hearing aid patent awards 10 years

US Ear Device Patents in May 2018

Sivantos/Widex Has a Lot of Clout by Any Measure

 

The M&A of Widex and Sivantos was May’s big news in the hearing aid world. The new entity (name as yet undisclosed) is predicted  take the new Denmark-Singapore headquartered entity to 29% global market share, making it the top player among major hearing aid manufacturers (Bernstein, June 1 20181), ahead of 25% market share for Sonova and William Demant, respectively. 

Formidable market position for the merged company is manifest in the patent portfolio. At the time of writing, Widex+Sivantos has about 650 patents in force, besting its nearest hearing aid manufacturing rival2 by more than 40%.  As a whole, the Big 6 portfolio has consistently added about 200 patents per year to the industry in recent times (see feature image). The new entity owns for more than half of all patents in force in the total portfolio (just under 1300).  

 

Hearables: Protection and Privacy 

 

Bullet-Proof Hearing

 

Smaller players continue to enter the ear, if not the hearing aid manufacturing space. Last month’s patent list noted a variety of ear devices that covered or sat in the ear while performing a variety of tasks. This month is no different.  Consider USPTO #9956119 (Fig 2) which looks like a bullet but may act like an ear protector. In a strange case of science imitating life, the inventors provide background for utility, if not efficacy, of the device:

Figure 2. Bullet shaped ear protector.

“Historically, bullets have been used as ear plugs. Military service members have been known to use rifle bullets as ear plugs both in time of war and in time of peace. Bullets present an easy means for removing them from a user’s ears since they are firm and easy to grab. However, the metal ends inserted into the ear canal are uncomfortable to wear. What is needed is an ear plug with a soft elastomeric insert which is comfortable to wear with a metal outer casing presenting an easy means for removal.”

Who are You, Really? 

 

What do you think about developing a Hearable that detects and calls out automated voice assistants? This questions stems from the ethical outcry to Google’s demo of its Duplex artificial intelligence (AI) software last month, in which phone receptionists were unaware that they were conversing with a computer.  Communication is at least a two-way street, not counting assistants. 

We humans must provide evidence of our mortal beings (“I am not a robot”) before many Internet sites agree to converse with us. Shouldn’t it work the same in reverse.  It’s nice to think that future audio input to our ears will carry some means of identifying human versus robot assistants.  There are a number of privacy issues contained in patent pending applications and this seems like one more avenue worth exploring and nailing down.

 

The May Patent List

 

Description

Patent Number

Assignee

Issued

Bullet ear plug

9956119

2 Monkey Trading, LLC (Orlando, FL)

5/01/2018

Tonal deafness compensation in an auditory prosthesis system

9956407

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

5/01/2018

Wearable electronic device having ornamental and deployment modes

9961429

Tinsel Inc. (San Francisco, CA)

5/01/2018

In-ear headphones having a flexible nozzle and related methods

9961434

Skullcandy, inc. (Park City, UT)

5/01/2018

Omni-directional perception in a binaural hearing aid system

9961456

GN Hearing A/S (Ballerup, DK)

5/01/2018

RF antenna and hearing device with RF antenna

9961457

Oticon /S (Smorum, DK)

5/01/2018

Hearing aid sleeve

9961458

IntriCon Corp (Arden Hills, MN)

5/01/2018

Optical microphone for implantable hearing instrument

9962293

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

5/08/2018

Off-ear and on-ear headphone detection

9967647

Avnera Corp (Beaverton, OR)

5/08/2018

Binaural hearing assistance operation

9967682

Bose Corp (Framingham, MA)

5/08/2018

Multi-mode radio for hearing assistance devices

9967683

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

5/08/2018

Alerting system for deaf or hard of hearing people and application software to be implemented in an electronic device

9967684

Bellman & Symfon Europe AB (V. Froelunda, SE)

5/08/2018

Hearing device

9967686

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

5/08/2018

Over ear fuzzy ear cushions and on ear fuzzy ear cushions for audio headphones

D817304

Muzik, Inc. (Raleigh, NC)

5/08/2018

Ear plug

D817310

Dynamic Ear Company BV (Delft, NL)

5/08/2018

Methods for controlled proliferation of stem cells / generating inner ear hair cells using 3-(pyridin-2-yl)-1H-indol-2-ol based compounds

