Nina Kraus, Ph.D., Northwestern University 

Dr. Nina Kraus (brainvolts.northwestern.edu) is the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology at Northwestern University. Dr. Kraus, an expert in the field of auditory learning, has researched the neurobiology of sound for decades, with the overarching goal of improving human communication by harnessing the brain’s potential to change. 

She has found that experience shapes the hearing brain over time for better (such as through music training, hearing technologies) or worse (listening and language disorders, aging). These brain changes have salient impacts on learning and communication. Kraus’ work is rooted in translational issues, working to bring scientific understanding and new technologies into clinical and educational settings. 

Our life in sound and hearing health: a biological perspective
Auditory processing holds the key to successful hearing. Auditory processing fosters everyday communication, including understanding speech in noise, and generating the sound-to-meaning connections for effective listening. Our life in sound, be it the languages we speak, the noise we experience, or the music that we make, together with cognitive and reward systems drive neural remodeling. Our biological approach, the frequency following response (FFR) to complex sounds, is as direct a measure of auditory processing as currently exists, and enables us an unprecedented look into individual differences in cognitive hearing health. 

This biological approach has proven fruitful in examining the biological underpinnings of listening difficulties. We have documented particular deficits in processing fine acoustic details in speech (timing and timbre) and in global processing features (the stability of neural activity) in older adults and in children with auditory processing disorder including difficulty listening in noise. The FFR is a uniform metric that provides a personalized baseline against which to vet intervention outcomes including software-based and musical training programs that may effectively reduce listening effort. We have seen brain and communication changes following auditory training. Increases in usability and ease of interpretation of this biological metric will reach the clinic and become a standard of care, supplementing current prevailing best practices in hearing assessment and will open a window to using biology to inform instrumentation design and choices.

Francis Kuk, Ph.D., ORCA-USA, Widex A/S

Francis Kuk, Ph.D. received his PhD in Audiology from the University of Iowa in 1986. He has assumed a research scientist and hearing aid clinic director position at the University of Iowa department of Otolaryngology and a faculty position at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

He has been active in the hearing aid industry since 1994 where he served committee roles in various industry associations and interacted with government bodies including the FDA.  He is currently the VP of Clinical Research at Widex where his primary roles include clinical research, knowledge dissemination and strategic planning. 

Hearing aid ingredients for effortless hearing (Thursday)
Listening takes effort. The amount of effort that is required varies depending on the individuals, the environments, as well as the quality of the hearing aid processed sounds. Indeed, Widex has recognized the importance of a good sound quality and has been designing hearing aids since the day of the Senso with sound quality a top criterion. In recent years, the field of Audiology recognizes that the nature of the hearing aid processed sounds could affect the amount of listening effort that the listeners invest into understanding, and that the cognitive capacity of the individuals could affect the final outcome of their effort. We argue, if we design the hearing aids with a goal such that its output requires the least amount of effort from the listeners to understand, such hearing aids would result in satisfaction in more people, regardless of their cognitive backgrounds.

Since the UNIQUE (and continuing into the BEYOND), Widex has followed the “Effortless Hearing” design rationale in designing its hearing aids. This requires us to be generous in capturing the full range of sounds in the listeners’ environment, to be accurate in purging the sounds that the listeners may not need, and to be innovative in processing the sounds that the listeners want. This also requires us to carefully take the individual’s characteristics into account when specifying the hearing aid output. In this presentation, we will review why an “Effortless Hearing” design rationale is critical, how different hearing aid features could ensure effortless hearing, and present evidence in support of each feature. 

New approaches to measuring hearing aid outcomes (Friday) 
Improvement in speech understanding is an important expected outcome from hearing aid use. While speech tests have high face validity, they may not be sensitive enough to predict or reflect the hearing aid wearers’ satisfaction with their hearing aids or their communication difficulties in real-life environments. In addition, how wearers judge their hearing aids may not be the only valid criterion. One example is the failure of speech tests to reflect the advantages of most noise reduction algorithms, yet many real-life patients report a more comfortable listening experience with hearing aids having such an algorithm.

In recent years, alternative strategies such as the measurement of acceptable noise level (ANL) and listening effort have received much attention. Physiological and neurophysiological measures are also proposed for objective validation of hearing aid outcomes. Cognitive measures have also received increasing use to explain differences in outcome. These measures could shed light into how future hearing aids may be designed, and how clinicians may approach their patients for maximum success.

One of our roles at ORCA-USA is to understand the current trend in hearing aid outcome measurements and adapt the new technologies and thinking to our evaluation process. When necessary, we also develop new, simpler ways to evaluate hearing aid outcomes that may be sensitive to the effects of different signal processing algorithms. These measures may be useful as an alternative and/or complementary measure of hearing aid outcome. In this presentation, we will provide a review of some of the emerging outcome measures, and report on some of the tools we are examining at ORCA-USA.

