In the June edition of the American Journal of Audiology, Linda Thibodeau, PhD, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas), describes her findings of a new technology which reportedly allows people with hearing loss to hear and understand speech better than those with normal hearing. The finding is evident in cases where conditions are most challenging for people with hearing loss: in noise and over distance. The technology enables hearing aid users to understand speech in high noise and over distance by up to 62%* better than people with normal hearing in the same condition.
In her research, Dr Thibodeau conducted measurements comprising a comparative speech recognition test with hearing aid users. This was achieved by using different wireless technologies (fixed FM and adaptive FM) and Phonak’s Roger technology, in different noise levels. “Our research with the new Roger wireless technology compared to the current and past Phonak wireless FM systems yielded impressive benefits for adults and teens listening to speech in noise in a laboratory and real world situations,” summarized Thibodeau. “Particularly at high noise levels, the use of Roger allowed significant speech recognition where it was previously impossible.”
The study at a glance:
- Test group: 11 adults, aged 16 to 78, with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, fitted with behind the ear hearing aids of different brands
- Control group: 15 adults, aged 18 to 30, with normal hearing
- Test method: objective and subjective speech recognition measurements at different noise levels
- Roger clearly outperforms adaptive FM and fixed FM
- Roger enabled people with hearing aids to even hear better than the normal hearing from 65dB
- One participant went from 0 to 90% (at 75 dB) and from 0 to 58% (at 80 dB) speech recognition with Roger
References: Thibodeau L. Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM remote microphone hearing assistance technology by listeners who use hearing aids. American Journal of Audiology. 2014;23(6):201-210.
Innovative Technology: The Roger Pen
The measurements showed that Roger technology allowed people with hearing loss to surpass the normal hearing in noise. At noise levels of 65 dB and higher (similar to noise level in a restaurant setting), people with hearing loss using Roger performed better in the speech recognition test (laboratory test in which user recognizes and repeats words they hear) than those with normal hearing. At a noise level of 75 dB, those with hearing loss achieved 69% accurate word recognition compared with only 7% by people with normal hearing.
The Roger technology was invented at Phonak headquarters in Staefa, Switzerland, where a team of more than 40 engineers and audiologists worked together on it for more than seven years. A radical new approach was taken to extract speech from background noise, based on complex mathematical models. One of the breakthrough moments in the development of the technology was the recognition of the systems capability of successfully assessing the background noise in order to effectively reduce it and extract the desired speech signal.
Next to the performance, the group also worked on the design of the new technology. One of the products is a wireless microphone, which looks like a sleek pen, aiming to be as inconspicuous as possible.
“We are extremely proud of this achievement and keen to see the impact Roger will have on people’s lives,” says Maarten Barmentlo, group vice president of marketing, Phonak. “Restoring people’s hearing is our mission, and we strive to do more, do better for those with hearing loss. To provide better hearing in noise is in our DNA. By giving people an advantage beyond even those with no hearing loss, we made the impossible possible.”
What is Roger?
Roger by Phonak is a new digital wireless standard that helps hearing aid users to understand 62%* more (in noise and over distance) than those with normal hearing. It uses cutting-edge wireless microphones to pick up the voice of the speaker and transmit it wirelessly over 2.4 GHz to miniature ear-level receivers. Roger is hassle-free and automatically adapts its settings to the noise and speakers around.
* Thibodeau L. Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM wireless technology by listeners who use hearing aids. Am J Audiol. 2014;23(6):201-210.