Proliferating patents prompt a switch to monthly lists, commencing today with a list of patents awarded in September by the US Patent office.  The lengthening list is once again due to entry of new players and consumer electronics giants, complementing and competing with our own Big 6.  

Samsung’s Hearable Vision

 

Top of this month’s list is Samsung’s patent #9426591 comprising a “portable terminal,” “sound detector” and “body area network.”  Check out the feature image, above, from that patent then take a wild guess as to what the portable terminal might be.  Perhaps a mobile phone?

samsung-9374647-fig-6Those things in the ears could be hearing aids that talk wirelessly to each other.  Or, per the patent, they could be a universal sound detector consisting of a “sensing unit which senses first hearable data … and second hearable data” from a unit in the other ear.  

Supporting methodology comes from other Samsung patents, such as #9374647 (Method and apparatus using head movement for user interface, 6/21/2016), which uses audio signals to estimate head movement for three-fold purposes:

  1. detect interaural time and latency differences, enabling creation of  aforementioned”first and second hearable data”;
  2. detect and characterize sound environments such as those in Fig 6a (quiet), 6b (music), 6c (single sided communication in noise);
  3. enable hands-free device control via gestures (e.g., head nods) in response to changes detected in #2 which prompt Siri-like queries (e.g., “Would you like to change to the music mode?” and “It is recommended to change to the driver conversation mode. Would you like to change to the driver conversation mode?“)

But it’s patent #9420381 (Multimedia playing apparatus and method for outputting modulated sound according to hearing characteristic of user, 8/16/2016) that specifies Samsung’s vision of hearable sound, devices you might call Hearables, and that 70-80% of people who could benefit from amplification but don’t.  The patent lays the groundwork and then goes to town on it.

 

Groundwork

 

Demographics: “The number of people with hearing loss has increased…those who have partial hearing loss and feel difficulty in hearing sounds of a frequency band, or those who have hearing loss in one ear, are also increasing in number. “

The Market: “People with hearing loss tend not to go to the hospital until their hearing loss have proceeded to make very large inconveniences in their everyday lives. Even if they go to the hospital and are diagnosed with hearing loss, such people are likely to live without using hearing aids due to psychological resistance and/or inconveniences in wearing the hearing aids.”

 

A Hearable System to Cover all the Bases

 

  • Multimedia playing apparatus (TV, PC, projector, DVD, video game, or other device) reproduce sounds 
  • Sound output unit “acquire(s) hearing characteristics of a user … representing a hearing threshold” for clicks, tone pips or bursts, phonemes, syllables or words.
  • User interface (mouse, keyboard, touch pad, remote controller) records whether the user hears the sound.
  • Processor calculates frequency-specific hearing loss level, determines output level for each sound, including digitizing, amplifying, filtering, noise reduction , and frequency-specific compression. (paraphrased from patent) 
  • Memory (hard drive, ROM, RAM, flash, card) stores hearing characteristics and output level of sounds from multimedia apparatus.  
  • Communication interface (LAN, Internet, WAN, PAN, USB) can “transmit acquired hearing characteristics of the user to an external device.”

 

In a Samsung World …

 

No need for audiologists or fitting software or hearing aids-as-we-know them in the Samsung vision.  But what about protecting the consumer?  Samsung’s got that covered too. The patent language says it best:

By using the multimedia playing apparatus, the user may recognize easily whether the hearing loss of the user becomes worse, whether the hearing ability of the user is recovered after a surgery of a hearing organ, a proceeding degree of the hearing loss according to aging, and a proceeding degree of a sudden sensorineural hearing loss caused by sudden noise, with reference to the history of the hearing characteristics of the user that is stored in the memor. Additionally, the user may perform a hearing test easily, conveniently, and regularly. (USPTO #942038)

Editor’s note:  The Patent Series is updated monthly now, and every two months in the past.  Click links for patents approved in Jul/Aug 2016,  May/Jun 2016Mar/Apr 2016Jan/Feb 2016,  Nov/Dec 2015, Sept/Oct 2015,  Jul/Aug 2015, May/Jun 2015,  Mar/Apr 2015Jan/Feb 2015,  Nov/Dec 2014,  Sep/Oct 2014,  July/Aug 2014,  May/Jun 2014,  Mar/Apr 2014,  Jan/Feb 2014Nov/Dec 2013September/October 2013Jul/Aug 2013May/Jun 2013Mar/Apr 2013Jan/Feb 2013Nov/Dec 2012

The List

 

Description

Patent Number

Assignee

Issued

Portable Terminal and Sound Detector, Which Both Communicate Using Body Area Network, and Data Controlling Method Therefor

9426591

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Suwon-si, KR)

8/23/2016

Wireless Power Transfer for Low Power Devices

9425642

Qualcomm Inc (San Diego, CA)

8/23/2016

System and Method for Wireless Power Control Communication Using Bluetooth Low Energy

9431844

Qualcomm Inc (San Diego, CA)

