Strategy and businesses
Cochlear implants business
Advanced Bionics is a global leader in cochlear implant systems. Cochlear implants allow people with significant or complete hearing loss to hear the world around them; however, unlike hearing aids, which only amplify sound, cochlear implants stimulate the hearing nerve directly with electric signals, bypassing the damaged part of the ear.
Our business is represented in over 50 countries worldwide, where we work closely with surgical clinics, hearing care professionals, and research institutions. We significantly invest in research and development, not only to maintain our leading position in state-of-the-art technology and reliable products, but to build services to support recipients around the world on their journey to better hearing.
Advanced Bionics was acquired by Sonova in 2009; soon after, we began a close R&D collaboration with Phonak, linking the most innovative cochlear implant and hearing instrument technologies to offer our recipients unique product solutions. Our cochlear implants accurately transform an acoustic signal into precise electrical stimuli to the hearing nerve. Thanks to our collaboration, Advanced Bionics products also optimize the acoustic signal itself, helped by Phonak’s deep expertise in software that analyzes the listening environment, recognizes challenging situations, isolates the voice or sound that is most important, and sends it to either or both ears – all to deliver a more natural hearing experience.
Key areas of activity
Cochlear implants are seeing an accelerating rise in use globally. Once considered primarily as a pediatric solution for children born with significant or complete hearing loss, they are now being recommended for the growing number of adults whose hearing has deteriorated to the point where a hearing aid alone is no longer effective. These adult customers present the hearing care professional with a wide variety of hearing challenges, from significant hearing loss in one ear and complete loss in the other to complete hearing loss in both ears. Advanced Bionics is unique in being able to provide a complete spectrum of solutions for each of these scenarios.
In 2017, Advanced Bionics added the Naída™ CROS to its range of versatile, powerful sound processors based on Phonak’s Binaural VoiceStream Technology™. The Naída CROS is a small wireless audio transmitter that picks up signals presented to the non-implanted ear and instantaneously sends them to the cochlear implant system on the implanted ear, giving recipients with a single cochlear implant the ability to enjoy hearing from both sides. For example, in the case of someone with complete hearing loss in both ears, the obvious solution might be two cochlear implants, but this is not always possible, either for medical reasons or because of insurance or government reimbursement rules. Advanced Bionics has therefore provided a solution where there were once no or few options for the consumer.
Advances in sound processors are being matched by improvements in electrodes, the part of the implant system that stimulates the hearing nerve. This year, Advanced Bionics introduced the HiFocus™ SlimJ Electrode, built on the proven HiFocus platform. Developed in cooperation with leading surgeons from around the world, the new HiFocus SlimJ electrode features a thin, straight design for easy insertion through the “round window” of the cochlea. Many cochlear implant recipients still retain some hearing, and the HiFocus SlimJ electrode is designed specifically to protect the delicate structures of the cochlea during insertion, thus preserving residual hearing. The response from the surgical community has been excellent, with praise for its ease of insertion and assuring correct positioning, as well as its ability to preserve cochlear structures.
Advanced Bionics has built a strong market position among the thousands of clinics worldwide that perform cochlear implant surgery. We have achieved this through advanced implant technology and innovative sound processing, but also through building strong collaborations with the medical staff, researchers, and institutions who constantly move our frontiers forward. We have created a team of clinical specialists who can engage surgeons and audiologists, not in “sales talk,” but in evidence-based dialog, demonstrating what our solutions can offer through hard data and peer-reviewed conclusions.
We are keenly aware of how our market is transforming, as the “baby boomer” generation approaches an age when hearing may deteriorate beyond the point that a hearing aid alone can correct. Many of these adults – around two million – already use a Naída or other Phonak high-power hearing aid. They are familiar with how the sophisticated programs in these advanced processors can help to deliver a natural hearing experience, how easy they are to use, and how they link wirelessly with other technology such as telephones, televisions, and remote microphones. Advanced Bionics is therefore in a uniquely advantageous position: we can offer the full spectrum of solutions to these potential recipients, using the advanced sound processing technology with which they are already familiar. We have therefore established a Partner Program in several countries around the world that link hearing care retailers and cochlear implant clinics to manage the transition for potential consumers from their familiar hearing aids to the new experience of an implant.
Our partnership with hearing care providers extends to Sonova’s own retail business, whose commitment to providing all consumers with accessible solutions for every type of hearing loss, backed by world-class services and expertise, makes it an ideal partner for referring potential recipients and supporting them at every state of their hearing journey. We have established collaborations with the Sonova retail businesses in Austria, Germany, and the US.
Receiving a cochlear implant is a life-transforming moment. For many recipients, it is the first time they have ever heard. The experience can be overwhelming: a whole new world of sound to understand and navigate. This is why we have always put great emphasis on direct contact and support for recipients and their families, provided through such resources as RehAB, BabyBeats™, The Listening Room™, and HearingJourney™, our online community, now ten years old and 34,000 members strong.
We are constantly seeking new ways to engage and share with our recipients, to empower them to discover, judge, choose, and get the most from the hearing solutions we offer. We are expanding our suite of app-based listening training for recipients of every age, to help them to make sense of newly-heard speech and sounds. We are developing tools and services that will make use of Sonova’s eSolutions platform, giving recipients more control over their devices and access to remote real-time expert support.
The universal wireless connectivity made possible by Sonova’s SWORD chip technology will open up even more possibilities beyond its ability to link effortlessly with phones and other consumer electronics. For example, by simplifying and automating processes and providing critical market insights, it offers reliable communication and instant access to vital information, reduces overhead for our medical partners, raises awareness and sales of improved solutions, and reduces cost of services.