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I Want to Hear This One Distinct Thing That is Unique to Me



I was browsing a Facebook group for hearing aid wearers and came across an interesting question that someone else had posted, I paraphrase:

I wear Phonak Paradise and I work in a noisy kitchen. I struggle to hear the timer beeping so I don't know when food is ready, my hearing aids are generally working well but it seems like the timer is actually quietier with them in. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and this is where I need the hearing aids to work.

A working kitchen is no doubt a noisy place with pots and pans crashing around, people talking and moving around, fans whirring, appliances running and whatever else. It'll be all hard surfaces and probably quite open-plan, so sounds will be bouncing around all over the place. A tough environment to listen in and hard work for the hearing aid.

I guess the timer he wants to hear is a ding noise, probably quite high-pitch and gets lost alongside the pots and pans and other mid to high pitch noise. It's likely the Paradise are doing a great job of dampening down the background noise and making speech hearable. But still he needs that ding to be heard.

This got me thinking. This is a very personalised request, I wouldn't want my pair of Paradise to bring a timer ding to the fore, but he does. So how do you programme that? I doubt you can, there's no boost-the-high-pitch-ding-but-leave-the-other-hight-pitches option.

So what to do? Couldn't hearing aids have a feature that allows the user to record the sound they want to hear and it then place that sound into its list of known sounds to deal with? In other words, he makes sure the ktichen is quiet, starts the hearing aids smartphone app, places it next to the timer, records the ding and hits save sound.

Hearing aids already process all of the incoming sounds, convert them to digital data and then process them through its mechanism for determining what the user wants to hear, which usually means speech. Let's allow the hearing aid user to add in their sounds to that data bank, so they can create highly-personalised decisions on what they want to hear.

iPhone as an Example

iPhone's running iOS 14 or above have something similar, in the accessibility menu, there is an option called Sound Recognition where you can select from sounds that someone who is hard of hearing/deaf might want to be alerted to, i.e. knock at the door, dog bark, doorbell, and so on. When the iPhone hears one of those sounds it sends you a message to let you know. So the iPhone can recognise a dog bark, a hearing aid could too.

So Many Uses

I'm sure people would come up with a million and one uses for this feature. Programming in your own name would be a great start, if someone says "Steve" I probably want to hear that. This would be useful for me in the waiting room of our local Doctor's surgery, they call your name over the tannoy, which is a nightmare to understand and makes for a nervous wait, if I knew my hearing aids were going to give me guaranteed notice of my name being called, either by making the speech louder or by pinging my phone with a message, I could relax.

Flipping it For Things You Don't Want to Hear

There's no reason why you couldn't flip that and have the hearing aid reduce the specific sounds you don't want to hear. Dripping tap driving you nuts? No more.

I knew I'd written something like this before, I looked back through the Know archives and I found this article, it's not dated but it's one of the first I wrote on this website so I guess it was around 2006, progress has been slow.....

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