South Carolina Patent of the Month – June 2021

When hearing aid users sit in a restaurant, the ambient noise can drown out the person they are trying to listen to. Some hearing aids attempt to overcome this with directional audio. Directional audio systems are tricky to design effectively. They work by spatially filtering received sound so that only the sound from the desired direction is accepted, while all other audio is rejected. This is traditionally achieved with a directional microphone array. Unfortunately, all of these designs allow for too much ambient noise. Wave Sciences, LLC has developed an alternative design to offer a more focused directional audio.

To better design this directional audio system, Wave Sciences developed a wearable microphone apparatus that links with the hearing aid. The microphone is flat and thin with a large enough surface area to spread different microphone components across the user’s chest. The industry refers to this set up as a multiple-armed logarithmic spiral configuration with logarithmic spacing between the microphones. This design is incorporated into a shirt or vest and combined with a controller and battery pack in pockets on either side. The design allows the microphones to capture audio and transfer them to the controller in a process called “beamforming”.  The audio is tagged with source location based on which microphone picks it up. These location tags can then be used to model the audio of interest, filter out ambient noise, and transmit it to the hearing aids for effective directional audio control. This user wearable system provides clear and focused audio to make it easier to hear in ambiently loud environments.

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