Best in Category - Product Design 2018


Blamey Saunders Hears

Facett is the world’s first modular hearing aid. Co-designed with hearing aid users, it significantly reduces barriers preventing millions of Australian adults from seeking a hearing solution.

Facett is divided into two components. The core is the brain and contains the settings. The disconnectable magnetised module contains a rechargeable battery.

Everything clicks easily into place, simplifying daily maintenance tasks—especially for people with low vision and dexterity. Modularity also enables inexpensive technology upgrades.

Facett’s aesthetics turn a commonly stigmatised medical device into a precious personal artifact, like jewellery, in order to encourage crucial early hearing aid uptake.

Design Excellence

One in five Australian adults with hearing loss risks secondary complications by not using hearing aids. Barriers include technically complicated and unattractive devices and associations with old age.

Facett shifts perceptions of hearing aids from disability to desirability and is easy to use.

Trial participants with low dexterity were able to change Facett’s modular batteries without assistance. Dr Elisabeth Banks commented, “I thought I’d never be able to replace batteries myself.”

Facett’s elegant form, inspired by crystals in Melbourne Museum, fosters an emotional connection, destigmatising hearing aids and lowering resistance for new users. Trial participants reported feeling “deaf pride”.

Design Impact

Facett is positioned to reduce the global burden of hearing loss. It encourages hearing aid usage, potentially saving individuals $9280 a year in wellbeing costs (ACCESS Economics, 2017).

Ordinary hearing aids require 6-8 batteries monthly—97% go to landfill. Facett slows environmental degradation with fully-recyclable batteries that last for 400+ charges.

Designing and manufacturing Facett in Melbourne reduces cost-per-device by 36%, a saving passed to customers with a competitively low price point in line with Blamey Saunders hears’ (BSh) mission to increase hearing aid accessibility.

Owning Facett’s intellectual property allows market share to expand internationally, potentially helping millions remain socially engaged.

Design Transformation

Facett is the latest professionally designed BSh innovation that increases hearing aid usage.

The first Melbourne manufactured hearing aid, it provides BSh full control of its lifecycle. This creates a nimble business model enabling responsiveness to product feedback and technology trends.

Following the publicity surrounding its launch, BSh received unsolicited resumes from leading designers and biomedical innovators, and was approached by independent bodies seeking international licensing agreements.

Facett’s cross-disciplinary design process created a unique relationship with the Arts sector (Facett is in Museum Victoria’s state exhibition), raising BSh’s profile and highlighting the importance of human-centred design to medical device uptake.

Hearing aids have remained unchanged for decades. Facett addresses persistent usability flaws, and evolved through a unique cross-disciplinary collaboration.

A designer worked closely with engineers and audiologists, and hearing aid users were consulted to understand the emotional experience of relying on a medical device. The challenge was to bypass attitudes towards hearing aids among an audience reluctant to reveal ageing signals.

Design Innovation

We also had to ensure modules were magnetically strong while easy to manipulate for those with limited dexterity. Over 130 iterative 3D-printed prototypes were used to ensure ergonomic fit, ease of use and mechanical functionality.

Other Key Features

Facett’s unique modular form addresses multiple user concerns.

  • Facett helps users connect more easily to our award-winning IHearYou® system to make setting adjustments using a smartphone, tablet or Windows computer—no audiologist required.
  • Ordinary hearing aids become obsolete every 3-5 years. Facett users can upgrade with interchangeable modules that future-proof the design.
  • Facett is the only rechargeable hearing aid that can be used while a battery is charging. Drained modules can be swapped for a charged backup pair in seconds.
  • Facett is stored in Pod, a convenient portable charging device that simultaneously wicks away moisture.

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