has pioneered directionality and narrow directionality for the last 20 years. They were the first
to be allowed by the FDA to advertise noise reduction hearing aids
using active directionality... an industry first in the mis-1990's. Since that time they have refined this technology to the AutoSense OS
Technology that they now use in their hearing aids. This technology automatically recognizes the listening environment and then seamlessly transitions the hearing aid user into the optimal listening program… whether that is a "surround sound" program for quiet listening environments or a very focused directional microphone program that uses both hearing aids in a narrow directionality (beam forming) mode. All Phonak hearing aids
use this automatic transitioning program but Phonak's most advanced hearing aids use it optimally and give the user more choices for additional listening programs. Phonak's most advanced Binaural VoiceStream programs are available in the "70 and 90" technology levels. To understand this better, let's review the options that are available at the V90 and B90 technology levels:
At the "90" technology levels there are now seven
programs through which AutoSense automatically and seamlessly transitions utilizing 33 processing channels
1. Calm. The listening program for quiet places. Minimal directionality is typically used in this progam...usually just enough to mimic the "pinna effect". The "pinna" is the funny shaped thing on the side of our head's that actually gives our ears a slight frontal focus. Have noticed that many land animals can swivel their ears to better hear a potentially threatening sound...that's the front focus that is typically added even in the "Calm" memory for quiet places.
2. Speech-in-Noise. An active directional microphone (narrow directionality) program for listening in noisier environments.
3. Speech-in-Loud Noise. This is the Binaural VoiceStream
program that uses all four hearing aid microphones to form a narrow Directional Beam to focus in on the person that the hearing aid user is facing and maximally reduces sounds coming from all other directions. Additionally, this advanced technology recognizes the hearing aid (the left one or the right one) that is receiving the best speech-to-noise ratio, and puts that signal into both hearing aids to maximize speech understanding and to reduce listening effort.
4. Speech-in Car. This program automatically recognizes that the hearing aid user is driving in the car and sets the hearing aid into a program that optimizes speech understanding under typical car listening conditions. Below, I will also describe the Binaural VoiceSream
program (Speech in 360°) that can further maximize speech understanding in situations like driving in the car.
5. Comfort-in-Noise. This automatic program recognizes that the user is in a noisy place and that there is no speech present. In this condition, the hearing aid will automatically reduce background noise on a frequency by frequency basis to keep the listening environment as comfortable as possible.
6. Comfort-in-Echo. Reverberation or echo even in a quiet room presents the most difficult listening situation because the signal that you want to listen to is acting like an extremely effective masker. This is a more difficult listening situation than listening to speech when there is non-related background noise. This program can actually recognize the primary, secondary, and tertiary reflections of speech that create the echo. This program using timing differences that can reduce echo and significantly improve speech intelligibility.
7. Music. Music appreciation is something that varies from patient to patient. This gets a bit technical: the anti-feedback circuitry in Phonak hearing aids uses phase shifting
and frequency shifting
to minimize acoustic feedback (that annoying whistling sound that sometimes affects hearing aids that don't utilize this technology or do not uses this technology effectively). Depending on the patient and the type of music that they listen to, some custom programming will be required...depending on the patient and the type of music that they listen to. We will want to minimize the phase shifting and frequency shifting for the high-pitched sounds in music (violins, piccolos, etc.) especially for classical music listeners. For listeners of pop music, usually a bit more bass will be required.
We should also include all of the Bluetooth Streaming
in a dicussion the AutoSense
automatic programs, as they require no additional program changes by the user. Phonak has more wireless listening devices then any other hearing aid company. They are definitely the world leader
in this area. Whether it is automatically connecting a Bluetooth enabled cell phone, home phone, or television... or whether it's using remote microphone technology, Phonak is the world leader. Every company makes choices as to what types of wireless devices they will connect to. Phonak does not make telephones specifically for iPhones but instead makes their hearing aids connect with all Bluetooth enabled devices whether that is an iPhone, and Android Smart phone, or a Bluetooth enabled flip phone. Phonak's wireless devices are discussed in more detail by returning to the
Phonak Hearing Aid Pricing
page and scrolling down to
Phonak Wireless Devices
wher the available devices are described and the prices are listed.
Additional Binaural VoiceStream
Speech in 360°. This is an innovative Binaural VoiceStream
program that actually can improve performance in situations like speech in a car. In this program, the hearing aid will actually automatically zoom left, zoom right, zoom toward the backseat, or go into the standard front facing microphone program. You can imagine that if you're the driver with your left ear next to the window, there's really not much information that you need to get from the window. In this case, if the passenger was speaking, the hearing aid would directionally focus on the person to your right and then put that same signal into both ears to maximize speech intelligibility. In the opposite condition, the hearing aid can do this from the passenger seat as well...and can focus toward the backseat if required.
Speech-in-Wind. This is another innovative Binaural VoiceStream
program that is especially good for outdoor's persons and golfers. Wind very seldom comes from directly in front of the hearing aid user. It is almost always at an angle. In this situation, the hearing aid will recognize the hearing aid that is getting the most wind noise and takes the better signal from the opposite ear and puts that into both hearing aids… once again maximizing sound intelligibility and speech intelligibility in a very difficult listening situation.
DuoPhone. This Binaural VoiceStream
program is available in most Phonak hearing aids regardless of technology level. This program can be made automatic or made manual (so that the user can select it as needed). If the patient is not using a Bluetooth phone that connects directly to their hearing aids, then the Duo-Phone option can put the speaker's voice into both hearing aids… once again maximizing intelligibility through the use of both ears.
Note: These additional programs can be selected using a Remote Control, a Bluetooth Streamer, a program selection button on the hearing aid (that switches both hearing aids with one touch) or the multi-function push button on the new Phonak Belong series instruments.