On January 7, the Oticon vs GN Resound patent war came to an end with scarcely a shot fired.  Settling a “slew of patent disputes” was good news for Big 6 bottom line solidarity and uninterrupted technological innovation.

 

Words, Words, Words

 

While the FDA continues its decade-long struggle to parse and define ear technology, the innovators have moved on to an inclusive vision of auditory processing. “Hearing aid” shows up in 16 patent titles in today’s list (below). By comparison, 19 titles  capture audio innovations with more comprehensive words and phrases (e.g., ear/hearing/listening devices, instruments, systems for hearing, hearing assistance).   Consider verbiage paraphrased from recent patent documents (bold added):

“A personal hearing system may comprise…one or two hearing aids, also denoted as hearing prostheses, external and/or implanted … hearing protectorscommunication devices allowing individuals to speak to each other remotely, inconspicuously and/or in noisy environments … headsets…. auxiliary components (remote controls, audio streaming devices, or fitting interface devices).  Typically all components of a personal hearing system are designed such that they can be carried at least temporarily at the body of its user.From Phonak patent application #20150296308.[1]

Ear-level devices, including headphones, earphones, head sets, hearing aids and the like, are adapted to be worn at the ear of a user and provide personal sound processing. [2]

 

Remote but Personal

 

Ear devices remain on the ears for now, but their innards are moving off to remote servers to which wearers have personal, if not intimate, relationships or “templates.”  FDA approved online hearing testing is already with us.  Here is a sampling of next-step visions:

“… The rise of the Internet has offered the possibility for the development of personalization techniques that flow from on-line testing.  User-specific acoustic adjustment parameters [for improving speech intelligibility] are stored as templates in a central location. A user can access a template [by providing an ID to the server] … for application to a communication session by connection to the central location [and it] … can be applied on behalf of the user for use in connection with different user devices or communication endpoints.” USPTO 9197971.

“The intelligibility of speech …and a set of acoustic adjustment parameters is determined for the user [which] is placed in central store, for example … a server.” USPTO 9161136.

 

The Patent List

 

