Spurring Innovation in Hearing Aid Development

Spurring Innovation in Hearing Aid Development

Hearing impairment is widespread – approximately 15% of American adults report some degree of hearing trouble.  Yet, only 4 in 10 people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss use amplification (i.e., a hearing aid). And less than 1 in 10 people with mild hearing loss use some kind of amplification*.  Clearly, there is room for improved rehabilitation of the hearing impaired population.

*Results from 2008 hearing aid industry survey MarkeTrack VIII

What Are the Barriers to Greater Hearing Aid Usage?

The reasons for poor hearing aid adoption are diverse and complex. Out-of-pocket cost ranks high as an issue to be addressed. In fact, the Senate Report Language for FY2013 appropriations strongly urges the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD) to “support research grants that could lead to less expensive hearing aids, so such aids could become accessible and affordable to more people.” Another primary barrier to hearing aid adoption is sound quality, and the sense that hearing aids are still not quite able to meet all the needs of hearing impaired consumers.

Developing An Open-Source Audio Processing Platform

Creare and its collaborators at the Boys Town National Research Hospital are developing an open-source audio processing platform to spur innovation in hearing aid research. The project is funded by Department of Health & Human Services/NIDCD. The result of this effort will be a user-friendly, portable, upgradable and wearable master hearing aid (MHA).  The MHA will enable collaborative development and the open exchange of new processing algorithms within the broader hearing research community, including both academia and industry. The MHA has an open design architecture and uses readily available electronic components.

Two groups of MHA users are envisioned.  First, “expert developers” can implement and test new algorithms.  They will have full access to completely reprogram the device and to add/remove hardware elements.  Second, researchers and professionals will be able to change processing parameters for the built-in algorithms via a computer or mobile device.  Thus, they will be able to test the relative benefits of amplification variants available with the wearable master hearing aid.

The project runs through June 2021.

Read our lead engineer’s blog on this development:  http://openaudio.blogspot.com/2016/10/teensy-audio-over-usb.html

Watch for product updates at:  https://tympan.org/

Download available Open Source code and design for the master hearing aid at: