Wireless Data Exchange and Binaural Hearing

In the October 2012 issue of the Hearing Review, ReSound talks about ways in which device-to-device communication is applied and the implications for binaural hearing.

In most clinics, it is a relatively safe generalization to say that two hearing aids are the de facto recommendation in the absence of an ear with significantly poor word recognition scores or thresholds not within the limits of amplification. For many patients, bilateral losses can be helped with two hearing instruments. A bilateral fitting of amplification generally can contribute greatly to binaural hearing benefits. However, some characteristics of hearing instrument processing may alter the acoustic information delivered to the ear in such a way that natural binaural processes are disrupted.

The use of two instruments operating independently of each other for a patient with bilateral hearing loss can fairly be called a bilateral hearing instrument fitting. But what if the hearing instruments are communicating with each other such that they become a system? Does this fitting enhance binaural hearing abilities?

Some wireless hearing instrument systems that share information aim to maximize audibility of a signal identified by the system. These systems use the hearing instruments to choose which sound inputs are presented to the user, without providing the user with all sound inputs to allow for user intent. For example, the system may assume that the loudest speech signal in the environment is always the signal of interest.

A binaural hearing instrument strategy strives to provide auditory input that facilitates natural binaural processing abilities. It provides for sounds presented independently to each ear to be perceived as a fused auditory image and gives the auditory system the opportunity to take advantage of the ear with the best SNR.

Wireless device-to-device communication is a huge technological leap for hearing aid manufacturers. Bilaterally fit hearing aids that can communicate with one another have the potential to make coordinated and more intelligent choices about how and when to adapt (eg, noise reduction, gain, and directional settings). Adaptive algorithms can be used more effectively, helping to ensure that the settings of each hearing aid are in sync with one another.

However, the technology alone does not ensure improved listening. A strategy must also be included that considers the perceptual relevance for the end user. Binaural strategies, which aim to support natural hearing ability, can help ensure that the technology leap of device-to-device communication can also provide a similar leap in terms of user benefit.

Read the full article: “How Can Wireless Data Exchange in Hearing Instruments Contribute to Binaural Hearing?” by ReSound’s Brent C. Kirkwood, PhD, Stephen A. Hallenbeck, AuD, and Tammara Stender, AuD.

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  1. Pingback: 2012 in Review | The Official ReSound Blog

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