Description Patent Number Assignee Issued
Systems and Methods for Forward Link Communication in Wireless Power Systems 9166439 Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, CA) 10/20/2015
Microphone Module with Sound Pipe 9173015 Invensense, Inc. (San Jose, CA) 10/27/2015
Noise Mitigating Microphone System 9173024 Invensense, Inc. (San Jose, CA) 10/27/2015
Bone Anchor Fixture for a Medical Prosthesis 9173042 Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU) 10/27/2015
Apparatus and Method for Ultra Wideband Communication Using Dual Band Pass Filter 9172425 Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Suwon-si, KR) 10/27/2015
Enhancing Perception of Frequency-Lowered Speech 9173041 Purdue Research Foundation (West Lafayette, IN) 10/27/2015
Drug Eluting Cochlear Implants 9162010 Tepha, Inc. (Lexington, MA) 10/28/2015
Audio system with feedback cancellation 9179223 GN Resound A/S (Ballerup, Denmark) 11/03/2015
Antennas for Standard Fit Hearing Assistance Devices 9179227 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/03/2015
Device for Cleaning a Hearing Aid 9174248 MG Development (Perols, France) 11/03/2015
System and Method for Measuring and Validating the Occlusion Effect of a Hearing Aid User 9179230 Widex A/S (Lynge, DK) 11/03/2015
Hearing device with adaptive feedback-path estimation 9179224 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 11/03/2015
Hearing Aid Device 9179225 Panasonic Intellectual Property Management Co. Ltd. (Osaka, Japan) 11/03/2015
Systems Devices, Components and Methods for Providing Acoustic Isolation between Microphones and Transducers in Bone Conduction Magnetic Hearing Aids 9179228 Sophono, Inc. (Boulder, CO) 11/03/2015
Treatment And/Or Prevention of Inner Ear Conditions by Modulation of a Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 9173864 House Ear Institute (Los Angeles, CA) 11/03/2015
Partially Implantable Hearing Device 9179226 Advanced Bionics AG (CH) 11/03/2015
Speech processor cases 9179229 Advanced Bionics AG (Zug, CH) 11/03/2015
Systems and Methods for Facilitating Time-Based Fitting by a Sound Processor 9179231 Advanced Bionics AG (CH) 11/03/2015
Signal Processing for Hearing Prostheses 9179222 Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU) 11/03/2015
Method and device for intracochlea impedance measurement 9273585 Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU) 11/03/2015
Impact protection for implantable electric lead 9174039 MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geraete GmbH (Innsbruck, AT) 11/03/2015
Method of improving a long term feedback path estimate in a listening device 9185505 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 11/10/2015
Hearing device with two or more microphones and two or more resonators having different lengths and the same resonant frequency 9185498 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 11/10/2015
Compression of spaced sources for hearing assistance devices 9185500 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/10/2015
Method and Computer Program Product of Processing Sound Segment and Hearing Aid 9185497 Unlimiter MFA CO. Ltd. (Eden Island, Seychelles) 11/10/2015
Binaural Hearing Aid with Frequency Unmasking 9185499 GN Resound A/S (Ballerup, Denmark) 11/10/2015
Methods and Apparatus for Processing Audio Signals 918585 Sonitus Medical Inc. (San Mateo, CA) 11/10/2015
Domes for a receiver-in-the-canal hearing instrument 9185503 Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore SG) 11/10/2015
Tonotopic implant stimulation 9180295 MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geraete GmbH (Innsbruck, AT) 11/10/2015
Modular Adapter Assembly for Telecoil and Auxiliary Audio Input Device Mixing 9191751 Advanced Bionics AG (CH) 11/17/2015
Entrainment Avoidance with an Auto Regressive Filter 9191752 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/17/2015
Hearing Aid with Inductively Coupled Electromagnetic Resonator Antenna 9191757 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/17/2015
Spatial enhancement mode for hearing aids 9191755 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/17/2015
Assisting Conversation in Noisy Environments 9190043 Bose Corporation (Framingham, MA) 11/17/2015
Contoured Battery Case Based on Cell Shapes 9190642 Eaglepicher Technologies, LLC (Joplin, MO) 11/17/2015
Custom Fit In-Ear Monitor Utilizing a Single Piece Driver Module 9191758 Logitech Europe, S.A. (Lausanne, CH) 11/17/2015
Systems and Methods for Detecting Wireless Charging Transmit Characteristics 9190876 Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, CA) 11/17/2015
Data Transmission through a Recipient’S Skull Bone 9191759 Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU) 11/17/2015
Optimal Pre-Load for Floating Mass Transducers 9191760 Vibrant Med-El Hearing Technology GmbH (Innsbruck, AT) 11/17/2015
Method for Automatically Setting a Piece of Equipment and Classifier 9191754 Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore SG) 11/17/2015
Hearing Aid and a Method of Enhancing Speech Reproduction 9191753 Widex A/S (Lynge, DK) 11/17/2015
Personalized Hearing Profile Generation with Real-Time Feedback 9197971 CVF, LLC (Chicago, IL) 11/24/2015
