Directional Hearing Makes a Difference
Designed by nature, perfected by Signia.
As an audiology technology leader, the Signia brand is redefining the art of hearing through binaural beamforming enabled by wireless, full-audio transmission between a bilateral pair of hearing aids. Signia Narrow Directionality is clinically proven to outperform even natural hearing in demanding situations*. Far from limiting the wearer, directionality is an absolute necessity for maintaining speech understanding in challenging listening environments. Our smart devices filter out background noise so that life sounds brilliant.
Narrow Directionality remains the only solution in the industry proven to offer better-than-normal hearing performance in such situations.* We’ve illustrated just how much of a difference the industry’s most advanced directional technology delivers compared to conventional solutions in these short, humorous videos:
Signia boosts natural hearing.
Leading edge primax™ hearing aid technology supports the way we hear naturally in all listening environments, from quiet surroundings to very noisy situations. Our sophisticated solution applies directionality automatically and only when the wearer needs it, in the same way that healthy ears hone in on a specific sound source in a noisy environment. In this way, primax supports the natural behavior of listeners by offering the ability to focus on what’s important.
In quiet surroundings wearers want to enjoy all natural, soft sounds to the fullest, such as birdsong or a gentle breeze rustling through the trees.
primax supports this by providing the right amount of amplification. TruEar simulates the directivity of the outer ear to provide a natural listening experience. The wearer is able to hear sounds coming from all around them while the localization of sounds is maximized.
Speech in quiet surroundings.
These are typically situations in which the wearer is conversing with one or two other people at home, in a park, or another quiet environment.
primax supports these conversations with the right amplification and simulation of the natural directivity of the outer ear via TruEar. Since the wearer is able to hear from all around it is easy to localize where different sounds are coming from.
Speech in noisy environments.
These are situations in which the wearer communicates with someone in a louder environment, such as those with ambient sounds (like music), noises, or other people talking. In such an environment we usually face our conversation partner directly, or might even move closer to them in order to understand better.
primax supports this natural behavior by applying directionality, the strength of which depends on the overall noisiness and complexity of the situation. Directionality attenuates sounds from the sides and behind. In addition, because the speaker of interest is within our field of vision, localization becomes less important and priority is increasingly devoted to speech intelligibility.
Speech in very loud situations.
Imagine trying to talk to a friend in a crowded bar or at a busy railway station. You can still hear and understand, but you need to concentrate. In these situations, listening requires a lot of effort because the background noise is as loud as (or louder than) what we are trying to listen to. In a crowded place we talk very closely to our conversation partner and raise our voice to be heard.
primax Narrow Directionality only engages in these situations to help the wearer hear and understand the speaker directly in front of them, while sounds from all other directions are attenuated. Speech intelligibility is the primary listening goal. Localization becomes virtually irrelevant in these situations, because even if a speaker comes up from behind, they would naturally try to get the listener’s attention by first tapping them on the shoulder or moving into their field of vision. In these very difficult listening situations primax outperforms all other hearing aids, and has even been clinically proven to outperform normal hearing.*
FAQs - Directional hearing.
- Q1 - Why is Signia directionality beneficial to your patients?
Signia offers the ideal solution for all listening situations. While emphasis is always placed on ensuring that target speech is effortlessly audible, an intelligent steering component ensures that other important aspects of hearing, such as sound quality and spatial awareness, are taken into account at all times. For example, it is well established that the narrower the directional focus of the microphones, the more spatial cues are compromised. Therefore, the SpeechMaster technology fades among TruEar (a microphone response for BTE and RIC instruments designed to mimic the natural directivity of the outer ear), standard directional, and Narrow Directionality. This fading occurs as is necessary to balance shifting wearer listening priorities between spatial awareness and speech intelligibility.
In quieter environments where speech is easily understood, TruEar mode preserves localization cues. As more noise is introduced and speech intelligibility is increasingly compromised, standard directional microphones can improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for the wearer while still maintaining significant spatial cues. At the other end of the spectrum, in very noisy situations, people naturally converse in significantly smaller groups huddled close together, in which case all conversation partners are within the wearer’s visual range. In such situations, speech understanding is a decisive listening priority over localization, and SpeechMaster fades in Narrow Directionality.
As reported by Picou and colleagues (2014), when visual cues are present, localization is maintained even with narrow beamforming. In fact, since signals are processed differently for the left and right hearing aids in the generation of Narrow Directionality, the spatial information of the non-target sound sources is actually maintained. In this way, the user obtains the unparalleled benefit of the enhanced SNR for the target speaker without having to accept an acoustic “tunnel effect.” This automation and intelligent steering system means that the wearer can enjoy an optimal listening experience throughout the day without the need to make any manual adjustments.
- Q2 - When does directionality matter?
