BRIEFS | Information Please | January 2014 HR

Siemens Hearing Aid Remote and App Gain Honors at 2014 CES Siemens Exploded

Siemens Hearing Instruments, Piscataway, NJ, has announced that the company’s miniTek® and miniTek® Remote App were named a 2014 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Honoree by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®), producer of the International CES trade show.

The Siemens products were honored in the “Accessible and Universal Design” category for demonstrating ease-of-use and accessibility to consumers, including seniors and people with disabilities, and were judged by a preeminent panel of independent industrial designers, engineers, and members of the consumer electronics trade media for outstanding design and engineering. The Siemens miniTek is a combined streamer and remote control designed to connect hearing aids to phones, television, music, and other audio devices simultaneously via Bluetooth® and other wireless technologies. With the miniTek App, wearers have full access to all the features of the miniTek, allowing them to discreetly adjust their hearing aids’ volume, switch audio sources, select a preferred listening environment, and even see a visual display of their hearing aids’ status—right from their Android device.

New Hearing in Noise Algorithm Turning Heads Wang08-3 e healy

Computer engineers and hearing scientists at Ohio State have reportedly made a potential breakthrough in how to help the hearing-impaired understand speech in the midst of background noise.

In the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, they describe how they used the latest developments in neural networks to boost test subjects’ recognition of spoken words from as low as 10% to as high as 90%. The researchers hope the technology will pave the way for next-generation digital hearing aids. Such hearing aids could even reside inside smartphones; the phones would do the computer processing, and broadcast the enhanced signal to ultra-small earpieces wirelessly.

“Focusing on what one person is saying and ignoring the rest is something that normal-hearing listeners are very good at, and hearing-impaired listeners are very bad at,” explained Eric Healy, PhD, professor of speech and hearing science and director of Ohio State’s Speech Psychoacoustics Laboratory. “We’ve come up with a way to do the job for them, and make their limitations moot.”

Key to the technology is a computer algorithm developed by DeLiang “Leon” Wang, PhD, professor of computer science and engineering, and his team. It quickly analyzes speech and removes most of the background noise. “For 50 years, researchers have tried to pull out the speech from the background noise. That hasn’t worked, so we decided to try a very different approach: classify the noisy speech and retain only the parts where speech dominates the noise,” Wang said.

They tested the algorithm’s effectiveness against “stationary noise” and then with background speech babble using 12 subjects. The algorithm was particularly effective against background babble, improving hearing-impaired people’s comprehension from 25% to close to 85% on average. Against stationary noise, the algorithm improved comprehension from an average of 35% to 85%.

A new $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will support the research team’s refinement of the algorithm and testing on human volunteers.

“This is the first time anyone in the entire field has demonstrated a solution,” he continued. “We believe that this is a breakthrough in the true sense of the word.”

The technology is being currently commercialized and licensed. Several patents are pending on the technology, and the researchers are working with Starkey Hearing Technologies, as well as others around the world, to develop the technology.

Original citation for this article: Information Please. Hearing Review. 2014: January: 50.