Push-Pull Driver with Stage Inversion and Method of Operation 9196418 Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, CA) 11/24/2015
Methods and apparatus for reducing ambient noise based on annoyance perception and modeling for hearing-impaired listeners 9197970 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/24/2015
Dynamic negotiation and discovery of hearing aid features and capabilities by fitting software to provide forward and backward compatibility 9197972 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 11/24/2015
RF transmitter for electrically short antenna 9203446 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 12/01/2015
Method of identifying a wireless communication channel in a sound system 9204232 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 12/01/2015
Method for adjusting a hearing device as well as an arrangement for adjusting a hearing device 9204226 Sonova AG (Stafa, CH) 12/01/2015
Electronic Earplug for Providing Communication and Protection 9198800 Etymotic Research, Inc. (Elk Grove Village, IL) 12/01/2015
Noise Reduction System for Hearing Assistance Devices 9204227 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 12/01/2015
Independent volume control in electro-acoustic stimulation systems – 9204230 Advanced Bionics AG (Zug, CH) 12/01/2015
Independent volume control in a bilateral auditory prosthesis system 9204231 Advanced Bionics AG (Zug, CH) 12/01/2015
Waterproof Acoustic Element Enclosures and Apparatus Including the Same 9204229 Advanced Bionics AG (Zug, CH) 12/01/2015
Methods and systems for optimizing speech and music perception by a bilateral cochlear implant patient 9199079 Advanced Bionics AG (Zug, CH) 12/01/2015
Hearing Instrument with Plug-In Sound Tube Connection, Corresponding Case and Sound Tube 9204228 Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore SG) 12/01/2015
Hearing assistance device with brain computer interface 9210517 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 12/08/2015
Hearing Aid 9210522 GN Resound A/S (Ballerup, Denmark) 12/08/2015
Ear to ear communication using wireless low energy transport 9210520 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 12/08/2015
Method and apparatus for microphone matching for wearable directional hearing device using wearer’s own voice 9210518 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 12/08/2015
Abutment Attachment Systems, Mechanisms, Devices, Components and Methods for Bone Conduction Hearing Aids 9210521 Sophono, Inc. (Boulder, CO) 12/08/2015
Hearing assistance system and method 9210519 Sonova AG (Stafa, CH) 12/08/2015
Hearing assistance system and method 92115535 Sonova AG (Stafa, CH) 12/15/2015
Hearing Aid and Method of Implanting a Hearing Aid 9215537 Advanced Bionics AG (CH) 12/15/2015
Uncomfortable Sound Pressure Determination System, Method and Program Thereof, Hearing Aid Adjustment System, and Uncomfortable Sound Pressure Determination Apparatus 9215533 Panasonic Intellectual Property Management Co. Ltd. (Osaka, Japan) 12/15/2015
Pump Facility for a Hearing Device and Method of Inflating and Deflating an Earmold Member 9212658 Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore SG) 12/15/2015
Hearing Aid and Method of Implanting a Hearing Aid 9215537 Advanced Bionics AG (CH) 12/15/2015
Steerable stylet 9211403 Advanced Bionics AG (CH) 12/15/2015
Multi-Band Integrated Speech Separating Microphone Array Processor with Adaptive Beamforming 9215527 Cirrus Logic, Inc. (Austin TX) 12/15/2015
Switching Structures for Hearing Aid 9215534 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 12/15/2015
Hearing Assistance System and Method 9215535 Sonova AG (Stafa, CH) 12/15/2015
Body-worn control apparatus for hearing devices 9219965 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 12/22/2015
Location based assistance using hearing instruments 9219966 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 12/22/2015
Hearing assistance system with own voice detection 9219964 Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN) 12/22/2015
Stimulation prosthesis with configurable data link 9216288 Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU) 12/22/2015
Hearing protection earpiece 9216113 Sonova AG (Stafa, CH) 12/22/2015
Hearing aid with means for estimating the ear plug fitting 9226082 Widex A/S (Lynge, DK) 12/29/2015
Method of operating a hearing aid and a hearing aid 9226084 Widex A/S (Lynge, DK) 12/29/2015
Inflatable ear mold with protected inflation air inlet 9226086 Sivantos Pte. Ltd. (Singapore SG) 12/29/2015
Noise estimation for use with noise reduction and echo cancellation in personal communication 9224393 Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) 12/29/2015

Editor’s note:  The Patent Series is updated every two months.  Click links for patents approved in  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

feature image courtesy of born bibliophile

References    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Method for Providing Distant Support to a Personal Hearing System User and System for Implementing Such a Method.  USPTO Application #20150296308.
  2. Personalized Hearing Profile Generation with Real-Time Feedback. USPTO 9197971.