Making Hearing more Accessible


Lead Product Designer
We took a patient-centric approach to acquire and adopt a hearing aid, which enhanced the patient's experience and transition. Based on our XD output, we provided detailed specifications for development & implementation and supported the Sonova team with the execution and implementation of the experience.

Sonova specializes in hearing care solutions (hearing instruments, cochlear implants, wireless communication solutions). It is one of the largest providers in the sector worldwide.

The Challenge

Legislators have passed the OTC Hearing Aid Act in 2018, which requires the FDA to create an OTC hearing aid category for adults with “perceived” mild-to-moderate hearing loss. This must happen within 3 years of legislation being passed but may arrive sooner than that. Sonova is developing Project California, which will be a part of the overall OTC offering for the organization. Building upon the existing customer, HCP and competitive research, Sonova is looking to design the experience. To exceed expectations, the Project California customer experience must be “best in class.”


Identify design needs and understand the project landscape. Propose a process and methodologies.
Collect existing inputs and gather additional input to fill knowledge gaps.
Evaluate inputs to derive key insights for design direction.
Vision, concept and align on solutions.
Create wireframes and visual assets as needed to begin validation.
Test early and often with users to validate concepts and assumptions
Iterate based on feedback. Dive deeper into the nuances of the design.
Build out design and support development as needed. Track progress.


OTC's Impact on the Hearing Aid Industry

While most interviewees believe that OTC will disrupt the industry, many feel that it will be a gradual shift as opposed to an overnight realization. All agree that there will be a combination of preservation of existing market share and creation of a new market segment. The key points of disruption discussed included new competition, new consumer segment(s), the minimized role of the audiologist and new channels including Amazon and mass retail.
Impact to the experience design: Strike a balance between self-service (Amazon, mass retail) and continued partnership with audiologists with a new OTC reality that can evolve / ebb and flow over time. Even if OTC does not take-off, Sonova must put out a strong product and experience to compete against the competition.

Empathizing with Stigmas

The ear is the most neglected health organ, when issues arise people often decide to wait for years before getting help. Much of this is attributed to the stigmas associated with Hearing Loss.  

Impact to the experience design: Throughout the XD consider the key sources of stigma. Age, Desirability, Professional Induced Stigma are a few of the types of stigma that need to be addressed.


Competitive Analysis

First-hand review and comparison of standard features, and unique, or differentiating features. Conclusions are subjective and scored across the following key dimensions: ease of use, features, and user experience.
Centralized ecosystem: all core features (including remote support) are within the Smart 3D app.
Interface: a good variety of features wrapped in an easy to use interface; feels premium.
Support for smartwatches while niche, reinforces leader in connectivity.
Allowing users to customize certain device parameters for personal preference (noise reduction, width of beamformer).
Automatic detection of programs/Siri-integration provide additional user control  Support materials guide user through interface with easy-to-follow animations.
Find my Hearing Aids feature appears to be a standardized feature.
Screening questions when submitting remote fitting requests are necessary for asynchronous systems, but could be leveraged to ‘pre-screen’ our live appointment-driven fittings.
Centralized ecosystem: all core features (including remote support) are within the On app.
Very simple, clean interface with a balance of controls/data and simplicity; feels premiumHearing.
Fitness provides a digestible level of data, which both engages consumer while not overwhelming them (there is a very unique balance to Oticon’s approach)
Upcoming Kaizn and Sound Level provide additional insights to consumer; will reinforce and demonstrate the processing occurring within hearing aids.
Find my Hearing Aids feature appears to be a standardized feature.
Consumer data is presented in a digestible format that reveals key insights around behaviours, and environment (the social engagement measurement is particularly unique and only recently rivaled by Starkey’s ‘engagement scores’). They are also marketed as a supplementary tool during counselling.
Remote fitting marketing: despite living in secondary app, myHearing, a variety of education tools are made available to consumer (see supporting Teleaudiology benchmark for additional details).
Interface is fairly straight-forward and feels fairly premium.
Find my Hearing Aids feature appears to be a standardized feature.
Adaptive streaming volume will adjust volume of streamed content relative to current environmental volume.
While it appears motion sensor feature has not garnered much interest, it is a novel use case.

Feature Summary



First-hand review and comparison of standard features, and unique, or differentiating features. Conclusions are subjective and scored across the following key dimensions: ease of use, features, and user experience.

Task Prioritization

Journey Map

Jobs to Be Done

Design Principles

Render & Engage

Formative Testing (Learning)

Developed multiple App maps and associated screens/prototypes to test with our user base:
Hallway Testing (4 participants) Physical Fit Testing (5 participants) Design Critique (2 Senior UX designers) Audiology Review (3 participants) Forming Wire Testing

Information Architecture
App Map
Onboarding Flow
Remote Access Flow

Tested Experiences

Key Study Goals
Do the physical fit screens enable users to successfully place their hearing aids?
How do users respond to the Check fit screens?
Do users find the tips helpful?
N= 15

Placement Screen

Key Insights
There is too much information - Compact steps down to 3 - 5.
Checkmarks are interpreted as interactive elements - change checkmarks to numbers.
Steps are expected to line up with the video - ensure video and steps are consistent is directions, steps and language.
Video and text are both useful prompts - keep video and text steps.
One user overlooked the context for the "check fit" following step - change the button CTA from "Next" to "Check Placement" to provide visual scent

Check Fit - Look

Key Insights
Users were confused by the options - switch responses to binary options that are consistent.
Users would prefer a picture to compare to - consider using an example image. When checking for fit, front and side were acknowledged - consider cues when to check from front or side

Check Fit - Feel

Key Insights
Users prefer 2 binary options - streamline questions to use binary responses.
Selfie mode is distracting for "feel" - remove selfie mode

Check Fit – Not Yet

Key Insights
Help prompts are repetitive and could cause confusion - streamline help to the 3 main issues.
Drilling into help details blocks the workflow - change details to expanding elements instead of a new page.
No quick/direct access to help - add in "other" prompt to connect to support.
The "Next" button was perceived as disabled - ensure secondary button looks tapabble.
Multiple domes aren't introduced until now - mention multiple domes in the "About" page

Adjust & Make

Additional Findings

Placement - remind users which is left/right during placement
Placement - Users don't know if they are supposed to put both hearing aids on
Placement - Disabled "Next" button causes moment of confusion
Bluetooth - the steps were read but could be made a bit clearer to avoid users skipping over them
Prompt to move to a quiet place was overlooked
Educate users on how to use the control as a separate step

Information Architecture

Setup Experience
Connection Experience
Placement Experience
Calibration Experience

Currently we are conducting Omni-testing from online purchase, unboxing the device, and to app experience.

Work inquiry, question or something else?

Contact me at    |   +1 647 400 2082