case story | oticon 'delta'


Background and brief

4 in 5 people who need a hearing aid won't use one. One important reason is the stigma attached to hearing loss - people are afraid their surroundings will regard them as slightly dim, and there's a sense that hearing aids signal age and thus decay.

Oticon wanted to address this classic issue in a new type of hearing device aimed initially at first-time users. It was to distance itself significantly from traditional hearing aids, while also being as small and discreet as possible. This would partly be facilitated by moving the speaker out of the main unit and placing it directly in the ear.


I set out with a few main ambitions for the project:

  • A physical configuration which would comply with the general anatomy of the outer ear, and thus be discreet and well-fitting.
  • A design expression which would not relate recognizably to any traditional hearing aids as we know them today, in an effort to avoid the sense of stigmatization or handicap in users.
  • An air of a modern hi-tech device, more akin to music earphones or mobile phone accessories.  A fashionable "sensory-assistive accessory" comparable in status or general regard to eyeglasses.
  • An idea that the device could have associations to certain types of jewelry such as earrings or gemstones, so as to instill a sense of great value - although it was very important to maintain a unisex aspect.
  • And of course it was vital that the functionality of the device should be fully supported and indeed complemented by the design.

Process and solution

The process involved extensive sketching and modelling, supported by studies of the anatomy of the outer ear.  Testing was carried out on different people's ears, and the feedback processed. This resulted in the presentation of 4 distinct concepts, of which Tiger-tooth (as the concept was initially called) was selected for further development.

The triangular shape presented a practical way of arranging the indivdual components and circuitry ideally from a technical point of view, as well as minimizing the device for discreetness, in relation to the anatomy of the ear. 

Specifically, the construction idea is a novel concept in which a core unit is enveloped by a "protective" shell, which we have referred to during the development process as the "Taco shell", due to its shape.

Initially, to underscore this concept, the shell was to be distinct from the core, its contents, in that it should have its own color, surface and sheen.  The core unit would remain the same universal color and texture, whereas the shell could be envisioned in as interchangeable, with a multitude of available colors, allowing for personalization.

The basic color, Champagne, was an effort to create a discreet skin tone without the prosthetic associations of the standard Beige.  The metallic sheen lent the shell a more valuable feel, accenting  the shape with its lustre.

The shape of Delta is characterized by taut curves and surfaces.  The shell's lines, colors and surface take their cue from the field of automobile design as much as anything else, again placing the device firmly away from traditional handicap devices or prosthetics, creating an object that's desirable rather than just a necessary evil.


Aside from winning a string of industry awards, Delta has succeeded in attracting a great number of both old and new users, previously unimpressed with the thought of wearing a hearing aid.

Overwhelmingly, reactions have been very positive, with regards to Delta's design and form factor as well as to the actual functionality of the device. Sales have greatly exceeded expectations, and dispensers report that getting devices over the counter has become a lot simpler with the introduction of Oticon Delta.

The Client

Oticon is one of the largest hearing device manufacturers in the world, founded in 1904 by Hans Demant. The company is a subsidiary of the William Demant Holding Group and consists of a global network of sister companies and agencies to ensure the distribution of hearing devices in over 100 countries.

Mr. Demant was driven by a profound desire to help his hard-of hearing wife and others lead a better life - a humanistic philosophy that is still the core of Oticon's mission. A focus on the individual needs and wishes of hard-of-hearing people drives the development of cutting edge technology, systems and solutions.