Directionality matters when speech needs to be heard and understood in noisy situations. Imagine trying to hear the public announcement at a busy railway station or trying to talk to your friend in a crowded bar. Even if you can hear and understand, you need to concentrate. In these situations where there’s a high level of distracting ambient sound, directionality can provide significant benefit by reducing the sounds coming from directions other than where the target speech originates.
Louder environments include ambient sounds like music, noises, or other people talking. In such an environment, we usually face our conversation partner directly and might even move closer to them in order to understand better. primax supports this natural behavior by applying directionality. The strength of the directionality depends on the overall loudness and complexity of the situation. In these environments, the wearer wants to understand the person in front of them. Directionality supports this by reducing sounds coming from the sides and behind.
In other situations like when we’re riding in a car, the target speech might not always originate from the front, and the driver cannot always turn to face the speaker. primax Spatial SpeechFocus is the directional feature that can keep the focus on the target speaker, whether it is coming from the front, back, or either side, while all the time attenuating noise coming from other directions.
- Q3 - How does Narrow Directionality work?
Signia’s unparalleled Narrow Directionality addresses the infamous “cocktail party" situation. When ambient noise comes from all around the listener and includes other people talking, people with hearing loss encounter more problems than their counterparts with natural hearing. This is because those with normal hearing can rely on auditory processing effects, such as binaural squelch and binaural directed listening, to help filter out everything else and focus on the speech that they want to listen to. Not only does primax technology outperform all other hearing aids, its wearers are clinically proven to hear even better in very noisy situations than people with natural hearing (see Q6).
primax activates its Narrow Directionality automatically, and only when the listening situation becomes especially noisy and difficult. When the situation warrants it, Narrow Directionality increasingly narrows the beam of the microphone focus, so that at its most effective, essentially every sound not immediately in front of the wearer is reduced.
Narrow Directionality is seamlessly integrated into and on top of the existing 48 channel standard directional processing and digital noise reduction strategies like directional speech enhancement. So, in noisy situations, the standard directional microphone system would be active as usual, but when the listening conditions become even more difficult, Narrow Directionality smoothly and automatically engages and adapts accordingly to ensure a consistent sound impression.
- Q4 - How does primax ensure that wearers do not suffer from a tunnel effect?
The so-called “tunnel effect” is only undesirable when the wearer doesn’t need it, such as when the acoustic situation is quieter and the wearer would prefer to hear from all around. In these situations, Narrow Directionality is not engaged, and therefore there is no tunnel effect. On the other hand, in those very noisy situations where Narrow Directionality is engaged, the tunnel effect is exactly what the wearer wants in order to hear the speech from the front, and not the noise from anywhere else (see Q1).
In fact, the frequency sensitivity of Narrow Directionality is unique and unprecedented. Keeping Narrow Directionality to as few frequency channels as possible along with other signal processing strategies allows the wearer to retain a sense of the acoustic environment outside of the Narrow Directionality focus beam. In other words, in order to preserve spatial cues as much as possible, Narrow Directionality is activated in only as many channels as necessary for optimal speech understanding in noisy situations.
This is important because when you hone in on a sound source and block out signals from other directions, there’s a risk that you feel as if you can no longer hear from other directions. By activating in only as many channels as the acoustic situation requires, Narrow Directionality improves speech intelligibility in difficult listening environments without sacrificing spatial cues.
- Q5 - What is the SpeechMaster solution?
primax technology capitalizes on the latest innovations in audiology to achieve reduced listening effort for a wide variety of speech environments. This is achieved by selectively activating three key technologies in parallel: noise reduction, directionality, and by steering amplification to target and elevate the dominant speaker over all other sounds in any environment.
SpeechMaster orchestrates all features, including directionality, according to environmental changes to highlight the conversation partner’s voice. It delivers outstanding sound quality that makes hearing effortless and redefines the ease of listening in all situations, all day long.
- Q6 - Has the superior effectiveness of Signia’s technology been proven?
Yes. Two independent studies conducted at the University of Northern Colorado and Oldenburg Hörzentrum examined the effectiveness of the new features of primax by collecting and analyzing ongoing electroencephalographic (EEG) brain activity data while subjects performed speech intelligibility tests over longer periods than conventional hearing tests.
For both primax features, SpeechMaster and EchoShield, the objective brain behavior measures revealed a significant reduction in listening effort when the feature was activated. By using Narrow Directionality, speech reception thresholds (SRT) in cocktail party situations were improved by up to 2.9 dB for wearers with mild to moderate hearing loss compared to people with natural hearing.
* Study conducted at the University of Northern Colorado, 2015, examined the effectiveness of the new features of primax by collecting and analyzing ongoing EEG data while subjects performed speech testing. For both primax features SpeechMaster and EchoShield, the objective brain behavior measures revealed a significant reduction in listening effort when the feature was activated.
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