By José Luis Fernández, Audio Infos Spain

 

The Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Salamanca and MED-EL are developing a technology that can restore or reproduce the binaural mechanisms of the human brain. A breakthrough which could constitute a key turning point in the improvement of speech intelligibility in noisy environments. By replicating the natural mechanisms of the auditory efferent system, scientists have already achieved an improvement of 2 to 3 decibels during user tests.

 

Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Salamanca, Spain

 

One of the primary challenges faced by people with hearing implants (and hearing aids) lies in the fact that they “have a very low noise tolerance threshold, even when the noise is 5 decibels (dB) below speech level. Simultaneous sounds drown each other out, and so patients are not able to discriminate noise from speech. People with normal hearing, however, can communicate even when this noise is 8 decibels above speech level”, explains the team of researchers headed by Enrique López-Poveda, ENT Professor at the University of Salamanca (USAL) and Director of the Laboratory for Computational Hearing and Psychoacoustics from the the Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla y León (INCyL) as well as of the Specialized Diploma in Audiology of USAL, in Spain. After a decade of research, this group has successfully enhanced the performance of cochlear implants in noise by 2 to 3 decibels, which can make all the difference between understanding and not understanding a conversation.

This achievement has already been granted an international patent, and the Austrian multinational MED-EL has bought exclusive rights to market this in Europe, the United States, China and Australia, as announced by Juan Manuel Corchado, the Vice Rector of the Research and Transfer Center of the USAL, in a recent press conference.

 

Cross-checking system

 

The fundamental principle of this research is to restore or emulate the natural cross-checking system used by the brain to process sound stimuli. The project’s researchers explain that “today, when a person has a cochlear implant in each ear (binaural implant), each implant functions independently: the way in which the implant electrically stimulates the auditory nerve depends solely on the sound detected by the integrated microphone of the implant.”

 

Human ears, however, are inter-connected, and each ear sends signals to the brain which, in turn, sends control signals to the opposite ear. The team from the University of Salamanca were able to demonstrate through their research that, as they had anticipated, this cross-checking system, which is lacking in traditional cochlear implants since they are not connected to each another and function independently, is essential for speech intelligibility in noise.

 

The challenge today, therefore, is to integrate this technology in marketable hearing devices. To this end, they are currently testing their prototype on a pilot population in age groups ranging from childhood to the elderly. The team is working in partnership with the University Hospital of Salamanca and the University Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid, as well as with American, Austrian and Dutch university and research centers, to name but a few.

 

Cooperation With Renowned Scientist Blake S. Wilson

 

The project also benefits from the support of renowned American scientist Blake S. Wilson, one of the recipients of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2013 and many other international awards and Doctor honoris causa of the University of Salamanca, with whom Enrique López-Poveda has worked for many years.

The validation tests will initially be conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Wilson in the United States, until the Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla y Leon can perform the tests. All participants are volunteers, adult and children older than seven years old, of different nationalities, and who use one or two cochlear implants.

López-Poveda defines this sample population as “vital” if this research is going to be able to “contribute to enhancing the performance levels and sound quality of binaural implants so that we can replicate natural hearing in as natural a way as possible.”

The coordinator of the academic research team, Enrique López-Poveda, and the General Manager of MED-EL for Spain and Portugal, Julio Rodrigo, each give their perspective on the key elements of this project.

 

Images courtesy USAL and MED-EL

 

 

awnEditor’s Note: By mutual agreement,  this article is republished with permission from Audiology World News, where it originally appeared on February 10, 2017.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — As first reported in the Boston Business Journal last week, hearable startup Doppler Labs is suing Bose over alleged technology and trademark infringement. As part of the suit, the company claims that Bose took several meetings with the fledgling startup under the guise of forming a partnership, but then used that information to create a similar product that would compete directly with the company’s Here One wireless earbuds.

Doppler also says that Bose’s use of the name Hearphones, a product which it recently conducted a limited launch of, is too similar to the the company’s trademarked “Here Buds” name. 

 

doppler here one hearable

 

Doppler Labs Here One vs. Bose Hearphones 

 

According to Doppler Labs, the company is said to have pursued several partnership options last year and Bose was among the first companies to respond.

As discussions between the companies progressed, Doppler Labs then says it ultimately shared its “proprietary technology, market approach and positioning, product capabilities, and product road map,” after Bose is said to have agreed that it would not disclose or use the information.

 

“There can be no doubt that Doppler Labs was on Bose’s radar long before Bose introduced its infringing Hearphones product. Bose’s Senior Manager of Idea & Portfolio Management, Chris Miller, was one of the first “backers” of Doppler Labs’ Kickstarter campaign, pledging $179 on June 2, 2015 – the day the Kickstarter campaign went live – to be one of the first to get Doppler Labs’ Here Active Listening system. Now, on information and  belief, it appears that this was not an investment by Mr. Miller simply to get a new and differentiated type of audio product than Bose could deliver, for his personal use, but rather an attempt to gain early access to a competitor’s technology. Mr. Miller’s Here Active Listening system purchase was shipped on February 10, 2016, at which time Mr. Miller purchased a second Here Active Listening system days later, affording Bose a long period of time to understand the design and features of the Here Active Listening system, wireless earbuds, and companion mobile application.”
 
–Excerpt from Doppler Labs vs. Bose lawsuit filed in US District Court
 
 
bose hearphone personal amplifier

Bose Hearphones, personal amplifying device.

 
 
As reported by this blog in December, Bose has so far only had a limited release of its Hearphones.

 

Hearable Maker Sues For Damages; Demands “Formal Retraction”

 

Even though Bose has only so far had a limited release of its Hearphones product, Doppler Labs is suing the company for damages, and requests that Bose issue a “formal retraction” through a nationwide email campaign, as well as “a full-page advertisement in the appropriate publications.”

It’s still unclear whether Doppler Labs will be able to prove its claims against Bose, which, as pointed out by an article in engadget, has been making active listening products for more than 25 years.

 

Source: BBJ, BI