The bionic beginnings of Blamey Saunders hears

Bionic beginnings

I met Professor Peter Blamey when I moved into a commercialisation role at the Bionics Institute. 

The first thing I commercialised was the ADRO processor that Peter invented for the bionic ear. We entered a business competition, and we won. That was the launching point for our first company because we were able to attract additional investment.

The company that was formed was owned by venture capital and the Cooperative Research Centre at Cochlear Implant and Hearing Aid Innovation. We sold our technology to hearing aid companies and headset and telephony companies.

Peter and I both felt that it would be much better to be working directly with the customer. As we built the company we got to know the hearing aid industry and felt we could do it a lot better. That’s when we set up our own company, Blamey Saunders hears.

And the rest is history.

Blamey Saunders hearing aids use the ADRO technology Prof Blamey developed for the bionic ear.

Prof Peter Blamey is a world-renowned inventor. He worked with cochlear implant inventor Graeme Clark in a multi-disciplinary research team, improving the technology to deliver improved sound quality to cochlear implant and hearing aid users. The team worked on everything including surgery, sound processing, the electrode array, electrophysiology, and clinical audiology.

ADRO is a sound processor. It’s also used in headsets and mobile phones. Everyone will benefit from better audibility for soft sounds and greater comfort for loud sounds. ADRO can also help with the enjoyment of music which often has different spectral content and greater dynamic range than speech. Most hearing aid processors are optimised either for speech or for music, but ADRO adapts appropriately to both.

Blamey Saunders hears was founded to improve hearing aid accessibility.

Currently, around 1 in 6 Australians have hearing difficulties, but only 20% of adults who would benefit from hearing aids own them. We believe that’s because of cost and issues with accessibility, particularly for people in remote and rural Australia.

Those are the reasons we founded Blamey Saunders hears. We came up with a solution that allows our clients to access our hearing aids and support from anywhere in Australia. And that solution lets us sell our high-quality hearing aids for less than half of comparable devices.

Research shows that many people who own hearing aids don’t wear them!

Sometimes people don’t feel their hearing aids help them as much as they thought they would. Sometimes they aren’t set up to sufficiently separate sound from background noise – everything sounds amplified rather than just the information the user wants to hear, like speech.

Are you unhappy with the way your hearing aids sound? If you find that you’re not happy with the difference your hearing aids make to your hearing, first check that your hearing aids are free from wax, have working batteries and that they’re in good condition.

And what if that’s in working order?

I recommend that you measure the benefit of your hearing aids using the speech perception test on our website. You take the test when you’re wearing hearing aids and take it when you’re not and compare the results. The number of errors with the aids on should be about half the number of errors in the unaided test.

Prof Blamey developed IHearYou® to put you in control of your hearing.

What if the test reveals your settings aren’t right? Enter IHearYou®! If you have Blamey Saunders hearing aids, you can use the IHearYou® app to adjust your settings using your smartphone or Windows computer. It lets you optimise your settings in any environment, like a noisy restaurant or at the Opera House.

You are the best person to set up your hearing aids (only you know how you hear) so we wanted to demystify the process and put you in control. IHearYou® won the Australian Design Award for social innovation because it saves you the time and costs associated with visiting an audiologist for fine tuning – and usually gives a more satisfying result.

What if you don’t have Blamey Saunders hearing aids?

  • Your hearing aid is likely to have a directional microphone so check that it’s turned on in the program you are using.
  • Your hearing aid is likely to have a noise reduction algorithm so check that noise reduction is set to maximum.
  • Your hearing aid may have a special program for noisy situations, so check that you’re using the right program.

And if that fails or if you get stuck, you should make an appointment with your audiologist. There’s no point suffering with the wrong settings or not wearing your hearing aids at all.

If you still find that you’re not getting the benefit you hoped for, you may need to consider rehabilitation training or look into a new set of hearing aids.

Watch this short video by the ATSE to learn more about Prof Blamey and find out why he was awarded a coveted Clunies Ross medal.

Image source: Photographed for HCF by Andrew Craig

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