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The technology that might be powering your next hearing aid (and making it cost less)

On Semiconductor have released two new DSPs, with the aim of lowering manufacturing costs of both high-end and low-end hearing aids. The R3920 and R3110 are new additions to their RHYTHM range of products.

A DSP (or Digital Signal Processor) is the microchip inside a hearing aid that converts incoming sounds to allow you to hear them more clearly.

Whilst the biggest players in the hearing aid industry still create their own DSP technology the push by companies like On Semiconductor to provide low-cost DSPs make it much simpler for other companies to challenge the likes of Phonak, Starkey and Widex.

The R3920 is the high-end model, it offers features 16-channels of wide dynamic range compression (WDRC), providing audiologists the freedom of fine granularity fitting. The iSceneDetect™ environmental classification algorithm on R3920 discerns various sound environments and then selects the most appropriate mode automatically for a high-quality, custom audio experience. Impulse noise reduction, another new feature on R3920, monitors and attenuates sharp, impulsive noises such as clattering dishes that could otherwise be very uncomfortable for hearing aid users.

The lower-spec model, the R3110, is aimed more at low-cost hearing aid suppliers who are selling pre-programmed or self-programmed aids. It provides a “turnkey” solution that requires little or no programming by a hearing professional but still offers features like noise reduction, feedback cancellation, telecoil and dual microphones.

This is great news for us, the customers – as the price of the technology that goes into hearing aids drops and the features offered improves, companies can offer the complete aid package to us at better prices.

The big six hearing aid manufacturers (William Demant, Sonova, Starkey, Siemens, ReSound and Widex) still account for around 80% of all hearing aid sales but if more companies can get to market with high-quality, low price products built upon DSPs from the likes of On Semiconductor then I hope we’ll see falling prices, increased innovation and more happier customers.