Telephone Audiometer/Hearing Aid

In my last blog I posted a list of predictions for the hearing aid industry that I had made in 2005, for the next 10 years.

Prediction # 4 was: Hearing aids will become multi-function devices having applications beyond primarily amplification – and driven by the mobile telephone, which will become the nerve center for most communication. In fact, the telephone may morph into the hearing aid as well. This will present challenges to dispensing models.

Phone hearing tester
Figure 1. ACEHearing smart phone application that can assess your hearing profile and then adjust the phone’s amplification to enhance its sound output to compensate for the hearing loss.

As circumstances would have it, the Wall Street Journal published a network online article this week related directly to this prediction (Figure 1). The invented item was “firmware,” which is software embedded in hardware. The product? A telephone application to test hearing and also to control the amplification of the telephone for the user to provide the gain the recorded audiogram suggests. {{1}}[[1]] Wall Street Journal, Digital Network, August 24, 2011, Better Hearing is Being Made More Convenient. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903520204576485174026037728.html.[[1]] Ximplar Ltd. is the Hong-Kong-based software company that developed this technology, referred to as ACEHearing. The innovation is a finalist for the 2011 Asian Innovation Awards. Essentially, the product turns common consumer electronics into hearing-evaluation and hearing-enhancement devices with the first application designed for smart phones, either as firmware installed in phones prior to purchase, or as a downloadable application.

What Does the Device Do?

1. Hearing assessment. This can be performed in a quiet room and takes about five minutes. According to the article, the device will capture and assess the user’s hearing profile in a way that is short, simple, and as engaging as possible.

2. Calibrate the smart phone to adjust and enhance its sound output by adjusting gain in areas where hearing is deficient, not just make all sound louder. It is said to be applicable for hearing losses ranging from mild to severe. The unit appears to allow the user to adjust and save the gain (loudness level) at individual frequencies used in hearing measurement, and that these levels can be set for different selectable hearing situations (Figure 2).

3. Tinnitus Function. This feature is shown on the company video screen but no demonstration or explanation is provided as to what this involves.

Phone hearing aid
Figure 2. User adjusting the gain level for 2000 Hz for a specified (selectable) listening situation. The taller bars move to the right or left to represent the gain change.

How Good is it?

At this time, it is difficult to say. The company claims that its clinical trials have shown no significant difference between the ACEHearing test and traditional audiological testing. However, no information was provided relative to the fitting algorithm and its success.

Will This Replace Hearing Aids?

ACEHearing is not meant to replace hearing aids but the company says that the device could prove useful to existing users because it would eliminate wearing hearing aids while using the telephone. The intent is to move beyond smart phones and implant the ACEHearing firmware in headsets, earphones, MP3 players, etc. In other words, into everyday consumer electronics.

 

 

About Wayne Staab

Dr. Wayne Staab is an internationally recognized authority on hearing aids. As President of Dr. Wayne J. Staab and Associates, he is engaged in consulting, research, development, manufacturing, education, and marketing projects related to hearing. Interests away from business include fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, golf, travel, tennis, softball, lecturing, sporting clays, 4-wheeling, archery, swimming, guitar, computers, and photography. Among other pursuits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.