Editor: Suppose you had a hearing aid that was able to recognize speech and treat the speech signal differently from other sounds. Oticon has announced just such a device. Here’s the scoop.
Adapto(TM), the first voice-activated hearing aid that gives priority to human voice over other sounds in the environment, was just cleared for marketing by the Food and Drug Administration.
Similar to the technology used in voice-activated telephones and computer software, Adapto uses a miniature computer chip feature called VoiceFinder(TM) that “finds” or detects speech signals in the environment and immediately processes these signals for better understanding. When no speech is detected, the 100% digital hearing aid automatically turns down the volume by changing to a more comfortable, relaxing, listening mode. Like the human brain in a person with normal hearing, Adapto instantly switches from comfort mode to speech mode in a fraction of a second, as soon as someone starts talking.
“This is an important innovation for the one in ten Americans who are hard of hearing,” says Sheena Phelps-Burks, audiologist and project manager for Oticon, Inc., manufacturer of the new hearing instrument. “Since many of those with hearing loss lack the ability to filter out extraneous noises, sounds that normal hearing people disregard, like traffic, restaurant and office noises, are unpleasantly magnified for the hearing impaired. Adapto saves those with hearing loss from the fatigue of listening to constant unfiltered sounds.”
Some four million Americans wear hearing aids, and that number is expected to increase as the population continues to age. Hearing loss is usually gradual so people may not notice that they are losing their hearing. The new Adapto hearing instruments are available exclusively through hearing care professionals.