Signia’s Brian Taylor on audiology & medical devices

Brian Taylor, Senior Director for Audiology at Signia, explores medical device hearing technology innovations and their impact in the healthcare industry

Brian Taylor has been an audiologist for more than 30 years and currently serves as the Senior Director of Audiology for Signia, where he creates and teaches courses on clinically relevant topics and works closely with R&D on white papers.

“The first half of my career I worked in a busy medical practice that had a commercial hearing aid service. Over the past 15-20 years, I have had a variety of responsibilities in the industry including managing technical support teams, overseeing practice development departments and conducting clinical research.” 

Here, he tells Healthcare Digital about the impact of hearing loss and new technologies designed to help patients. 

 

Conversing in crowded places has traditionally been a challenge for those who have hearing loss. How can an inability to keep up with busy conversations due to hearing loss impact social isolation and mental health?

“The gradual loss of hearing in adults often creates a vicious cycle: A person misses important parts of the conversation leading to annoyance, frustration and fatigue, which can result in avoidance and withdrawal. This eventually leads to social isolation, which creates more frustration, withdrawal and sometimes even depression.”

 

What have existing hearing technologies done to address hearing in noise and what does Signia’s recently announced Integrated Xperience (IX) platform do differently? 

“There are many quality hearing aid solutions on the market that effectively reduce the signal to noise ratio of the wearer’s listening situation – meaning background noise is softened so a single speaker’s voice is elevated clearly. We call this general concept spatially-based noise reduction. All modern hearing aids have this, yet the technology failed to accurately capture the soundscapes of busier, complex noisy situations like a crowded restaurant or cocktail party. 

“Signia, however, is a pioneer in this area. With IX we have built on the legacy of array microphones (bilateral beamforming), by providing four separate acoustic snapshots around the hearing aid wearer in which speech is identified and amplified independently. This means the hearing aids are capable of sectioning a wearer’s soundscape into four discrete snapshots for enhanced, clear and natural hearing even when there are multiple sources of noise. 

“This strategy is unlike any other currently being used by hearing aid manufacturers for improving a wearer’s ability to understand conversations (I.e., places where there are multiple people talking around the wearer). Additionally, several recent clinical studies conducted as part of Signia’s Integrated Xperience launch this year, and the launch of Augmented Xperience in 2021, demonstrate that Signia’s devices outperform competitors on measures of speech intelligibility in noise and listening comfort in noise. Readers can find those studies at the Signia Professional Library.”

Signia's Brian Taylor

Specifically, how does the technology in Signia IX tackle group conversations to help those with hearing loss hear better in busy social settings? How does it work?

“The technology works in three stages, allowing wearers to engage, interact and participate in noisy group conversations regardless of location, movement and noise level. 

“Bilateral beamforming technology onboard each pair of Signia hearing aids creates multiple acoustic streams, processing 192,000 data points every second to detect speakers and analyse conversation dynamics. Three streams are in the frontal hemisphere and one is in the back hemisphere – each using data to control and highlight the noise of multiple speakers, while Signia’s Augmented Focus™ technology processes background sound to ensure a comfortable, immersive conversational experience. This system enables speech from multiple speakers to remain audible above the background noise.

“Once speech is identified the system is able to lock on to the speech inputs, meaning that even if the wearer turns their head, or their companion stops talking for a bit or raises/ lowers their voices, IX will continue to detect and amplify speech.”


What new technology makes Signia IX stand out from previous hearing technology? 

“The previous version of this technology, Augmented Xperience (AX) which launched in 2021, divided incoming sound into two streams: a front and a back that were processed independent of each other. With four streams, Signia IX doubles the precision with which noise can be detected and ultimately delivers a more clear and natural hearing experience as a result.”


Where will hearing technology go from here? What areas of improvement do you anticipate the industry or Signia will target next?

“Perhaps we will see more snapshots, moving from three in the front to say six or eight all around. Perhaps we will see devices that have the ability to recognise the acoustic fingerprint of an individual’s voice and amplify it and ignore all other voices.  

“The beauty of digital electronics is that each new generation, because of more powerful chips, brings new innovations to the market. Signia is always looking to improve the overall performance of the wearer.”

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