Solving The ‘Cocktail Party’ Challenge Of Enhancing Speech In Noise

Here’s something I’ve been waiting for — a sound processing algorithm promising to isolate speech in noise and, once and for all, solve the “cocktail party” problem for hearing aid wearers.

A team of researchers at Ohio State University has developed a new algorithm that identifies speech-based sound waves in noisy environments and eliminates other noise, and they claim to be delivering dramatic results in tests with hearing-aid users.

The results include improvements in speech comprehension in noise by test subjects who scored only 25 percent without the new algorithm but up to 85 percent with it.

If the results hold up and the algorithm can be successfully integrated into the DSP-based sound processing systems of high-end hearing aids, the team led by Ohio State Professors Eric Healy and DeLiang “Leon” Wang may have solved the biggest problem people with hearing loss face — understanding what other people say in noisy environments. [Read more…]

Phonak’s Wireless Hearing Aid Peripherals Aid Comprehension

Phonak’s new “Roger” wireless hearing aid peripherals make it easier to understand conversations in noisy environments, hear the TV and stereo, and communicate more effectively on both mobile and landline phones. Taken together, the new products comprise a wireless ecosystem for Phonak hearing aid users. By transforming hearing aids into connected, multi-function communications devices, they enable users to hear well in a range of challenging listening environments where hearing and comprehension previously were impossible.

Phonak Roger Wireless Hearing Aid Peripherals

Phonak’s new Roger wireless hearing aid peripherals (top row), improve substantially upon Phonak’s first-generation peripherals (bottom row). (Source: Phonak EUHA Analyst Presentation, October 2013)

Based on a new digital signal processing chip set and proprietary 2.4 GHz digital transmission technology, the Phonak wireless devices promise substantial new benefits for hearing-aid users, especially those with severe hearing loss.

Introduced at the EUHA hearing industry conference this past week in Nuremberg, Germany, the Roger wireless devices include: [Read more…]

ReSound LiNX Wireless Hearing Aid Pushes Power And Performance Envelope

ReSound Smart App

ReSound’s Smart App lets you control your LiNX hearing aids with your iPhone

GN ReSound’s new LiNX hearing aid isn’t just the world’s first “Made for iPhone Hearing Aid.” It’s also a high-tech system that pushes the performance envelope by fitting more processing power and communication power into its smallest receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid.

LiNX is the latest shoe to drop in a steady progression of technology-driven product introductions from the Denmark company that started in 2010 with the ReSound Alera platform. Alera debuted the sophisticated ReSound Surround Sound digital signal processing software while setting new standards for wireless connectivity to voice and audio sources.

In 2012 ReSound progressed to more power and functionality with the ReSound Verso family, which introduced direct ear-to-ear communication between its hearing aids, enabling automated balancing of directional sound as listening environments changed.

Linx takes two more significant steps forward. [Read more…]

GN ReSound Introduces World’s First ‘Made for iPhone Hearing Aid’

It took a while, but “Made for iPhone Hearing Aids” have finally made it to market with GN ReSound´s introduction today of its new LiNX(tm) hearing aid family. Will the marriage of smartphones and hearing aids jump-start more rapid growth in the global hearing-aid industry?

With ReSound LiNX hearing aids, users will be able to stream phone conversations, music and other audio directly from their iPhones and iPods into their hearing aids. Other high-tech hearing aids provide Bluetooth streaming from mobile phones, but most require a third streaming device, usually worn around the neck, that receives the signals and transmits them to the hearing aids.

The new ReSound Linx technology, based on a new ReSound smartRange chipset and its own third-generation 2.4 GHz low-power wireless technology, eliminates the intermediary streaming device, overcoming a major obstacle to user acceptance of smartphone/hearing aid integration.

Apple signaled more than a year ago that it intended to provide seamless links from its iPhones and iPods to hearing aids, providing an application programming interface (API) for hearing aid manufacturers to tie their new hearing aids directly to Apple´s sizzling-hot mobile phones. [Read more…]

hiHealthInnovations Offers Discount On Direct-To-Consumer Hearing Aids

UnitedHealthCare is offering discounts on prescription hearing aids from its hi HealthInnovations subsidiary for customers enrolled in its vision benefit plans.

