Wireless Systems Design

Wireless Link Enables Binaural Hearing Aid

Now that baby boomers are well on their way to retirement, the demand for hearing aids will surely begin heating up. About 80% of individuals with hearing loss would benefit from hearing aids in both ears rather than just one. Thanks to wireless technology from Siemens Hearing Instruments, an advanced binaural hearing system is now available to the 28 million Americans with hearing loss.

Siemens' Acuris system incorporates the company's ear-to-ear (e2e) wireless technology (SEE FIGURE). This technology enables the left and right hearing instruments to communicate with each other. They therefore function as one binaural hearing system. The pair of devices provides a level of synchronization that's never been possible in hearing aids. The e2e wireless technology, which is built into all Acuris systems, synchronizes the system's advanced digital signal processing and wearer controls.

Until now, individuals wore two hearing instruments that functioned independently of each other. Acuris is the first truly binaural hearing system. The two instruments communicate and exchange vital information to optimize instrument settings for the wearer's listening environment.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, hearing sounds with both ears—called binaural listening—is superior to monaural (one-eared) listening. The Acuris system's synchronous binaural-hearing instruments give the wearer improved hearing performance. This performance translates into better sound quality, localization ability, and speech understanding.

Unlike independently operated hearing instruments, Acuris' e2e wireless technology controls the processing between the left and right hearing instrument to deliver the benefits of binaural hearing. This technology enables the instruments to exchange vital information about the wearer's noise surroundings. They can automatically adjust for optimal hearing in any situation. Alternatively, synchronized controls allow wearers to adjust the volume or program for both ears with a single adjustment to only one instrument. For In-the-Ear models, this option enables the manufacture of smaller instruments. Volume and program controls can then be separated between the two instruments.

Impressively, the instruments automatically transition between omnidirectional and directional microphone modes as appropriate. Their multichannel adaptive microphones allow for the independent attenuation of up to four different noise sources simultaneously. The microphones identify noise in the following frequency bands: 0 to 350 Hz, 350 to 800 Hz, 800 to 2800 Hz, and 2800 to 8000 Hz. A feedback-cancellation system continuously adapts to avoid the perception of whistling. At the same time, it accurately distinguishes between internal and external signals. It can therefore avoid any inappropriate reduction of environmental sounds.

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