Bernafon introduces Alpha, the first hearing aid to feature Hybrid Technology™

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
13.01.2021

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Trending…Hybrid
A new trend is "hybrid." Hybrid cars have of course, been around for many years and people are familiar with this concept. But there is now a huge variety of products that can also be classified as hybrid. You can buy clothes that are athleisure just in case you're not sure if you want to exercise or relax. There are hybrid fruits like pluots which are a fusion of plums and apricots. Or even fruits that seem straightforward like certain brands of apples and grapes are often hybrids of different varieties, cross-bred to maximize flavors and textures. There are even hybrid pastries. Has anybody tried a cronut (donut + croissant) or a brookie (brownie + cookie)? It seems that lately everything wants to be a hybrid, and why not? The very essence of being hybrid means that the best parts have been taken from one thing and combined with the best parts of another to create the ultimate product.

 

Comfortable and not too loud sounds

This concept now applies to hearing aids as well. Bernafon introduces its newest hearing aids, Alpha, with Hybrid Technology™. We all want sounds to be comfortable and not too loud or distorted, but when applied to hearing aids it can jeopardize speech understanding. To combat this dilemma, Bernafon has combined well-proven sound processing strategies and re-engineered them to work together as the situation demands. The result is Hybrid Sound Processing™ which provides speech intelligibility while maintaining comfort and sound quality.

Bernafon introduces its newest hearing aids, Alpha, with Hybrid Technology™

 

Wide Dynamic Range Compression (WDRC) is known for its ability to make soft sounds audible and loud sounds comfortable and improve speech recognition in quiet (May, et al., 2018). But in the process, it makes the contrasts between loud and soft sounds less distinguishable. Without the contrasts, the temporal cues of speech are less accessible for those with hearing loss (Davies-Venn, et. al., 2009). In order to accomplish its goal of audible soft sounds and comfortable loud sounds, WDRC must apply the compression at fast speeds. This can have a significant negative effect on the output of the hearing aids when steady-state background noise is present, particularly when the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is positive. The compression system applies more gain to soft sounds, including low-level noise, and consequently reduces the overall output SNR of the hearing aids (Naylor and Johannesson, 2009).

Using slower time constants has shown to preserve the temporal cues and also avoid amplification of low-level noise, but the resulting compromise is a reduced ability of the system to amplify soft speech sounds satisfactorily. Therefore, the ideal solution is a hybrid of the two in which fast-acting compression is applied to speech-like signals and slow-acting compression to noise. This is exactly what Bernafon has achieved with the new Hybrid Sound Processing™. Bernafon Alpha hearing aids with Hybrid Sound Processing™ combine a fast-acting estimator with multiple slow estimators to quickly apply the correct amount of amplification to soft speech without the negative secondary effects.

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Minimize unwanted noises to achieve good sound quality and still maintain comfort

To compliment the new sound processing, Bernafon also introduces Hybrid Noise Management™, Hybrid Balancing™ and Hybrid Feedback Canceller™. Noise management is only applied when the system determines that the directionality has not sufficiently improved the SNR. Furthermore, the new Smart Noise Reduction within Hybrid Noise Management™ has been trained by machine learning to apply the correct amount of noise reduction to specific situations. Hybrid Balancing™ supplies the Noise Balancer and Speech Balancer tools to adjust the contrast between speech and noise – a good tool for clients that need that extra bit of fine-tuning. Last but not least, the Hybrid Feedback Canceller™ combines two algorithms simultaneously to eliminate feedback before it becomes audible to the end user.

Hybrid Sound Processing™ accurately amplifies the signal while Hybrid Noise Management™, Hybrid Balancing™ and the Hybrid Feedback Canceller™ swiftly manage unwanted noise producing good sound quality while still maintaining comfort. Like all hybrid items, Alpha hearing aids let you benefit from the best aspects of technology and still manage to wrap it into one petite package.

For more details about Alpha hearing aids read the TiA – Bernafon Alpha – The way forward on the website. And just in case I've made you curious about other hybrid items, you can get inspiration by searching the internet for chocolate chip brookie recipes.

References:

Davies-Venn, E., Souza, P., Brennan, M., and Stecker, G.C. (2009). Effects of audibility and multichannel wide dynamic range compression on consonant recognition for listeners with severe hearing loss. Ear Hear, 30(5), 494-504.

May, T., Kowalewski, B., and Dau, T. (2018). Signal-to-noise-ratio-aware dynamic range compression in hearing aids. Trends in Hearing, 22, 1-12.

Naylor, G. and Johannesson, R.B: (2009). Long-term signal-to-noise ratio at the input and output of amplitude-compression systems. JAAA, 20(3), 161-171.

 

About the author:

Julie Tantau
Julie Tantau, AuD Doctor of Audiology A.T. Still University, Mesa Arizona, USA. MA Audiology. California State University, Long Beach, USA.
Julie is a Research Audiologist at Bernafon. She contributes to various aspects of the development process including running clinical trials to validate the end product before it’s released to the market. Before moving to Switzerland to work for Bernafon in 2012 she worked as a Clinical Audiologist in the United States treating patients with hearing and balance problems. In her private time, Julie enjoys baking and travelling with her family.