How are hearing aids made?

– [Bill] Hello Finn. – Hey, nice to meet you. – Good. I’m Bill. How are you doing? – Good. How are you? – I’m good. Welcome to Synova AODC. – All right. – Glad to have you here this afternoon. – Glad to be here. – Good. So I know a big part of your goal today is to get a little insight in what we do. How we make hearing aids and that. So, how about if we just start at the top? I’ll show you the place. – All right, let’s do it. – All right, let’s go. This is the beginning of the process. This is our receiving area. – All right. – So every morning we have Fed Ex and UPS who deliver all the
orders from audiologists they’ve been sending to us. So they’re dropping off like five thousand packages every morning. This is what we call order entry. They’re taking the information
that the audiologist has sent us for the order
and they’re entering it into our manufacturing
system; into our SAP system. That’s the software we
run our business on. This is what we’re getting sent. Is a set of ear impressions. You know about these guys. – [Finn] Oh yeah. – [Bill] Right. So this is the patient’s
impression that we’ve gotten for this particular order. The first step that we
would have in the process when it’s a new custom product, is we’re gonna scan those ear impressions. – Right. – So let’s take a look at scanning those. – Yeah. – At the scanning
station, what we’re doing is we’re taking those ear impressions and we’re putting them
into a digital scanner. So those two gray boxes
there are digital scanners. Translate that into data points and it’s gonna build on the screens. We’ll be able to watch it do that. It’s gonna build what
we call a point cloud. – So that basically removes the need for the physical mold already? – Once we scanned it, then we don’t need the physical mold after. – Okay. So it basically creates a blueprint. – Yes! Next step in the process would
be what we call modeling. The modeler is the
architect of that particular hearing aid or ear mold
for whatever they’re making that is the custom item. So they’re taking the scan. They’re taking all the order parameters that we’ve gotten in from whoever
placed that order with us. And then they’re gonna use
this 3D based CAD software to design everything. So they’re gonna place all
the electronic components. They’re gonna put in the
right venting, the right… – It’s got to take incredible skill to line it all up. – Absolutely. So once this process takes place, the next step for that order is to go to actual 3D printing so
let’s go take a look at that. We’re gonna kinda loop
around and go over here. So all these machines you see, the ones with the orange cones on them, or the tall black rectangular ones, these are 3D printers. Sitting right here you can
see there’s a kind of a tray. That’s a glass tray and it’s
filled with liquid acrylic. Then there’s a little armature there and you see the thing
that looks like a tray? You’re kind of holding a tray like this. That’s the build platform where we’re actually gonna print the shells on. When a print run is
done, now these are just sort of dummy test ones, but
this is what it looks like when they come out. So that’s what’s been
printed by the 3D printer. And so Finn, I’m gonna
show you how we make our BTE ear molds, the ones
that are soft materials. We first use the 3D
printer to build a cast. So that’s the shape of that person’s ear. It’s just like you’re gonna build a shell. And then what the technician’s gonna do is gonna take the silicone pump and they’re gonna pump soft
silicone material into that. The next step in the process
is gonna be just like cracking a hard boiled egg. They’re gonna essentially
crack away the outer shell. (snapping sound) And then what will be
left is the silicone, finished silicone ear mold. (snapping sound) So if we want it to be multi colored we have to inject a little purple, a little of this, a little of that. If we want to make one with glitter, the technicians literally
have to spoon glitter in there and kind of
mix it in and all that. – It’s really interesting to see the difference in like the one 3d print to the other one. You have to fill it with mold. – The next step in the process is we have to put a serial
number on them, right? Because we have to be
able to identify them. The way we get the serial
number on to the product is by using these lasers. You can take a closer look. – [Finn] Yeah. – [Bill] And you can see that’s now been, the serial number is put into the system. – [Finn] That’s exactly how mine look now. – [Bill] Yeah. After this step in the
process all these yellow bins you see on the shelves,
those are all filled with hearing aid parts. So, microphones and
receivers and face plates and all kinds of different things. And then each order is
gonna take a stop here because what we’re gonna
do is pick the parts that need to be put in with that order as it flows through so that when it gets to the technician that’s
actually gonna work on it, they have all the parts and pieces. When it comes to the rix and the btes, as I said, we don’t manufacture them from scratch here but
we do final assembly. So we get all the parts
and pieces in little bags. You see all the stuff in the trays? – [Finn] Yeah. – [Bill] The little screws, the little… Just all the various parts
and pieces that are in there. And what our technicians will do is simply put all that stuff together. All right. So we’re gonna go back over
and we’re gonna kind of start following the path of how we would finish building a custom hearing aid. – Right. – The first step when it comes to that is what she just took out of the, that little protective envelope, we call a face plate. So see how all the electronics
are on the back of that? – [Finn] Yeah. – We call it a face plate
because that’s the part you’re gonna see sticking out of your ear. – Yeah. – That face plate gets
loaded in just a minute here, into this laser. So you see how that’s perforated now? – Yeah. – So that’s where the
laser cut the exact shape and it stays in the round,
the rest of the face plate until it gets to the technician
that’s gonna work on it. And then they’re just gonna pop it out and it’ll be ready to go. So the next step in the
process is going to be what we call wiring. These technicians are now
going to solder components on or off depending on what
that particular order needs. – I could never do it. – You and me both. This is, you need the
hand/eye coordination. You need patience. The next step in the
process we call closing. So closing means the face
