Communicating in groups is tough for individuals living with hearing loss. When sitting around a table, it can be difficult to hear the person sitting furthest away from you, and oftentimes, background noise is present. Likewise, two or more people could be speaking at once or multiple side conversations are happening. How do you determine which speaker or conversation to focus on? In the end, it becomes exhausting to keep up with the flow of conversations, making it easy to tune out and withdraw from the situation rather than actively participate.
As an individual living with hearing loss these scenarios are common occurrences, especially in the workplace and in social situations. Just recently, I was with a group of friends at a café and they brought a board game for us to play, in which team strategy was necessary to succeed in the game. The acoustics of the café were poor and the background noise was excessive, so it was already challenging to follow conversations. Normally, I would excuse myself from playing the game, and act either as a score keeper or a spectator. This time though, I had my Phonak Roger Select™ with MultiBeam Technology and placed it on the table.
How does MultiBeam Technology work?
MultiBeam Technology (MBT) is designed to provide optimal listening in the most challenging group situations. When placed on the table, the Phonak Roger Select utilizes three omnidirectional microphones arranged in an equilateral triangle where directional beams are created in six directions to cover 360°. When someone speaks, it automatically selects the direction with the best signal-to-noise ratio. Since the decision to switch activation of the beams is based on an averaged SNR over time, the transitions between the speakers are smooth and comfortable.
Another benefit that MBT allows in the Roger Select is the ability to manually override the automatic function. When multiple conversations take place at a table, the listener can select which speakers to listen to by manually selecting the corresponding beams.
When the device is worn on a lanyard or lapel, it creates 12 directional beams spaced by 30°. This configuration increases the precision of directionality of the speaker’s mouth. The built-in accelerometer automatically identifies and activates the two most vertically oriented beams. Between these two beams, the one with the highest SNR will be emphasized, assuming that this beam is in the most precise location toward the speaker’s mouth. As a result, the speaker can wear the device without the need to be conscientious of the microphone’s orientation.
The benefit a hearing aid user can obtain by using MBT in noisy environments has been shown in a study conducted by Thibodeau et al.1 Speech understanding was improved up to 61% in a group conversation at 75 dB(A) noise levels compared to using hearing aids alone. These findings show that the use of a wireless microphone with MBT in combination with a hearing aid provides significant benefit while in complex listening situations.
Didn’t win the game, but I’m now winning at life!
Now remember that noisy café, playing a board game with a small group of friends? At first I was nervous to play, thinking I would not be able to hear well, but I figured it was worth a try to participate while using my Phonak Roger Select. Unfortunately we did not win the game, but being able to actively participate and engage as a team member was fantastic. My confidence in hearing and understanding my teammates greatly improved when using this technology.
MultiBeam Technology is versatile and can be utilized in a variety of challenging listening situations. It allows for those with hearing difficulties who have resigned themselves from social activities and from functions in the workplace to experience significant benefit in speech recognition. This benefit can result in an improvement in quality of life as individuals confidently reconnect with others.
To learn more, I recommend you watch the video below and read our Phonak Insight on MultiBeam Technology.
1Based on preliminary data. Peer-reviewed article and Field Study News in preparation, available end of 2019 at www.phonakpro.com/evidence.