PISCATAWAY, NEW JERSEY — Signia has announced the launch of an improved version of its ground-breaking Face Mask Mode, available via the Signia smartphone app.
Signia was the first in the industry to launch a feature of this kind in July, 2020, which enables hearing aid wearers to better understand the speech of those wearing face masks. While masks are vital to help protect from coronavirus infection, it poses a serious challenge to speech understanding for anyone, even those with mild hearing loss.
The updated Face Mask Mode increases the loudness of frequencies associated with speech by 6dB – thereby making it even easier to understand those wearing face masks.
“Face masks not only cover the mouth, restricting any visual speech cues that we might usually rely on – from a simple smile to full lip-reading – but they also affect the acoustic properties of the speech signal”
–Tish Ramirez, Au.D., VP of Clinical Education & Professional Relations for Signia
Masks can reduce frequencies in the 2000-8000 Hz range by between 3 to 12 dB* depending on the type of mask.
“The latest research has shown that the primary sound dampening occurs around 4000 Hz with the most commonly used masks, so a gain increase of around 6 dB has been introduced in the range from 4000 to 8000 Hz to help compensate,” added Dr. Ramirez.
Face Mask Mode is available in the Signia app and appears on-screen as an easy-to-activate button. It’s activated by tapping the button, which then turns it from grey to red. When the hearing aid wearer has finished talking to the person wearing a mask, they can deactivate Face Mask Mode by simply tapping the button again, turning back to grey. It also deactivates when the wearer resets the hearing aids, changes program, or changes the Spatial Configurator.
Signia’s Face Mask Mode is the first solution on the market to help hearing aid wearers improve speech understanding through face masks and requires no in-person adjustments with a hearing care professional.
How Does Face Mask Mode Compensate for Muffled Speech?
The new Face Mask Mode tackles specific parameters of the hearing aids’ settings that are crucial for optimal speech understanding. These include gains to frequencies most relevant to speech intelligibility – thereby effectively compensating for the adverse acoustic effects of the face mask.
Furthermore, Face Mask Mode also adjusts noise reduction and microphone beamforming settings to the ideal levels for speech understanding. In combination, these automatic adjustments offer the best possible sound experience to help the hearing aid wearer understand what is being said.
The new Face Mask Mode is available via Signia smartphone app (Android 6.0 or iOS 11 or higher) and is compatible with Signia Xperience hearing aids enabled with Bluetooth™ connectivity.
An audiology research paper is available in the online Signia Library, Removing the Masking without Removing the Mask: Improving communication with face masks. It includes full details of the steps hearing care professionals and their patients can take to tackle the audiological challenges of the coronavirus crisis.
*Llamas C, Harrison P, Donnelly D, Watt D. Effects of different types of face coverings on speech acoustics and intelligibility. York Papers in Linguistics, 2(9): 80-104.
Signia stands for iconic innovation. Since its launch in 2016, Signia has already brought to the market several “world’s first” solutions. Beyond highly innovative hearing aids, Signia also delivers tools and apps that increase customer interaction and engagement on all levels of hearing aid management. Signia thus empowers hearing care professionals and patients to get the most out of their hearing aids.