or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Apple wants to enhance hearing aids through iPhone connectivity
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Apple wants to enhance hearing aids through iPhone connectivity

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Apple's iOS 6 will bring compatibility for "Made for iPhone" hearing aids when the mobile OS hits iDevices this fall, and two new U.S. patent applications give a peek at what users can look forward to as the technology matures.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published a pair of Apple inventions outlining two iDevice-driven hearing assistance systems the company may implement in the near future.

Apple's patent for a "Hearing assistance system for providing consistent human speech" and the related "Providing notification sounds in a customizable manner" both interface portable devices, such as the iPhone, with digital hearing aids to create a more effective system for hearing impaired users.

In the first patent, Apple attempts to solve the problems some hearing aid users face when a person they are listening to has inconsistent speech patterns or speech artifacts. Because most hearing aids amplify sound non-selectively, it may be hard for a user to pick out what they want to hear from ambient noise. This is further complicated when a speaker has "idiosyncratic" speech artifacts, an accent or general inconsistencies when they talk.




Alert
Flowchart illustrating consistent voice technology. | Source: USPTO



The patent gives the example of a user in a lecture hall or classroom where a presenter with said speech artifacts is both speaking and writing on a board. In this case, a hearing aid user may have trouble concentrating on the visual information as they are exerting most of their energy on trying to discern what the presenter is saying.

To overcome such limitations, Apple proposes a method in which a portable computing device, like the iPhone or iPad, can receive human speech input, convert it into text and convert the text into consistent computer-generated speech which is then sent to a hearing aid. The connection between the iDevice and hearing aid can either be wired or wireless.

Going further, the user is able to define a number of playback metrics to suit their needs. For example, they can specify a specific time for pauses between individual words or manipulate the playback cadence to help with comprehension. Also noted is lower-voiced output for those with high-frequency hearing loss.

Apple's second patent describes an alert system that gives users audible or visual notifications "corresponding to an external event" like a doorbell or fire alarm.

Hearing Aid Patent
Illustration of iDevice-based hearing aid notification system. | Source: USPTO


In one embodiment, a solution is presented in which an iPhone can detect a doorbell with its internal microphone and signal a user with a flashing screen or an audible notification via transmission to a hearing aid. Also noted is the use of the handset's photo sensors as a means of detection, though the patent failed to elaborate on how such a technology would be implemented.

Users can customize the notifications to either amplify the sound of the notifying device, like a fire alarm, or choose from a variety of other sounds. The system also allows text messages to be read via a text to speech engine.

Thursday's patents come on the heels of another set of properties Apple applied for in July regarding hearing aid technology. It is unclear if the company plans on incorporating the inventions into upcoming products, but the iPhone maker appears to be at least investigating the possibilities of using the iPhone's processing power to help with third-party hearing aid devices.
post #2 of 17

Finally a company gets it.  I wear dual hearing aids and my hearing loss is in the higher frequencies and its no joy dealing with noisy situations or when I use my phone.  Hearing aids cost a lot of money, about $2500-3k and I don't always want to dig out my BT headset to get a call so I can hear the end user better.  

post #3 of 17
let's hear it for apple /facetious ... applause...and the crowd goes wild...
post #4 of 17
I wonder who will claim Apple is just trying to make hearing aides proprietary.

This bot has been removed from circulation due to a malfunctioning morality chip.

Reply

This bot has been removed from circulation due to a malfunctioning morality chip.

Reply
post #5 of 17

Eh?

 

Speak up, sonny.

post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by RaptorOO7 View Post

Finally a company gets it.  I wear dual hearing aids and my hearing loss is in the higher frequencies and its no joy dealing with noisy situations or when I use my phone.  Hearing aids cost a lot of money, about $2500-3k and I don't always want to dig out my BT headset to get a call so I can hear the end user better.  

When you do upgrade, you'll be able to buy hearing aids that also work as a stereo bluetooth headset.
post #7 of 17

Not exactly related to the hearing aid issue, but I'm really surprised Apple hasn't gone after the active noise suppression headset business yet.  If the phones are already using their own active noise reduction circuitry for phone calls, why haven't they pushed the ability out to listening to music or movies?

post #8 of 17

Not sure about all makes of hearing aids but my fathers use FM to communicate with external devices which means he has to wear an FM to Bluetooth dongle round his neck to pair with his iPhone, on the upside this gives him a better connectivity range to the base station than the house 3G router does but in this day and age and the length of time Bluetooth has been around you would think the entire hearing aid industry would have converged on this (Bluetooth) format

 
post #9 of 17

If they really 'got it' they would cook up a better TAP plan for their iPhones,  

 

Bluetooth sucks too much power (still) for hearing aids, hence most manufacturers offer some kind of intermediary device you carry around that talks to the BT devices and then transmits to the aids.  Which is goofy.

post #10 of 17

That's great! But will this work for Cochlear Implant users?  If not, they may want to look into it.

