No longer ‘just’ hearing aids – the personal audio revolution is here

【Introduction】If you remember the hearing aids that many people wore more than a decade ago, they were big and obtrusive, and users were constantly fiddling with them, changing batteries, and complaining that they still couldn’t hear what was being said.

In a relatively short period of time, technological advancements have transformed these devices from frustrating sources to advanced audio devices, connected in a modern IoT-based ecosystem, providing users with numerous benefits and great audio performance.

No longer ‘just’ hearing aids – the personal audio revolution is here

The first step in evolution is to implement frequency-based nonlinear amplification, where each frequency band is amplified according to the energy level contained in that frequency band. As a result, loud noise is attenuated and quiet is amplified, which greatly enhances the hearing aid user’s experience.

This advancement is largely driven by the advent of digital signal processing (DSP), which enables hearing aids with the granularity of custom amplification of different frequencies, allowing them to be tuned and optimized for the user, especially as their hearing increases over time. when degraded over time. With DSP, audio signals can be processed in entirely new ways with highly selective digital filters that isolate frequencies and therefore sound types.

The intelligence of hearing aids is also increased by DSP, allowing them to adapt to the environment. For example, hearing aids can infer that the wearer is in a noisy environment, such as a crowd, a moving vehicle, or a large public place. Hearing aids will be reconfigured to the audio environment based on algorithms that control and adjust digital filters in real time to provide the best possible audio experience in all scenarios.

Wireless communications, such as personal area networks provided by Bluetooth® Low Energy connectivity, are also having a positive impact on hearing aid technology. Modern connected hearing aids can be controlled by a smartphone app and can be used for phone/video calls or listening to any other form of audio, including voice assistants, from a smartphone, tablet or any other Bluetooth LE capable device.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are starting to find their way into hearing aids, further expanding their capabilities and capabilities. Many believe the technology will have an unprecedented impact.

Going forward, the human ear offers considerable sensing opportunities. Soon, many hearing aids will include sensors for medical purposes such as heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen, blood sugar measurement and fall detection. Additionally, the same sensors can be used for consumer-facing health functions, including step counting.

As hearing aids offer more value-added features, such as streaming audio from personal devices, the distinction between them and the emerging group of products known as hearing aids (over-the-counter hearing aids, earbuds, etc.)

Listening assistance technology opens up many potential revenue streams, including real-time translation, dictation and navigation services. In fact, anything that can provide sound through a Bluetooth LE connection can be provided (for a subscription fee) through hearing aid solutions, including modern hearing aids.

Technology drives progress

There would be no modern hearing aids without the tremendous advancements in semiconductor manufacturing technology in recent decades and other major advances such as DSP and Bluetooth LE technology.

Tracking the evolution of processors over time is usually based on the number of integrated transistors. The first personal computer (PC) processors had tens of thousands of transistors, fabricated using semiconductor processes, with feature sizes in the micrometer range. Today, these processors have tens of billions of transistors, and their technology nodes are thousands of times smaller.

This level of integration doesn’t just benefit the PC industry – this evolving technology is available to the entire semiconductor industry, enabling manufacturers in all vertical markets to take great strides forward.

Specifically, the hearing aid market benefits from multi-core parallel processing architectures that provide exponential increases in processing power, minimized clock cycles, and dramatically reduced power consumption. This core handles highly sophisticated algorithms, including AI.

No longer ‘just’ hearing aids – the personal audio revolution is here

Ezairo 8300 System Block Diagram

Many modern audio products will benefit from the latest additions to Onsemi’s DSP-based EZAIRO® family of audio processor solutions. Specifically designed and developed for hearing aids and assistive listening devices, the Ezairo 8300 features six processing cores, each optimized for performance in this application area. This includes three DSP cores, a microcontroller and two hardware accelerators, one of which is a neural network accelerator, designed to perform AI and machine learning functions with high energy efficiency without requiring additional processor power.

Source: ON Semiconductor

The Links:   LB121S03-TD01 NL6448BC33-70 PM150RSE120

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