Prices for custom-programmed hearing aids start at $649 each under the discount plan, whereas hi HealthInnovations retail hearing aids start at $749. UnitedHealthcare plan participants and consumers interested in purchasing a hearing aid  can ask a health care provider such as a primary care physicians, audiologist or licensed hearing-aid fitter, for a hearing test. The audiogram results are submitted to hi HealthInnovations, which programs the hearing aids for each individual’s specific hearing loss. Consumers can have the device sent directly to their residence or be fitted in-person. [Read more…]

New Starkey 3 Series Family Packs More Punch Into Its Smallest-Ever Custom Wireless Hearing Aids

Starkey 3 Series Hearing Aids

Starkey’s New 3 Series Family Includes Its Smallest Custom Wireless Hearing Aids

With the introduction of its new Starkey 3 Series hearing aids, Starkey Hearing Technologies has packed more power into its smallest custom wireless hearing aids.

The completely-in-canal (CIC), in-the-canal (ITC) and in-the-ear (ITE) models in the family all feature binaural wireless communication between left and right hearing aids. They also utilize Starkey’s BluWave 3.0 sound processing software and are compatible with Starkey’s SurfLink Mobile device for media streaming and phone conversations.

The 3 Series family also includes four behind-the-ear (BTE) models, with two receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) models, a mini-BTE and a more powerful BTE-13 model.

By integrating its new sound processing technology, binaural wireless features and compatibility with wireless assistive listening peripherals into its smallest-ever custom wireless hearing aids, Starkey has strengthened its competitive position against the handful of other premium-brand hearing aid suppliers integrating leading edge technologies into their new products.  [Read more…]

MDHearingAid Disrupts Affordable Hearing Aid Market By Adding T-Coils To Its New ‘Air’ Product Line

MDHearingAid Air

MDHearingAid Air Is The First Affordable Internet Hearing Aid To Integrate T-Coils Making It Easier To Use The Phone

MDHearingAid has raised the performance bar in the market for affordable hearing aids sold over the internet by introducing a model integrating telecoils to make it easier to use the hearing aids with a phone.

The MDHearingAid Air, at $349.99 per hearing aid, is the first entry-level internet hearing aid to provide t-coil functionality. And for a limited time, the company is making an introductory offer of two Air hearing aid for $599, a combined saving of more than $100.

It’s important news for the hearing aid industry. Like a lot of markets where early established players invested a lot of money developing expensive new technologies, young competitors in the hearing aid business are now entering with less expensive entry-level products that they constantly improve by adding new features at lower costs. The result is more competition and technology-driven disruption of an industry where growth had leveled off and innovation at the entry level of the market had stalled. [Read more…]

Take It From The Hearing Aid Makers: Without Great Design, ‘Wearable Computing’ Products Will Go Nowhere

Google Glass Prototype

Google Glass prototype looks slick, but users have said the early designs may be too big, bulky and nerdy to catch on

Google is stoking up the PR for Google Glass, its still-in-development “wearable computing” project that will let you view the web all day long through a tiny computer monitor attached to a pair of high-tech eyeglasses. But like many other tech companies that try to make consumer products, Google is struggling mightily in the design department. It’s time they took a  closer look at the world’s first wearable computers, hearing aids.

In spite of Google founder Sergei Brin bending Diane von Furstenberg’s arm to have her models wear them on the runway, the reviews of the early versions of Google Glass are in, and they are not promising. The consensus among everyone from Seventh Avenue fashionistas to pork pie hat-wearing hipsters is that they are too big, too unattractive and simply too, um, geeky to become anyone’s next big thing.

Google and other companies developing wearable computing devices (including, no surprise, Apple) should talk to Stuart Karten, who designed Starkey’s award-winning S-Series hearing aid, or the marketing team at Phonak, which has been pushing the envelope on edgy hearing-aid marketing for years. While the hearing aid industry hasn’t cracked the code on making their products cool consumer items, they’ve come light years from where they used to be. [Read more…]