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Best Practices Checklist

Bluetooth Hearing Aid Technology & The Computer Chips That Make it Happen

By: Dr Cliff Olson
March 30, 2019
Video Transcript

In 1996 we saw the first generation of Digital Hearing Aids.  Since that time, hearing aid technology has advanced so rapidly that it is almost impossible to remember what these first generation of digital devices were like.Now in 2019, we have hearing aids that are a fraction of the size, with computer chips that are more advanced than used in computers that sent humans to outer space.  The complexity of today's modern digital chips are mind boggling.

It would be like comparing the airplane that the Wright Brothers flew for the first time to a Stealth Fighter Jet.  This new chip technology allows us to do some crazy things with hearing aids, but few things are quite as exciting as the wireless capabilities of these devices.  Today's hearing aids can wirelessly stream almost any audio directly into your hearing aids including Music, Podcasts, Movies, Audiobooks, & Television.  However, there is so much more that you should be able to do with wireless technology.

The problem with most hearing aids is the limitation of wireless protocols due to Technology and Size limitations of their computer chips.  They must be advanced enough to have the required components, but small enough to fit inside of a hearing aid.  In fact, most hearing aids are limited to 2 wireless protocols if they have any at all.  But that is where Phonak, today's video sponsor, excells.  

With the new SWORD 3.0 chip inside of their Marvel Hearing aids, they managed to incorporate 5 different wireless protocols on a chip that is only 6 square mm.  Which is about half the size of a chip used in an Apple iPhone.Even more shocking is the complexity of the new SWORD 3.0 chip.  In order to have  Million transistors on a chip this small, the size of the components had to be extremely small.  A single connector is only 40 nanometers thick.  

Compare this to a single strand of hair that is 60,000 nanometers thick.  Yes, that is 40 vs 60,000 which just goes to show how microscopic things are on this new chip.It took Phonak 5 years to develop this chip and took approximately 50 engineers 200,000 hours to create.  If a single engineer worked on this chip for 12 hours per day, it would have taken over 45 years to develop.  

The development of this new SWORD 3.0 chip technology has led to the following 5 Bluetooth Protocols inside of the Phonak Marvel Hearing Aids.

First is BTLE – For use with Wireless Fitting & the Remote App. The Phonak Remote App allows you to change programs & the volume of your hearing aids.Second is BT Classic Standard – This is used for direct audio streaming, and can be broken down into 2 sub-protocols.

BT Classic  HFP – which stands for Hands Free Protocol and allows for Headphone and Microphone which allows you to talk on the phone, and A2DP – which stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile which gives the best Stereo Audio Connection for Music listening.

Third you have AirStream – Which connects with the TV connector which provides (Dolby Stereo Sound) it also has a Lower Energy Pull, and is Low-Latency so there is no delay from the TV to the hearing aids.

Fourth is the 2.4 G BVST Protocol - This stands for Binaural VoiceStream Technology.  This allows two hearing aids to share information, giving rise to a feature called Stereo Zoom which allows the hearing aids to identify the main speech source, and provide up to 60% better speech understanding in noise.

Fifth is the Roger 2.4 GHZ wireless Protocol (that will be made available in the Fall of 2019 with a Firmware update) which will allow for direct communication with a Roger FM Device like the Roger Pen, Roger Table Mic, and Roger Select.  All of which help a user cut through background noise and understand speech substantially better.Bluetooth isn't just a "nice to have" feature inside of a hearing aid.

If you have difficulty Hearing on the Telephone, understanding the Television, enjoying Music, or Hearing in Background noise, Bluetooth technology can make a huge difference. You just need to figure out which Bluetooth Hearing Aid is right for you.

Dr Cliff's Thoughts

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