Phonak has an operations facility in a shiny new industrial park about 2 km from Thuan An Center. The General Director invited us over to visit with them and tour their production process. It was really cool to see the various components that go into different hearing aid models and FM systems and the meticulous standards testing that they all go through. The products made there are distributed throughout SE Asia and Europe. Martha, Jill, and Ali, the audiologists on our team, were in heaven amongst all the technology and it was fun to hear their enthusiastic questions.
I was invited to try on the Phonak OK! model…a low-cost digital hearing aid designed for the developing world that is presently available only in Vietnam. Their R+D team compiled audiograms from 15,000 people with hearing loss and identified the most common profiles. Then, they applied those profiles to four channels on two hearing aids – OK! for mild/moderate losses and OK! Plus for severe/profound. The user selects the channel that sounds the best for them by turning a little dial on the aid, and is able to make minor adjustments to tone and frequency on a different set of dials. The OK! Plus aid can also be made FM compatible. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the sound – it is a digital aid but has a lot of analog nuances – that loud sharpness that I sometimes miss from my analog hearing aid days! Its a great product and its price point makes it accessible for low-income families in this part of the world.
The 95 participants in our teacher training program will have the opportunity to tour the facility next week and I am looking forward to sharing in the experience with all of them.