Hearing Loss Amplification Needs

Approaches to Solving Unmet Needs of the Hearing Impaired ‘Down Under’ – Part 2

 

Elaine photoThe hearing aid industry in the US has come under renewed criticism recently for failing to meet the unmet hearing loss amplification needs of all categories of individuals having hearing difficulty issues.  The major issues at stake relate and unmet need of the hearing impaired pertaining to the ease of acquisition of hearing aids, the cost, and whether they should be made more readily available through Internet or OTC (over the counter) sales.  This would involve a change in policy by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).

In last week’s post by Dr. Saunders, she indicated that, ‘Down Under’ in Australia, there exist unmet needs as well, suggesting that the issues involved may be more universal than had been given consideration.

AustraliaHere at HHTM (Hearing Health and Technology Matters), we try to expose readers to activities within the hearing discipline that appear to be somewhat disruptive of the traditional.  This series by Dr. Saunders falls into this category.  She is co-founder and CEO of Blamey Saunders hears, a hearing aid and telehealth company which supplies and supports self-fit hearing aids in Australia.


Directions to Solving Unmet Needs of the Hearing Impaired

Dr. Saunders states that hearing-impaired Australians also have unmet hearing loss amplification needs related to their access to hearing aids, care and cost, and that future approaches to adult hearing care have to overcome a combination of challenges.  She mentioned key hearing aid electroacoustic features that have been incorporated into the most recent innovations in hearing aids, but in her opinion, there is more to be done, and this involves an emerging era of more personalized medicine.

This, and following posts, will expose readers through what she describes as the progressive (rather than disruptive) and innovative directions she and her colleagues have taken to meet the unmet needs of the hearing impaired.  The main events contributing to this renewed direction follow:


Event One – Low Current Drain DSP Chip

The first major disruption and innovation from the Blamey Saunders partnership was to take advantage of the independent supply of low current drain Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chips (then from the DSP Factory) to take an advanced digital amplifier (ADRO®), a potential successor to various forms of compression, to the market.

People with hearing loss owe much to the Canadian start up, the DSP Factory, now owned by ON Semiconductor, who were the first independent suppliers of low current drain DSP chips.  The ADRO® amplifier uses fuzzy logic to keep sounds audible and comfortable in each individual band.  The signal is kept linear but adjusted to be in the hearing sweet spot of the individual’s dynamic range, in each of however many channels are used. Because there is no inter-channel interference, a higher numbers of channels can be used with compression.

The vehicle for the commercial development was Dynamic Hearing Pty. Ltd., which is now owned by Cirrus Logic.  Dynamic Hearing gained greater traction in the telephony and consumer markets than in the hearing aid industry for several identifiable reasons.  The legacy of that adventure was access to a first class DSP team and a high quality suite of DSP technologies.

Being innovators, the ideas continued to flow with the result that the hearing aids now sold by Blamey Saunders use several patented DSP algorithms in addition to ADRO® that have been shown to provide excellent sound quality for speech, music and environmental sounds{{1}}[[1]]Mispagel, K. and Valente,M.  (2006)  Effect of multichannel digital signal processing on loudness comfort, sentence recognition, and sound quality; J. Am Acad Audiol; 17(10):681-707[[1]], {{2}}[[2]]Higgins,P. and Searchfield, G., Coad,G. (2012)  Effect of multichannel digital signal processing on loudness comfort, sentence recognition, and sound quality; American Journal of Audiology; 21(1), 13-21[[2]].


Next week’s post
will continue this series, focusing on two additional events that helped shape the innovative direction of Blamey Saunders hears, and how innovation help meet the unmet needs of the hearing-impaired population.


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