8/30/2016

Transducer with a Bent Armature

9432774

Sonion Nederland B.V. (Hoofddorp, Netherlands)

8/30/2016

Speaker and Audio-Visual System

9432773

Panasonic Intellectual Property Management Co., Ltd. (Osaka, JP)

8/30/2016

Wireless Control System for Personal Communication Device

9432781

Eargo, Inc. (Mountain View, CA)

8/30/2016

Electromagnetic Transducer with Air Gap Substitute

9432782

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

8/30/2016

Hearing Prosthesis Electrode Array with Resiliently Flexible Tip Member

9427568

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

8/30/2016

Method for operating a binaural hearing system and a binaural hearing system

9439004

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

9/06/2016

Voice Signal Enhancement

9437213

Malaspina Labs (Barbados) Inc. (Upton, St Michael, BB)

9/06/2016

Hearing Instrument Having a Routing Building Block for Complex Mid Structures

9439007

Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)

9/06/2016

Method of Fitting Hearing Aid Connected to Mobile Terminal and Mobile Terminal Performing the Method

9439009

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Suwon-si, KR)

9/06/2016

Online Hearing Aid Fitting System and Methods for Non-Expert User

9439008

iHear Medical Inc. (San Leandro, CA)

9/06/2016

Method and apparatus for mathematically characterizing ear canal geometry

9433373

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

9/06/2016

Remote Control for a Hearing Assistance Device

9439006

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

9/06/2016

Silicon Based MEMS Microphone, a System and a Package with the Same

9438972

Goertek Inc. (CN)

9/06/2016

Method of Fitting Hearing Aid Connected to Mobile Terminal and Mobile Terminal Performing the Method

9439009

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Suwon-si, KR)

9/06/2016

Systems and Methods for Suppressing Noise in an Audio Signal for Subbands in a Frequency Domain Based on a Closed-Form Solution

9437212

Marvell International Ltd. (Hamilton, BM)

9/06/2016

Uncomfortable Sound Pressure Evaluation System, Uncomfortable Sound Pressure Evaluation Apparatus, Uncomfortable Sound Pressure Adjustment Apparatus, Uncomfortable Sound Pressure Evaluation method, and computer program thereof

9439013

Panasonic Intellectual Property Management Co., Ltd. (Osaka, JP)

9/06/2016

Spatial filter bank for hearing system

9439005

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

9/06/2016

Method and System for Adding Punctuation to Voice Files

9442910

Tencent Technology (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. (Guangdong, CN)

9/13/2016

Signal Processor for a Hearing Device and Method for Operating a Hearing Device

9445203

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

9/13/2016

Hearing Aid Device Having Battery Drawer

9445206

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

9/13/2016

Dynamic Hearing Aid System and a Method for Configuring the Hearing Aid System

9445205

Siemens Ltd., China (Beijing) & Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)

9/13/2016

Cochlear Implant Stimulation

9440073

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

9/13/2016

Bone Conduction Device Including a Balanced Electromagnetic Actuator Having Radial and Axial Air Gaps

9445207

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

9/13/2016

FM Radio System for Digital and Analog Communications for Hearing Assistance Devices

9451372

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

9/20/2016

Antennas for Hearing Aids

9451371

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

9/20/2016

Feedback Scan for Hearing Aid

9451368

Envoy Medical Corp. (St. Paul, MN)

9/20/2016

Method and System for Fitting Hearing Aids, for Training Individuals in Hearing with Hearing Aids And/or for Diagnostic Hearing Tests of Individuals Wearing Hearing Aids

9445754

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

9/20/2016

Method for operating a hearing device as well as a hearing device

9451370

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

9/20/2016

Behind-the-ear (BTE) prosthetic device with antenna

9446233

GN ReSound A/S (Ballerup, Denmark)

9/20/2016

Hearing Aid with Beamforming Capability

9451369

GN ReSound A/S (Ballerup, Denmark)

9/20/2016

Ear Docking Station for Hearing Aids

9451373

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

9/20/2016

Room Identification Using Acoustic Features in a Recording

9449613

Audeme LLC (Sunnyvale CA)

9/20/2016

Hearing Aid Component with Earwax Filter

9456287

Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark)

9/27/2016

CIC Hearing Device

9456285

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

9/27/2016

Method for operating a binaural hearing system and binaural hearing system

9456286

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

9/27/2016

2 Responses to September 2016 Patents

  1. Abram Bailey says:

    Holly, nice post. Just thought I’d also one this one to your list. Bernafon patented an automatic in-ear REMs technology that could pave the way to better fittings and/or self-fitting hearing aids https://www.hearingtracker.com/blog/patent-could-fix-hearing-aid-performance-for-everyone/

    • Holly Hosford-Dunn says:

      Hi Abram. Thanks for the comment. At this point, that is a patent application. Sad to say, there are so many of those that I’ve had to restrict the list to only patents awarded. I expect the Bernafon application to show up on the list in a year or so, after the application is approved and patent awarded. Holly

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