Lyratone: Software-Defined Hearing, Pioneering the Path to the 4th Generation of Hearing Aids

BEIJING, May 14, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Lyratone, the pioneer of the 4th Generation of Hearing Aids, introduces their progress in Software-Defined Hearing (SDH).

1. The hearing aids market

According to the WHO 2024 report, over 5% of the world’s population – amounting to 430 million individuals – require rehabilitation to address their disabling hearing loss, including 34 million children. It is estimated that by 2050, over 700 million people – equating to 1 in every 10 individuals – will experience disabling hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss escalates with age; among those aged over 60 years, over 25% are affected by disabling hearing loss. Consequently, the hearing aids market is experiencing growth as society ages.

2. The generations of hearing aids

The history of commercial hearing aids begins in the mid-20th century. The evolution of hearing aids across generations can be traced through advancements in technology and design. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Analog Hearing Aids (1st generation): Analog hearing aids were the earliest type of hearing aids, developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Digital Hearing Aids (2nd generation): The transition to digital signal processing technology marked the second generation of hearing aids, which began in the late 20th century and continued into the early 21st century. Companies like Oticon, Phonak, and Starkey played significant roles in developing and commercializing DSP hearing aids.
  • Wireless and Bluetooth Hearing Aids (3rd generation): The integration of wireless connectivity features into hearing aids marked the third generation. Companies such as Phonak, ReSound, and Widex were pioneers in introducing Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, enabling users to connect wirelessly to smartphones. In this third generation, the startup company Lyratone took a new approach of research and development by Software-Defined Hearing. This innovation facilitated the combination of hearing aids and Bluetooth functionality into a single device.
  • Smart Hearing Aids (4th generation): This generation of hearing aids, often referred to as smart hearing aids, integrates advanced AI algorithms, IoT devices, and cloud computing. These hearing aids can adapt to the user’s preferences and the listening environment in real-time, providing a more personalized and immersive hearing experience. During the development of the 4th generation, two approaches emerged: (1) the traditional ASIC architecture, which is predominantly followed by major players such as Oticon, Phonak, ReSound, and Widex, and (2) Software-Defined Hearing, pioneered by Lyratone.

3. Software-Defined Hearing: empowering 4th generation of hearing aids

The cornerstone of hearing aids technology lies in hearing algorithms and chipset development. Until the 3rd generation of hearing aids, nearly all industry players utilized ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) technology. ASIC refers to the design and manufacture of integrated circuits tailored to perform specific functions, customized for particular applications such as smartphones, networking equipment, etc. As to ASIC based hearing aid, the hearing functions are engineered as part of integrated circuit, or become part of hardware.

ASIC offers benefits such as performance optimization and lower power consumption. However, it also presents several drawbacks:

  • High Initial Cost: Designing and manufacturing ASICs entails significant upfront expenses, including development and fabrication, which can be prohibitive for low-volume applications.
  • Long Development Time: The design and development process for ASICs is time-consuming, often taking months or even years to complete. Each iterations take years to go market.
  • Lack of Flexibility: Once an ASIC is manufactured, its functionality is fixed and cannot be easily modified or updated, limiting its adaptability to changing requirements.
  • Risk of Obsolescence: Rapid advancements in technology can quickly render ASICs obsolete, especially if newer, more efficient designs emerge shortly after production.

These limitations have significantly hindered product improvement, particularly in the realm of smart hearing aids, notably impacting the transition to the 4th generation.

In the 4th generation, hearing aids are evolving into AIoT devices, with advanced machine learning algorithms and cutting-edge applications playing pivotal roles. This transformation requires a core hearing aids chipset that is more flexible in function, open in integration, cost-effective, and robust in computational power. Traditional ASIC technology falls short in meeting these demands. To address the challenges of the 4th generation, Lyratone has pioneered Software-Defined Hearing since 2018, providing innovative solutions to these evolving requirements.

Traditional hearing aids rely on ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) technology, where hearing functions are built as a part of the integrated circuit. In contrast, Software-Defined Hearing abstracts these functions into a software layer, consisting of embedded software, a smartphone gateway application, and a cloud application. This software layer facilitates hearing functions.

By leveraging software characteristics, the Software-Defined Hearing architecture offers enhanced flexibility in performance improvement, open integrations, cost efficiency, and crucially, faster iterations of performance and function improvement compared to its hardware-centric counterparts.

Software-Defined Hearing aids can be customized according to individual needs, preferences, and hearing conditions by softwareizing the core functions of hearing aid. This enables a personalized listening experience. With the continuous advancement of technology, software-defined hearing aids can be upgraded through OTA, allowing hearing-impaired users to enjoy the continuous listening experience improvement brought by the latest hearing algorithms technology.

4. Lyratone’s practices of Software-Defined Hearing

In 2018, Lyratone introduced the concept of Software-Defined Hearing (SDH) methodology and architecture, aimed at revolutionizing the 4th generation of hearing aids. These pioneering devices are exceptionally customizable, offering unparalleled flexibility and adaptability in integrating cutting-edge technology. Through sophisticated software control and updates, they dynamically adjust to varying levels of hearing loss and changing environments, ensuring optimal performance for users.

With Software-Defined Hearing, Lyratone maintains precise control over the core functions of hearing aids sound processing through software. These functions encompass WDRC, noise reduction, feedback management, and fitting and tunning. The central premise is to abstract the traditional hardware-dependent functions of hearing aids into a software layer, thus transforming the conventional paradigm of hearing aids technology.

During the engineering of SDH, Lyratone has effectively harnessed the computing power of new chipsets, utilizing 14nm CMOS technology, which is significantly faster than the traditional hearing aids ASIC chipsets predominantly at 65nm. This increased computational power enables the implementation of a broader range of advanced hearing algorithms.

Furthermore, Lyratone has successfully addressed the limitations of ASIC technology, including performance optimization and power consumption. The latency of the hearing aids has been optimized to 3ms, matching the performance level of ASIC technology.

5. Summary

The impact of Software-Defined Hearing on the hearing aids industry mirrors the transformative leaps witnessed in other sectors, such as the transition from feature phones to smartphones in mobile technology and the shift from gasoline to electric cars in the automotive industry. These transformations are driven by innovative technologies, products, and collaborative frameworks centered around software-defined hardware and software-powered hardware.

Lyratone, as a comprehensive hearing aids solutions provider, offers full-stack solutions that include both hearing algorithm software and a range of hearing aids devices. Leveraging Software-Defined Hearing technology, the company has successfully engineered various types of medical-grade hearing aids, catering to diverse needs. These solutions cover types of air-conduction and bone-conduction devices, with various styles of RIC, behind-the-ear, True Wireless Stereo (TWS), and open-fit, ensuring comprehensive options for enterprise customers seeking effective hearing solutions.

Driven by the mission of “Better hearing for better life,” Lyratone is committed to driving technological innovation in the industry with its next-generation “software-defined hearing” engine. This initiative aims to provide high-quality products and services, empowering millions of individuals with hearing loss to experience improved sound quality and re-engage with the world around them.


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