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New Phonak technology allows people with hearing loss to hear better than normal hearing people

Staefa, Switzerland

In a paper published in the American Journal of Audiology, Professor Linda Thibodeau of the University of Texas describes her findings of a new technology which allows people with hearing loss to hear and understand speech better than those with normal hearing. The finding is evident in cases where conditions are most challenging for people with hearing loss: in noise and over distance. This innovative technology enables hearing aid users to understand speech in high noise and over distance by up to 62%* better than people with normal hearing in the same condition.

In her research, Professor Linda Thibodeau conducted measurements  comprising a comparative speech recognition test with hearing aid users. This was achieved by using different wireless technologies (called fixed FM and adaptive FM) and the new technology (called Roger) – in different noise levels. “Our research with the new Roger wireless technology compared to the current and past Phonak wireless FM systems yielded impressive benefits for adults and teens listening to speech in noise in a laboratory and real world situations. Particularly at high noise levels the use of Roger allowed significant speech recognition where it was previously impossible”, summarizes Linda Thibodeau on the major finding.

Innovative technology: The Roger Pen
The measurements showed that Roger technology allowed people with hearing 11F9 loss to surpass the normal hearing in noise. At noise levels of 65dB and higher, people with hearing loss using Roger performed better in the speech recognition test than those with normal hearing. At a noise level of 75 dB, those with hearing loss achieved 69% accurate word recognition compared with only 7% by people with normal hearing.

The Roger technology was invented at Phonak headquarters in Switzerland. A team of over 40 engineers and audiologists, worked together for more than seven years on the project. A radical new approach was taken to extract speech from background noise, based on complex mathematical models. One of the breakthrough moments in the development of the technology was the recognition of the systems capability of successfully assessing the background noise in order to effectively reduce it and extract the desired speech signal.

Next to the performance, the group also worked on the design of the new technology. One of the products, a wireless microphone, looks like a pen aiming to be as inconspicuous as possible.

“We are extremely proud of this achievement and keen to see which impact Roger will have on people’s lives. Restoring people’s hearing is our mission, and we strive to do more, do better for those with hearing loss”, says Maarten Barmentlo, Group Vice President Marketing for Phonak. “To provide better hearing in noise is in our DNA. By giving people even an advantage over those with no hearing loss we made the impossible possible”.

The study at a glance

  • Test group: 11 adults, aged 16 to 78, with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, fitted with behind the ear hearing aids of different brands
  • Control group: 15 adults, aged 18 to 30, with normal hearing
  • Test method: objective and subjective speech recognition measurements at different noise levels

Highlight results

  • Roger clearly outperforms adaptive FM and fixed FM
  • Roger enabled people with hearing aids to even hear better than the normal hearing from 65dB
  • One participant went from 0 to 90% (at 75 dB) and from 0 to 58% (at 80 dB) speech recognition with Roger

Publication details:

  • Comparison of Speech Recognition With Adaptive Digital and FM Remote Microphone Hearing Assistance Technology by Listeners Who Use Hearing Aids. Linda Thibodeau, PhD. American Journal of Audiology (AJA), Vol23, 201-210, June 2014.

What is Roger?

Roger by Phonak is a new digital wireless standard that helps hearing aid users to understand 62%* more (in noise and over distance) than those with normal hearing. It uses cutting-edge wireless microphones to pick up the voice of the speaker and transmit it wirelessly over 2.4 GHz to miniature ear-level receivers. Roger is hassle-free and automatically adapts its settings to the noise and speakers around.

*Professor Thibodeau, Linda, PhD (2014), Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM wireless technology by listeners who use hearing aids, University of Texas, Dallas, USA, The American Journal of Audiology. Volume 23, 201-210, June 2014.

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