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High Fidelity Hearing Aid

Samuel Wilkins's picture Suggested by Samuel Wilkins

Many hearing aids nowadays are designed with speech intelligibility in mind.  However, there are not many hearing aids that are designed to reproduce accurate sound above 8 KHZ.  This is a major problem, as there are hearing conditions where the hair cells for certain frequencies are not lost, but are merely dormant.  Also, although the speech frequencies rarely stray above 8 KHZ, music regularly goes over that frequency.  My idea is to produce a hearing aid, which has frequencies that can go up to 20 KHZ, which is the highest frequency people can hear.  This can be developed with a combination of earpieces and 2 binaural microphones.  I would suggest bolting the microphones of the Roland CS10EM binaural in-ear microphones onto a pair of Bose SIE2 sports earphones, both of which I have.  The Bose earphones are suggested because they are noise cancelling, which will reduce the possibility of howl round feedback from the microphones.  There are 2 possibilities as to how this combination could receive amplification.  The first option is to make microphone and earphone combination wireless, have a receiving device connected to an smart phone, and develop a cross platform phone app to support the combo and amplify the sound.  For deaf blind people, because the speech from the phone may interfere with the output of the earphone/microphone combo, the combo could be still be made wireless, but connected to a portable amplifier, which could use standard user replaceable batteries and could be carried around in a case that could allow access to the controls without taking it out, and the case could hang over the user’s shoulder like Braille notetaker cases.  However, the app could still be accessible, since a deaf blind person may wish to use a Braille display with their phone and use the app with the speech turned off.  Another problem with most hearing aids is that they are not user adjustable, so that if a person feels that a certain frequency is not being heard, they are not able to change this.  Therefore, I propose that the amplifier that would come with the aid and the app could contain a graphic equaliser, so that a user could adjust problematic frequencies, and if they want a flat response, they could press a bypass button or select a bypass setting on the app so that the settings on the equaliser are ignored.  There could also be a user adjustable noise reduction feature to reduce background noise, and an automatic gain control to prevent frequencies going above 85 DBSPL (Decibels Sound Pressure Level), which is the limit set by the Health and Safety Executive’s noise control regulations at which hearing protection is mandated.  The threshold and gain could be adjusted, but the threshold could be set so that it cannot go above 85 DB, and the gain could be set so that it cannot go above 80 DB.  To show that the battery is running low on the amplifier, it could vibrate at regular intervals, such as once every 30 seconds.  This will be useful for deaf blind people, as they will be able to feel it vibrating.  I hope this idea will be considered. 

 

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E.A. Draffan's picture
Posted by E.A. Draffan on Friday 11th of January 2013, 04:30 pm
Sam this is a really important idea and would you believe it you are up there with a group of Cambridge researchers - you may want to contact them to see if they are thinking along the same lines with their software. There is some information about it on this website http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-11/ceuo-csi110812.php
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