Dr. Sandra Sieber, IESE Business School

Dr. Sandra Sieber is currently Full Professor and Chair of the Department of Information Systems at IESE Business School. She is also the Academic Director of the IESE Global Executive MBA. From 2012 to 2014 she was based at IESE's New York Center, where she served as Director of Academic Programs. She has also served on a regular basis as an Academic Director of Custom and Open Programs at IESE.   
Currently, most of her work is centred on how the digital rise is affecting organizations from a variety of perspectives. First, she is an avid student of how the current technological changes impact business models, both in terms of how they allow for the rise of new value propositions, as well as for their potential to impact their target markets. In this vein, she is especially interested in understanding how existing companies can increase their capabilities to quickly adapt and react, and how their main leaders have to develop a digital mindset to be able to incorporate the digital dimensions into their daily decision making.                    
Dr. Sieber has published scholarly and general articles in national and international journals, magazines and newspapers, and contributed to several books. She usually presents her work in the leading conferences of the field, such as ICIS and ECIS. She has served on the organizing committees of a number of conferences. To mention a few, in 2007, Sandra Sieber was the Academic co-chair of the IFIP 8.2 Working Conference in Portland, OR, and served as a track chair at ICIS 2010. In 2012, she co-chaired the European Conference of Information Systems (ECIS) in June 2012, and the Doctoral Consortium of the International Conference of Information Systems (ICIS) in Orlando, Florida in December of 2012. 

A transformative perspective on the business of hearing aids: The impact of the Internet of things and data on our value propositions
The concept of digital density in combination with an “outside-in perspective” will allow us to come up with new competitive scenarios, and data science and the Internet of Things play a key role in understanding how to articulate new value propositions that overcome the main shortcomings of the current value offerings. 

This presentation will show how in many industries this means to move from a “product centric” view to a service model, which at the end can potentially greatly enlarge the overall value creation and appropriation opportunities of the entire industry. We will devote some time in understanding that in a more and more connected world traditional B2B players need to increase their abilities to understand the final customers’ needs, as well as to assess the impact that this will have on their traditional distribution channels and the role of dispensers, very often moving towards open and interconnected value chains. We will jointly start to think about the role and the evolving nature of the relationships of the different stakeholders in a more and more interconnected ecosystem.  

All these changes have deep consequences for both the individual and the organizational mindsets. In this new environment, an increased need exists for executives, business managers and leaders to move from a reactive and incremental innovation mindset to a proactive and even anticipatory mindset. Moving from a “product” to a “service” model also entails significant organizational challenges, and very often entirely new competencies and skill sets.

Ingrid S. Johnsrude, Ph.D., University of Western Ontario

Ingrid Johnsrude, BSc from Queen’s University and a PhD in clinical psychology (neuropsychology) from McGill University in 1997, where her supervisor was Prof. Brenda Milner. Following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Functional Imaging Laboratory (now the Welcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging) at University College London (UK), she was recruited to the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge (UK). In 2004 she returned to Queen’s University, where she was appointed Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and established the Cognitive Neuroscience of Communication and Hearing (CoNCH) lab. 

She and her lab moved to Western University in 2014, where she is now Western Research Chair and full professor. Ingrid and her trainees use behavioural and neuroimaging methods to study the processes by which acoustic information in sound is transformed in the brain into meaningful language, in both young and older individuals.

How attention and sound quality affect how well we understand and remember speech.
When speech is heard in the presence of background sound, or when hearing is impaired, the sensory information at the ear is often too ambiguous to support speech recognition by itself. In such circumstances, knowledge-guided processes that help to interpret and repair the degraded signal are required. Many of these processes appear to be effortful. Recent neuroimaging (fMRI) and behavioral work from my lab suggests that such processes are not generally recruited when degraded spoken sentences are not attended, even when those degraded sentences are of high acoustic quality and perfectly intelligible (when attended). In everyday life, people often hear speech while engaged in other attentionally demanding tasks such as driving. 

Our results suggest that even mildly degraded speech is not effectively processed under those conditions. Several imaging studies indicate that listening effort may reflect activity in the cognitive control network, which involves both anterior cingulate and bilateral insular cortical regions.  In addition to this common network, which appears to be recruited whenever listening conditions are challenging, our imaging work suggests further that different challenges to speech comprehension are met through a variety of cognitive, neuroanatomically distinguishable, mechanisms. Thus, listening effort may be most productively considered as an interaction between the perceptual, linguistic, or task challenges imposed by a listening situation, and the cognitive resources that the listener brings to bear. This framework allows us to cognitively and anatomically separate different processes, related to signal extraction, recovery and repair that may contribute to (or perhaps alleviate) listening effort.

Karolina Smeds, Ph.D., ORCA-EU, Widex A/S

Karolina has an MSc in Engineering physics and a PhD in Hearing Technology from Sweden and an MSc in Audiology from the UK. In 2001, she spent one year at NAL in Sydney as a part of her PhD, working on loudness aspects of the NAL prescription. 