Thanks

post #11 of 17

I am now experiencing the latest hearing aid technology with my father's first set (at 82).   Amazing that the technology is wireless for administration, tuning, and data downloading, and would be even more so if your iPhone can 'monitor' the volumes 'heard'/'projected' and adjust its equalization accordingly.   I'm starting to lose my hearing (and tinnitus, long years operating farm machinery, and longer years listening to Pink Floyd at '11'), and I can only hope that hearing aids and 'audio interfaces' can interconnect for better transmission.

 

The other thing is... this is Apple staking out a market that is somewhat affluent, and smartphone averse.   If hearing loss becomes prevalent in the population, then staking out this market expands the market for iDevices.   

post #12 of 17
These seem like great ideas. I'm glad Apple is still thinking outside the box. While all the newcomers and freeloaders are trying to chase Apple in the cutting edge portable gadget space (typically adopted by the younger folks), Apple is again skating to where the puck is going to be and improving the experience for aging people, which are going to begin dominating the demographics in developed nations. It reminds me of Tim Cook describing one of the reasons he left his lucrative and promising job at Compaq to work at Apple: he said he was impressed that Steve Jobs was focusing on the consumer market, while everyone else in the tech industry was focused on enterprise, and look how that has turned out. I'm definitely not worried that Apple won't continue to grow and dominate as it has been, through continued innovation and forward thinking.

   

Reply

   

Reply
post #13 of 17
Direct iPhone connectivity would be awesome for music, movies, etc. However, for the speech to text to computer generated speech to work effectively the processing would have to be extremely fast (within a few miliseconds) and very accurate otherwise hearing aid users with a more mild loss or sloping high frequency loss would not fully adopt it.. It would have to be much better than Siri currently is at recognizing speech!!
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

I am now experiencing the latest hearing aid technology with my father's first set (at 82).   Amazing that the technology is wireless for administration, tuning, and data downloading, and would be even more so if your iPhone can 'monitor' the volumes 'heard'/'projected' and adjust its equalization accordingly.   I'm starting to lose my hearing (and tinnitus, long years operating farm machinery, and longer years listening to Pink Floyd at '11'), and I can only hope that hearing aids and 'audio interfaces' can interconnect for better transmission.

 

The other thing is... this is Apple staking out a market that is somewhat affluent, and smartphone averse.   If hearing loss becomes prevalent in the population, then staking out this market expands the market for iDevices.   

 

It's not "IF" hearing loss becomes prevalent, but "WHEN" it becomes prevalent in the population.... We are only a few years from the convergence of the baby boomers and the young (who are blowing away their hearing on over-powered sub-woofer automotive sound systems) upon the hearing aid outlets.

 

At a time when the population is aging, Apple is positioned with the iDevices to address hearing loss as well as vision loss in all kinds of ways. Meanwhile Microsoft is sure everyone will still prefer to use that old  late-1800 invention, the typewriter keyboard.

"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
Reply
"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
Reply
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by KillerKowalski View Post

Direct iPhone connectivity would be awesome for music, movies, etc. However, for the speech to text to computer generated speech to work effectively the processing would have to be extremely fast (within a few miliseconds) and very accurate otherwise hearing aid users with a more mild loss or sloping high frequency loss would not fully adopt it.. It would have to be much better than Siri currently is at recognizing speech!!

 

Maybe that improvement will come with a newer faster iPhone CPU in the next 30 days. THAT may be the only thing that more speed may improve, everything else seems to be speedy enough.

"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
Reply
"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
Reply
post #16 of 17

Did I read that right? Apple wants to send speech a device hears to their cloud and send text back which will then be read by the device? Well, maybe in 5 or 10 years; but! with all the mistakes Dictation makes, can you imagine what it might think a lecturer might have said? Especially, if he is using terms specific to s subject? Sheesh! Plus. computer speech is still to difficult to listen to for just a short time...can't imagine it for hours at a time.

post #17 of 17

YES, PLEASE!!! I'll be a beta-tester!

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Discussion
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Apple wants to enhance hearing aids through iPhone connectivity