blaise Delfino:

And I completely echo that we had the opportunity to have Matt Hay on he, he worked with Redux. And he actually had an auditory brainstem implant. And his story is just, it's incredibly empowering. In the episode, he was on the podcast, he talked about how he, you know, before he got the auditory brainstem implant, he listened to about 66 songs, and he's gonna listen to those 66 songs for the rest of his life. Because of the auditory brainstem implant, he can't really, you know, learn new songs, are hearing these songs, but his, his attitude about life is so empowering. Definitely check out that episode. But you're absolutely right. You know, when it comes to listening to music, and you being a musician, having an appreciation for listening and playing and singing, and to be able to work with Sonic, to introduce products to positively influence patients on their journey to better hearing, but also hear music in a way that is so comfortable. That is so incredible. Scott, as you know, and I think many of our listeners tuned in right now, we've been in a global pandemic, for quite some time. So of course, live music has not occurred as frequently, right? Yeah, no one's really playing at Madison Square Garden. Right? So tell us how Sonic has had to maneuver or change its business because of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Scott Bunnel:

You know, we definitely had to change and roll with the punches. You know, now we're kind of starting to get out of the pandemic a little bit and hopefully that can continue. So we're excited about that.

Blaise Delfino:

Definitely.

Scott Bunnel:

But every I think everybody's had to change somewhat, you know, but the real funny thing about Sonic is, you know, yeah, we had we have people in in Eagan, Minnesota still work out of an office in in New Jersey, and and all those people had to go home to work now for a long time. And it's some people were furloughed, and I can't tell you how, how thankful I was to work for a company that really did everything they can to make sure it took care of their employees during the pandemic. Absolutely. But the one thing that's interesting about Sonic is we didn't really have to change what we were doing and how we're doing it. Because already we were a company that does things digitally. In other words, we do everything internally within, you know, from our offices, you don't have a big group of outside salespeople, you don't have a group of outside trainers. Like I said earlier, maybe in the first part of our podcast.

Blaise Delfino:

Yeah, last week's episode, right,

Scott Bunnel:

We're part of a multi brand strategy. And the way we play in that strategy is different than than to some of our other partners. We accommodate people, you know, the independent audiology group, the person that the audiologist or hearing care professional, who wants to work with the company, because it gets down to business, that they can get the best possible price, but also the best possible technology, so they can help their patients in the best way and also preserve their livelihood.

Blaise Delfino:

Absolutely.

Scott Bunnel:

And that's what we're all about. So we're not we can't be everything to everybody. And, and, and work more of like a niche brand that way, you know, because, like I said, we don't have this outside, but with COVID-19 we're already doing everything from within and we're doing online trainings.

Blaise Delfino:

Yes

Scott Bunnel:

We're taught you know, we're talking to customers over the phone, so we didn't have to change that much. So in that way, it was kind of interesting because Sonic was already kind of built for the pandemic, if you think about it that way.

Blaise Delfino:

I mean, Scott to release a brand new product, a new platform, during a global pandemic. Wow, you like, congratulations to you guys. But, you know, it's so, so incredible. And kudos to Sonic because we appreciate it, the support that we received from your team throughout and following, you know, coming out of the global pandemic, just incredible stuff. Scott, I want to thank you so much for joining us on the Hearing Matters Podcast. We're so excited to you know, have you back on the show one day soon. Scott, any last words in terms of you know, Sonic's new Radiant platform, Sonic in general, please, the floor is yours.

Scott Bunnel:

Whether it be a Sonic product, whether it be any product, if you have hearing loss, and you wait and wait and wait to do something about it. That's the my opinion, that's one of the worst things you can do go and see an audiologist or hearing care professional, get your hearing tested. And if you have hearing loss get into hearing aids right away. There's so much better than they used to be you might have heard horror stories about from friends or or you know about hearing aids. But what's the technology and hearing aids, you know, in our hearing aids, Sonic, it's evolved into something that's so much better than it ever has been. And it's so important that you get that intervention, that amplification that you need that stimulation of your brain really, right away. The longer you wait, the worse it's going to be the harder, you know, the harder it's going to be down the line. And if you look at a lot of the research, and I know some of the other some of the other guests you've had have talked about the impact of hearing loss and how it relates to cognitive functioning.

Blaise Delfino:

Absolutely.

Scott Bunnel:

Article in 2017 in The Lancet, looked at all the risk factors for dementia, the number one risk factor hearing loss, untreated hearing loss. I can't stress that enough. And I tell everybody who asked me is get your hearing tested, get it tested regularly, and don't put it off because as soon as you can get into hearing aids, the better it's going to be. And the better experience you're gonna have.

Blaise Delfino:

You're tuned into the Hearing Matters Podcast with Dr. Gregory Delfino, and Blaise Delfino of Audiology Services and Fader Plugs. Today, we had Scott Bunnel from Sonic, he is the senior global product manager. Scott, thank you so much for joining us on the Hearing Matters Podcast and until next time, hear life's story.