She has been working as an engineer in a school for deaf children in Stockholm and she has been lecturing at the Audiology program at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Since 2006, Karolina is the Director of Widex external research laboratory ORCA Europe, based in Stockholm. 
The impact of auditory ecology on hearing aid design and testing
We want auditory rehabilitation using hearing aids to give the hearing-aid user the ability to participate without restrictions in all activities the individual selects. When developing hearing aids and evaluating their benefit, it is important to know as much as possible about the hearing-aid user’s auditory ecology. Widex has contributed with important work in this area, and two studies will be presented.

The first study investigated real-life signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) for live speech in a number of background noise types. An important result was that the informants (satisfied hearing-aid users) very seldom communicated in situations where the SNRs were below 0 dB. The results from the study are important when developing and evaluating hearing-aid features. Examples from the design of noise-reduction systems will be presented, and the problems with speech tests in realistic SNRs will be discussed.

The SNR study showed that situations with similar SNRs were described as varying in listening difficulty. In order to learn more about listening situations and auditory demand, a literature review was conducted. Everyday listening situations were extracted and a strong focus on context guided a classification of the listening situations into a conceptual framework, the Common Sound Scenarios. The framework will be presented and some applications for development, evaluation and fitting of hearing aids will be discussed.

Les Jones, Creative Director 

Les Jones is a creative director, photographer and magazine publisher. He has worked within the dental sector for the past six years helping dental practices become more commercial and creative in their approach to business, with a specific emphasis on marketing and brand development. Outside of the dental sector, Les publishes his own, one-man creative magazine called ‘Elsie’. Elsie is an eclectic magazine that, when launched in 2011 was voted 'one of the top ten new magazines in the world' by the prestigious New York Library Journal. 

From Bland to Brand - How to create a compelling brand for your practice
Creating a compelling brand for your audiology practice is critical in helping you to stand out in a competitive market. Yet, brand and branding is something that is often overlooked or left to chance in many practices. In this highly visual presentation, Les Jones will de-bunk some of the myths surrounding brand and provide a number of practical hints and tips that will help you to develop a distinctive brand for your practice. He will also talk about how brand can be used as a powerful management tool to improve team engagement and productivity. 
Finally, Les will show how you can bring your brand to life in the eyes of your customers through your website and marketing collateral.

Rasmus Houlind, Chief Strategy Officer, Agillic Ltd

Rasmus Houlind is best known for being the author of the best-selling book on omnichannel: “Make it all about me and I’ll buy it!” currently sold in more than 2000 copies in Scandinavia. His Omnichannel Hexagon model and the corresponding digital survey platform provides guidance and overview in a field that is ever challenging and changing and has been adopted by the Danish Chamber of Commerce as one of the guiding tools for Danish companies who want to put their customers first and create seamless customer experiences across channels to drive customer loyalty, ambassadorship and increased repeat purchases. 

He has more than 10 years of experience behind him working in digital agencies with clients such as; Tivoli, Matas, DONG Energy, FLSmidth, Interflora, Toyota, Flügger, OKQ8 and many more. Besides being a popular keynote speaker, he is currently the Chief Strategy Officer in the marketing automation company Agillic Ltd. He holds a master’s degree in Information Studies from Aarhus University where he graduated in 2005.
Make it all about the customer!
Omnichannel is about creating as many customer centric experiences with as few resources as possible. No matter where in their lives the customers are they should always feel that the communication they receive from your company is interesting and relevant. It’s about the desire for creating hyper personalized customer experiences across all physical and digital touchpoints while still keeping it lean, agile and effective. Companies want to have their cake and eat it too. In this talk Rasmus Houlind will take you through what it takes to work with omnichannel and how companies can move from the often bureaucratic and siloed states into collecting and using data in their communication and their services towards their customers.

Drawing upon his immense research and his book ”Make it all about me, and I’ll buy it!” he will unveil how the best companies in the world are working to achieve this and what difference this can potentially make for how hearing aid manufacturers and dispensers can get more customers, keep them happy and make them tell their friends about their good experience.

Dr. Robert Sweetow, Ph.D., University of California

Dr. Robert Sweetow is Professor Emeritus and former Director of Audiology at the University of California, San Francisco. He received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University, M.A. from the University of Southern California and B.S. from the University of Iowa. Dr. Sweetow has written twenty five textbook chapters and over 130 scientific articles. He is reviewer for several journals, author of Counselling for Hearing Aid Fittings and a former member of the Board of Directors of AAA. He was the co-developer of the LACE auditory training program.

Dr. Sweetow has been an invited lecturer at more than 300 meetings worldwide, and is a highly sought after speaker for his informative and entertaining style. His research interests include amplification, counseling, rehabilitation, neuroscience, and tinnitus. Dr. Sweetow was the recipient of the prestigious 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Academy of Audiology.