Phonak and Advanced Bionics have announced a breakthrough in new microphone technology that will help people with hearing aids hear better, especially in noise.

This invention is called MultiBeam Technology, which soon will be applied in new advanced wireless microphones. First scientific results with patients show large improvements in speech recognition.

Despite huge advancements in hearing technology, fundamental barriers remain in noisy restaurants, large meetings or social gatherings, all acoustically challenging environments. In these situations 31% of people with hearing aids still have difficulties following conversations. This can lead to social retreat with further health implications.

Since September 2009 a taskforce of acoustic engineers have been working on the development of MultiBeam Technology. By utilising multiple microphones in six directions, speech from 360 degrees is calculated and compared.The direction with the best signal to noise ratio is automatically selected.

In a scientific investigation at the University of Texas a group of ten patients with hearing aids were tested in a situation which resembled a noisy restaurant with three conversation partners. Speech understanding improved up to 61% in the group conversation in 75 dB of noise compared to using hearing aids alone. Professor Linda Thibodeau who lead the research, says: “The MultiBeam Technology will allow persons with hearing challenges who have resigned from attending social functions, family gatherings and business meetings to experience significant improvements in speech recognition. This could ultimately lead to improved quality of life as they confidently reconnect with others using discreet, convenient and highly versatile technology.”

Hans Mulder, senior audiologist at Phonak said: “We are extremely happy to have achieved this milestone. It underlines the unwavering commitment of our finest engineers to never be satisfied with existing solutions but to continue to push the envelope of technology, so that more people can enjoy their lives to the fullest. We are now working hard to embed the new technology in coming solutions.”