plate with all the electronics is gonna be mated up with the shell and everything is gonna be, that face plate is gonna
be glued on to that shell. Everything will be fit inside. They’ll add receiver
tubing and vent tubing and attach everything into place. So you’ll notice everybody’s got something that look like a stethoscope
around their ears. So they’re all doing a listening check. They wanna make sure that
they’re always listening to it to know whether
or not what they did, did it do anything to kill it, right. – Yeah. – To short it out or anything. – Is that something that
happens often, or not really? – Not too often. But that’s part of our quality
control all along the way. – Yeah. – Then we get to two cosmetic steps. So this area we call like
the sign says up there, cut room and sand. So what these technicians are doing is they’re starting to do cosmetic work. They’re buffing the shell. They’re making sure
where we glued that shell and face plate together that it has the right bevel angle on it so
that it’s gonna fit well and it’ll look good that way. Every product that’s
gonna be built that’s new is gonna have a coating of
clear lacquer put on it. So that’s what is gonna be done here. Now we have a finished product. But it has to go through
quality control checks. So we have two formal
steps of quality control. The first step we call
listening and visual. So every one of these hearing aids now is gonna get an individual inspection. They’re gonna to a listening check. You can see now that she’d
gonna look at everything. Does it look good? Does it work right? Check the battery compartment. Does it open and close? So what we’re seeing here, this is electro acoustic testing. So when a hearing aid is
finished we have to make sure that it’s working now
electrically, acoustically. It’s getting the right gain. The right output. The right frequency response. All of that stuff. So these test boxes are used to do that. Test boxes are gonna generate
a bunch of different signals. And it’s gonna test back
for amount of distortion, frequency response,
gain, output, et cetera. And all that happens automatically. If that hearing aid passes this test it’ll automatically get programmed with the audiogram of that patient. – Okay. – So when I say it’ll get programmed, it’ll do a first fit. It’s gonna set the original
parameters per gain, alpha frequency response. Right now, before we send it back out to the office that ordered it. If it fails here, right,
because this is quality control, so if it fails we don’t
want it to move forward. – Yeah. – So it will automatically lock it out from the next step. – Oh wow. – It won’t let it move forward. And then we gotta send it back up line and they have to figure
out why did it fail. What’s wrong with it? So. This is the first place, although the door just got opened for us,
this is the first place that we come through where
something’s been locked away. And the reason why we have to do that is because in this place, you
can see all around you, this is where we keep all the parts. The pieces. All the finished goods. So everything in here are
finished hearing aids, accessory items, all that stuff. Most of this we’ve taken
in from our other factory. After we would final fill these orders and get all the things like user guides and all the other parts
and pieces in there, we actually have a little bit of high tech equipment that helps us in our shipping process. We feed a box into the conveyor belt. What happens is, it comes by this printer and the printer puts a bar
code on the box, right. That box rides up to
the top of the conveyor. This is what we would
call a packing station. So finished orders are gonna be brought up to the packing station. And what these guys are gonna do is they’re gonna take the order, they’re gonna pack it up. They’re gonna add
Tootsie Rolls to the box. Did you know about that? – No. I’ve never gotten Tootsie Rolls. – Okay. Then you wouldn’t necessarily
get them directly. – It’s just a tradition for us. Kind of a fun, nice little thing. We throw a couple of
Tootsie Rolls in the box. And then that box is sealed and it’s placed on the
bottom of the conveyor. And if we watch this one come by and it’s gonna read the
bar code on that box. And then it’s gonna move it forward. And then it’s gonna
automatically print the label that’s needed on that box to ship it out. And then that box, if we
quickly look over here, if you watch, there’s
gonna be panels in there that are gonna kick it
into one side or the other. This one’ll kick down here. And this side is for shipping by UPS. The other side is for shipping by Fed Ex. And then all day long as those
boxes are finished packing, all these blue bins that you see here are getting filled up with those boxes. And then our good friends
from Fed Ex and UPS, they’re here all afternoon,
just like you see that gentleman doing. He’s grabbing the boxes. Scanning them. So that now they can take them. Put them on their trucks
and send them on their way. So that’s kind of… – Life of a hearing aid. – Life of a hearing aid. – Before we get there,
how long does it take for a hearing aid to come
through this whole process? – Oh that’s a great question. So we call that turn around time. How long does it do it? On average, because if you think about it, we’re not just working on one hearing aid at any one time, but we
would tell our customers, our audiologists, it takes about two days to turn around a hearing
aid from start to finish. Sometimes people ask
the question this way: If we were only gonna
work on one hearing aid, right the whole place was just
focused on one hearing aid, how long would that take to get that from start to finish? That process would be
somewhere around three hours. If you think about by the time you model, print the shell, do all those things, we would be able to move one through, if it was just one, in about three hours. – [Finn] Thank you so much for the tour. It was wonderful. – Finn, I loved having you here because you’re interested and
I know it effects your life but you ask some of the better questions anyone’s has ever asked me. So it’s cool that you were really into it. – Thank you very much. I can’t believe… It’s just an awesome experience to see this is the plant where
my hearing aid came from. These are the people that
may helped change my life. – I tell you what, we’re
glad we’re part of that. So thank you! – Thank you very much! – Thanks for your time. – Have a good day. – You take care.