Panasonic says it’s found a quicker, more accurate way to measure loudness tolerance

OSAKA, JAPAN–Panasonic announced this week that it has developed a new method for determining a hearing aid wearer’s tolerance for loud sounds. The Japanese company, which last year began distributing hearing aids in the U.S. through the Panasonic Corporation of North America Healthcare, issued a press release on November 28 in which it described its innovative technology for fitting hearing aids.

Using electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave patterns recorded when test sounds are played into the user’s ears, the new technology is able to estimate the loudest sound level that the user can comfortably tolerate. This approach, says Panasonic, reduces the strain on the patient and shortens the time required to fit hearing aids.

Panasonic began clinical evaluation of this method earlier this month in cooperation with the University of Fukui in Japan. The goal is to put it into practice as an automatic volume level fitting system in the fiscal year starting April 2015.

Since individuals have very different perceptions of sound, maximum acceptable volume varies from patient to patient. Therefore, hearing aids must be carefully fitted to meet the particular person’s tolerance for loud sounds. The conventional method for adjusting volume in the fitting process uses a lengthy and sometimes uncomfortable loudness test in which patients have to listen repeatedly to test tones.

Panasonic says that its new method makes it possible to make an objective estimate of a patient’s individual’s maximum acceptable volume level based on the EEG response to auditory stimuli. According to the company, the process takes only about 5 minutes and is highly accurate, with a margin of error of +/-5 dB.

A part of this technology was presented on November 11 at the Japanese Society of Clinical Neurophysiology’s annual meeting.