Cadence Design Systems successfully collaborated with a consortium that included GlobalFoundries (GF), Hoerzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH, and Leibniz University Hannover to develop the industry’s first binaural hearing aid system-on-chip (SoC) prototype, which is programmable with high-programming languages and enables customers to create hearing aids that process critical sounds more optimally while simultaneously reducing background noise. 

The new SoC, called the Smart Hearing Aid Processor (SmartHeAP), is based on the Cadence Tensilica Fusion G6 DSP and Tensilica Xtensa LX7 processor, the Cadence digital full flow and the GF 22FDX platform. The SmartHeAP project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under grant 16ES0760.

“The collaboration between GF, Cadence, Hoerzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH and Leibniz University Hannover resulted in a successful hearing aid SoC that consumes significantly less power while providing hearing aid wearers with the first-of-its-kind binaural technology that transforms how they process a complete auditory scene,” says Ted Letavic, corporate fellow, GlobalFoundries. “By harnessing the power of the Cadence Tensilica DSP and digital full flow combined with the energy efficiency of the 22FDX platform, we delivered compelling PPA results.”

The SmartHeAP SoC prototype provides hearing aid companies with all the components required to create and reprogram hearing devices that improve a wearer’s hearing experience. Some of the key benefits the SmartHeAP SoC prototype provides include:

  • Binaural hearing technology: Hearing aids in the right and left ears communicate with one another, enabling a wearer to pick up sounds from the full auditory scene without destroying the binaural cues.
  • Improved hearing loss compensation capabilities: Through advanced algorithms, the SoC automatically analyzes the incoming signal and provides adaptive sound amplification that is customized to the wearer’s unique hearing needs.
  • High processing capacity with minimal power consumption: Provides the hearing aid wearer with optimal sound quality in real time while conserving power and extending hearing aid battery life.
  • Cost Savings: The hearing aid software can be quickly upgraded without replacing the hardware, saving both the wearers and the hearing aid companies money.
  • Faster time to market: Hearing aid companies of all sizes can effectively compete in the market due to the ease of use of high-level programming languages, which enable faster innovation cycles.

“By collaborating with GF, Hoerzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH and Leibniz University Hannover on the SmartHeAP SoC prototype, our research and technology advancements are improving the hearing experience,” says Rishi Chugh, vice president, product management in the IP Group at Cadence. “Each organization involved brought a unique perspective to the project, and delivering a successful prototype that can make a positive impact on the hearing experience is the ultimate reward. The Cadence digital full flow and Tensilica Fusion G6 DSP and Xtensa LX7 controller were foundational for this project, and the consortium is already seeing a high level of interest in the prototype from the hearing aid industry.”

The Tensilica Fusion G6 DSP and Xtensa LX7 processor, as well as the digital full flow, support Cadence’s broader Intelligent System Design Strategy, enabling SoC design excellence.