With the introduction of two new digital signal processors (DSPs) integrating advanced sound processing functions, On Semiconductor is taking another step in the march to lower-cost manufacturing of both high-end and entry-level hearing aids.
The new members of the company’s Rhythm family of preconfigured DSP systems for hearing aids integrate 16-channel sound processing with features such as on-chip noise reduction and feedback cancellation.
By meeting two of the most important requirements of hearing aid designers — high-performance processing and low power consumption — the new platforms will make it easier for developers to design and manufacture more powerful and feature-rich hearing aids at lower costs.
- The high-end Rhythm R3920 features 16-channels of wide dynamic range compression (WDRC) and includes an iSceneDetect algorithm enabling the hearing aid to discern various sound environments and automatically select the most appropriate program mode. An impulse noise reduction monitors and attenuates sharp, impulsive noises such as clattering dishes that are otherwise uncomfortable for hearing aid users. The R3920 can use the same shells, schematics and designs as the existing R3910 eight-channel DSP from ON Semiconductor, enabling the company’s existing customers get product to market more quickly and at lower costs.
- The Rhythm R3110 is a lower cost platform with built-in functionality exceeding that of many current entry-level hearing aids. It brings new features such as noise reduction and feedback cancelation to the entry-level market sector with a turnkey solution that does not require computer fitting or extensive infrastructure. With a pre-fit set of audiology parameters, it lessens the need for software tools and training, simplifying the deployment process for hearing aid developers and distributors. A number of modes can be configured, such as single or dual-microphone, tinnitus masking, or telecoil.
“These products will provide manufacturers with the ability to address additional markets and meet the specific needs of more hearing aid users,” said Michel De Mey, senior director, hearing solutions and consumer health at ON Semiconductor.
Hearing aid manufacturers have come to expect steadily lower costs and higher performance from suppliers of digital components, which has led to an average selling price of hearing aids that has remained relatively flat in spite of rising unit sales.
More significant than the lower-cost digital processing is the fact that On Semiconductor is integrating features into its chip sets that should reduce the investment required by manufacturers attempting to deliver full-function hearing aids at more affordable prices. In the past, the Big Six hearing aid manufacturers who continue to account for more than 80 percent of global hearing aid sales did much of this design work on their own, developing advanced, proprietary features and functions that were expensive for new market entrants to replicate.
Now, DSP suppliers like On Semiconductor are lowering the barriers to new manufacturers entering the hearing business by bundling more advanced features into their chip-set platforms. The results should be continued expansion of the number of manufacturers in the industry, with corresponding reduction in prices at the low- and mid-range of the market as the established manufacturers respond with more affordable product offerings of their own.
The good news for everyone in this scenario is that, with less than 30 percent saturation of even well developed markets, the hearing industry can expect to see continued increases in unit volumes making up for lower prices aimed at attracting users who previously couldn’t afford hearing aids.
The complete portfolio of hearing aid products from ON Semiconductor includes both programmable and preconfigured DSP systems, featuring high-precision sound, ultra-low power consumption, and wireless capability, to address the needs of all hearing aid manufacturers. For more information, visit www.onsemi.com/rhythm.