Phonak and Advanced Bionics announced a new microphone technology this week that is said to help people with hearing aids and cochlear implants hear better, especially in noisy environments. Called MultiBeam Technology, the new approach could soon be applied in future advanced wireless microphones. The initial study results with patients have show significant improvements in speech recognition.
In spite of the many advancements in hearing aid and cochlear implant technology, people with hearing loss still encounter many challenges in noisy restaurants, meetings and other large social gatherings. In such environments its estimated approximately 31% of people with hearing aids still encounter difficulties following conversations, which can lead to social isolation.
According to the announcement, a task force of more than 10 digital signal processing and acoustic engineers have been working on the development of MultiBeam Technology since 2009. By utilizing multiple microphones in six directions, speech from 360 degrees is then calculated and compared. The direction with the best signal-to-noise ratio is automatically selected.
The technological processing complexity is almost ten times higher than the previous technology generation from Phonak. Further, the power consumption was reduced by more than one third.
Hearing Aid Research: MultiBeam Microphone Technology
An investigation conducted at the University of Texas in Dallas (UTD) in a group of 10 patients with hearing aids were tested in a situation which resembled a noisy restaurant, or very noisy meeting with three conversation partners (Figure 1). Speech understanding was found to be improved by up to 61% in this group conversation in the presence of 75 dBA of background noise, compared to using hearing aids alone.1
“The Multibeam Technology will allow persons with hearing challenges who have resigned from attending social functions, family gatherings and business meetings to experience significant improvements in speech recognition. This could ultimately lead to improved quality of life as they confidently reconnect with others using discreet, convenient and highly versatile technology.” –Professor Linda Thibodeau, Lead Study Researcher
According to Hans Mülder, senior audiologist and director marketing at Phonak, “We are extremely happy to have achieved this milestone. It underlines the unwavering commitment of our finest engineers to never be satisfied with existing solutions but to continue to push the envelope of technology, so that more people can enjoy their lives to the fullest. We are now working hard to embed the new technology in coming solutions.”
- Based on preliminary data. Peer-reviewed article and Field Study News in preparation, available end of 2018 at www.phonakpro.com/evidence.