Phonak has introduced new Quest sound processing software to take further advantage of the wireless communication capabilities of its high-end hearing aids, with new algorithms that make it easier to hear in noise, on the telephone, in crowded rooms, in situations where the speaker is off to one side or behind the listener, and in wind. Initially available in its new Phonak Bolero Q and Virto Q hearing aid families introduced this week at the EUHA Congress in Frankfurt, the company claims its “Binaural VoiceStream Technology” automatically delivers up to 45 percent improvement in speech intelligibility in certain challenging listening environments.
According to a technical paper on VoiceStream technology published by Phonak, the new algorithms enhance the wireless collaboration between two hearing aids, which make joint decisions on where to aim their directional microphones, on which background noises to suppress, and on how to amplify telephone signals that flow directly into both hearing aids.
According to Phonak, the Binaural VoiceStream Technology delivers four distinct benefits:
- Better speech comprehension in groups: when the listener is facing the speaker in a group, Phonak’s proprietary StereoZoom feature combines the signals of the dual-microphone systems in the right and left hearing aids via a wireless link and then processes them in a way that automatically enhances the speaker’s voice and reduces the noise created by others in the crowd.
- Better speech comprehension in noise: when the listener is not facing the speaker and there is environmental noise to contend with, Phonak’s automatic ZoomControl technology automatically adjusts the amplification in the two hearing aids so that the closer one picks up the speaker’s voice and the other suppresses unwanted noise. For instance, the driver of a car who needs to keep his or her eyes on the road wants the ear closer to the passengers to process their voices while the other ear suppresses road noise.
- Hearing phone calls in noisy environments: Phonak’s DuoPhone feature enables both hearing aids to automatically pick up the signal coming from a single phone, while adjusting and balancing the amplification of each to provide a optimum understanding of the conversation.
- Reducing wind noise: Wind can create havoc for many hearing aid users, creating a rushing noise that overwhelms any other wanted sounds. Phonak’s new Speech in Wind function improves the hearing-aid’s ability to detect and suppress wind noise while continuing to amplify speech signals.
Phonak said the 3 decibel improvement in signal-to-noise ratio delivered by the auto StereoZoom feature results in an improvement in speech intelligibility of up to 45 percent, while the Speech in Wind function has delivered measurable improvements in speech intelligibility of up to 40 percent.
The Quest technology capabilities initially are available with the new Bolero Q and Virto Q hearing aid families. But if Phonak follows past practice, over time it will upgrade many members of its other hearing aid families with the same enhancements.