Systems engineering in hearing aid development

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26.08.2020

Better hearing for people with hearing loss is a product of the fast evolution of modern technologies. Microelectronics became so small that they could fit first behind the ear and now even into the ear. Advances in high-precision electro-mechanics have made it possible to shrink microphones into microscopic dimensions. Modern battery chemistry powers high-performance computers we can wear at our ears.

All these technologies are combined into one better hearing experience in a modern pair of hearing instruments. Combining multiple actors into one performance requires choreography just like in performances done by multiple horses: it is not sufficient to master the perfection that results from the correct movement of each of them; one must also ensure that all their movements fit together in perfect harmony.

During more than a decade of work at the Bernafon headquarters in Switzerland, I have had the opportunity to contribute to the engineering effort that choreographs the latest technologies into the perfect hearing care solution. Ensuring the correct performance of a hearing instrument requires scientific work as it is composed of multiple sophisticated sound processors working together in a very small space. Such research has not only contributed to the technical correctness of many hearing instrument products released over the years, it has also rewarded me with a doctoral degree in engineering which I received after handing in some of my scientific results to Hannover University, Germany. I would like to thank Bernafon for having enabled this, by allowing me to publish research results that were obtained in their labs at the headquarters in Bern.

Combining technologies in the right way is still what I care about every day. As a Systems Engineer, I am responsible for the correct interaction of hardware and software components that can only jointly fulfill the requirements our audiologists have for a new product. But with the ongoing digital transformation, there are more and more interactions to care about. Hearing instruments already start talking to other pieces of technology while they are being produced. For example, the hearing instruments' interaction with sophisticated production machinery ensures proper operation of the wireless transceivers that enable binaural coordination between left and right hearing instruments as well as the wireless connection to mobile phones, remote controls, and other accessories. For the verification and calibration of these transceivers, the hearing instruments under production need to talk to the production machines producing them. Later during their lifecycle, they will be able to talk to the already mentioned mobile phones and accessories. Only by constantly thinking about the interoperability between all devices during development can it be ensured that all the different devices and components understand each other when talking together. This is one of the responsibilities of a Systems Engineer.

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My job as a Systems Engineer has brought me to many projects not only at Bernafon, but also in the international R&D cluster it is connected to and in the world-wide Systems Engineering community. In recent R&D-wide projects, I have contributed to high-power hearing instruments, educational technology, and novel engineering methods being used during the project work. These methods have been developed together and inspired by the international Systems Engineering community that is connected via the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). I have been participating in many Systems Engineering conferences, exchanging ideas with Systems Engineers from all over the world and presenting my own ideas in numerous conference talks. Some of those ideas can be read today in journal articles or books I have contributed to, not least the book "Model-based System Architecture" by Weilkiens, Lamm (myself), Roth, and Walker, which has been published by John Wiley & Sons. Again, I would like to thank Bernafon for having enabled and encouraged such publications. With these works, we have given some of our knowledge to the world – but with all the feedback I have received from co-researchers worldwide, the world has also given back some new ideas to us too.

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What is most inspiring for me about my job in this company is the possibility to contribute to realizing a better life for people with hearing loss. The best reward for my work is reading feedback from end users who have experienced a life-changing improvement through one of our products. What is also inspiring is to look at the great achievements of Bernafon's parent organization, which is called Demant. Demant consists of many companies all over the world. I’m looking forward to taking up some international challenges and assignments within the Demant organization, before returning to the Bernafon headquarters in the near future.

 

About the author:

Jesko Lamm
Dr.-Ing. Jesko Lamm, Dipl.-Ing. in electrical engineering from RWTH Aachen University
with a doctoral degree in engineering from Leibniz University Hannover, specialized in digital signal processing and later in systems engineering. Jesko has been working as an engineer and later as a Systems Engineer at Bernafon for more than 15 years. He is responsible for the correct interaction of the different technologies combined in hearing care products. If he was not spending all his leisure time with his whole family and in the systems engineering community, you would probably often find him riding along a beach on a horse back together with his wife.