9968615

Frequency Therapeutics, Inc. (Woburn, MA)

5/08/2018

Implantable hearing assistance apparatus and corresponding systems and methods

9968781

Advanced Bionics AG (Staefa, CH)

5/15/2018

Wearable power harvesting system

9972894

Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)

5/15/2018

Antenna for use in a wearable device

9972895

Bragi BmbH (Munchen, DE)

5/15/2018

Earbud set, and hearing aid and earphone using same

9973841

Goelbio Co. Ltd. (Incheon, KR)

5/15/2018

Ear gear with earpieces interconnected through headband with two legs

9973843

Zound Industries International AB (Stockholm, SE)

5/15/2018

Method for operating a hearing aid and hearing aid

9973861

Sivantos PTE. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)

5/15/2018

Hearing device including antenna unit

9973864

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

5/15/2018

Vehicle to vehicle communications using ear pieces

9978278

Bragi BmbH (Munchen, DE)

5/22/2018

Normalization of soundfield orientations based on auditory scene analysis

9979829

Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corp. (San Francisco, CA)

5/22/2018

Hearing system and finger ring for the hearing system

9980024

Assignees: Rohm Co., Ltd. (Kyoto, JP) & Finewell Co.,. Ltd. (Osaka, JP)

5/22/2018

Headphone off-ear detection

9980034

Avnera Corp. (Beaverton, OR)

5/22/2018

Hearing aid system and a method of programming a hearing aid device

9980053

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

5/22/2018

Hearing device and a hearing system configured to localize a sound source

9980055

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

5/22/2018

Method, device, and system for suppressing feedback in hearing aid devices with adaptive split-band frequency

9980056

Sivantos PTE. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)

5/22/2018

Predictive power adjustment in an auditory prosthesis

9980057

Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)

5/22/2018

Method for selecting transmission direction in a binaural hearing aid

9980058

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

5/22/2018

Hearing assistance system and method

9980059

Sonova AG (Staefa, CH)

5/22/2018

Binaural hearing aid device 

9980060

Oticon A/S (Smorum, DK)

5/22/2018

Hearing aid and method for producing a hearing aid

9980062

Sivantos PTE. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)

5/22/2018

Method and apparatus for integrating a living-hinge in a hearing instrument

9980063

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

5/22/2018

Ball and socket connection with an acoustic seal and mounting interface for a hearing assistance device

9980065

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

5/22/2018

Hearing device with a wax guard, and wax guard

9980067

Sivantos PTE. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)

5/22/2018

Interface device and method between electronic device and external device using ear jack of the electronic device

9986082

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

5/29/2018

Binaural hearing system and a hearing device comprising a beamformer unit

9986346

Oticon /S (Smorum, DK)

5/29/2018

Radio frequency MEMS devices for improved wireless performance for hearing assistance devices

9986347

Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)

5/29/2018

Earphones with ear presence sensors

9986353

Apple Inc. (Cupertino, CA)

5/29/2018

 

Editor’s note:  Interested readers can click the following links for patents approved in April 2018, Q1 2018, Nov/Dec 2017October 2017September 2017August 2017June/July 2017May 2017April 2017March 2017February 2017January 2017December 2016November 2016,  October 2016Sept 2016,  Jul/Aug 2016,  May/Jun 2016Mar/Apr 2016Jan/Feb 2016,  Nov/Dec 2015Sept/Oct 2015,  Jul/Aug 2015May/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

 

References & Footnotes

1Clive LB, Wielechowski R, Morse A. Hearing Aids: A closer look at the merger of Sivantos and Widex. A new #1 with a disruptive vision of the future. Bernstein, June 1 2018

2 CI patents not included in tallies.

 

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, owned and operated a dispensing audiology practice in Tucson and was active in management of HearingHealthMatters.org through 2017.  She holds BA degrees in communication sciences, psychology and economics; MA in communication disorders; PhD in Hearing Sciences. Following post-doctoral work at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston), she joined the Stanford medical school faculty as director of audiology. She has authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles and taught Marketing and Practice Management in a variety of academic settings. She continues to consult and write on topics related to hearing health care vis-à-vis consumer demands, professional training, technological advancement, capital investment, industry consolidation, regulatory control, product and service distribution, and strategic pricing.

 
 

About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.

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