A lot of people in my profession think that Unitron hearing aids are simply cheaper, re-badged Phonak hearing aids. It's simply not true, while Phonak and Unitron share some technology, what they do with that tech and the features they design are very different. Those are pre-conceived ideas and personal bias, tut tut. I have known this for many years, no pre-conceived ideas or personal bias here. Now Bernafon, of course, they are just simply cheaper re-badged Oticon hearing aids. Turns out, that was a pre-conceived idea and a personal bias and I am a Gobshite. I shall stand facing the corner for an hour in penance, trust me.
The Man Down The Pub
It all started one day when I met a man down the pub, well, it was a hotel lobby actually at the ISHAA Conference yesterday and the man was a Bernafon representative. Turns out that while Bernafon and Oticon do share technology, what they do with that tech and the features they design are very different. Of course, if I wasn't being a lazy idiot, I would have known this. As I listened to the feature sets and the strategies they use, I thought to myself, Jebus Geoff, some of this is really clever.
So Bernafon has been ridiculed by many for something that they call ChannelFree amplification. I have heard it said many times if they are channel free, why do they have 16 channels of directionality? To be honest, I was never that interested that I investigated, pre-conceived ideas at work again. It turns out that Bernafon does deserve ridicule, but it is only for choosing an absolutely stupid name for what is a very unique and interesting way to amplify speech.
Bernafon gives equal emphasis to each letter sound with their amplification strategy. In essence, they try to ensure that each letter sound is similar in intensity so that the user gets the optimal opportunity to understand speech. For instance, sh is a little less intense in volume than ca. Bernafon tries to ensure that the volume of both sounds is the same.
This is a little different from how other hearing aid brands do things and Bernafon called this really interesting strategy ChannelFree. They really need to call it something else, like speech sound equalisation, or harmonised speech strategy or whatever, answers on the back of a fifty-pound note and send them in.
Pretty Smart Quirks
The more I listened to Bernafon strategies, the more I thought that they had some pretty smart features. For instance, if you use your volume control on your Bernafon hearing aid to turn down the sound in a noisy environment, the first thing it does is to drop the low-frequency amplification. It does this on the basis that most noise is low frequency and turning it down a bit might give you a better chance at understanding speech.
I mean that is a pretty cool strategy, in fact, it is an excellent and intelligent strategy and I am not sure any other hearing aid brand does it. They have many features that I can say the same about, so, I stand admonished and shamed for pre-conceptions. Over the next while I will be adding a Bernafon page to the site that details their latest offerings and the features involved.
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Posted by Geoff
Geoffrey (Geoff, anything else makes him nervous) Cooling is an Irish hearing aid blogger and has been involved with the hearing aid industry for over ten years. He has worked in private practice dispensing hearing aids and as a manufacturer's rep. He has written two books and they are both available on Amazon. He loves technology, passing on knowledge and is legendary for many other things, primarily the amount he curses, his dry and mischievous sense of humour and his complete intolerance of people who are full of themselves. Please feel free to connect with him
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