Many hearing aid wearers depend on visual cues when listening to someone. Most guidance on improving conversations for people with hearing loss stress the importance of being able to face the talker, especially when having a conversation in noise. In these situations, hearing aids will adapt their signal processing to form a beam towards the talker, which allows increasing the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for better speech understanding.
If a conversation takes place in a situation that doesn’t allow facing each other, speech understanding becomes challenging. Phonak hearing aids address such situations (e.g., when driving a car and listening to someone in the passenger seat) by adjusting their signal processing to emphasize sounds from one side (Speech in 360°). This approach facilitates speech understanding but degenerates environmental cues. When walking and talking at the same time, hearing aid wearers not only need to understand speech but also need an awareness of their environment. If an approaching car or a moving obstacle like a small dog goes unnoticed or is misjudged in terms of distance or location, situations can become dangerous. The unique listening needs of walking situations have gone unaddressed for a long time, however Motion Sensor Hearing in Audéo Paradise is here to change that!
How does Motion Sensor Hearing work?
The new motion sensor integrated into Phonak Paradise rechargeable hearing aids detects when a hearing aid user is walking. If they are walking and having a conversation in a noisy environment, Motion Sensor Hearing kicks in. Instead of applying Dynamic Noise cancellation and a directional microphone setting that only emphasizes sound from one direction, the hearing aids will switch to Real Ear Sound. Real Ear Sound mimics the natural directivity of the outer ear and picks up sound from all directions. This microphone setting not only allows one to hear speech from the side but also eases localization. Motion Sensor Hearing is part of the Speech In Noise and Speech in Loud Noise programs in AutoSense OS 4.0.
What does listening with Motion Sensor Hearing feel like in real life?
In a recent study, Motion Sensor Hearing was shown to increase speech understanding and localization abilities in 22 older hearing-aid wearers when walking in a real-world setup.1 Participants reported recognizing an improvement in their localization abilities when Motion Sensor Hearing was activated. One participant also emphasized that speech from behind was less audible when Motion Sensor Hearing was deactivated. These benefits were evaluated in a study with people who have moderate to severe hearing loss, however, no indicator suggests that Motion Sensor Hearing only provides benefits for a specific range of hearing loss.
With Motion Sensor Hearing, clients can expect to listen more easily to a talker from the side without the need to turn their head frequently. They can keep looking at the path ahead of them and walk more safely. Additionally, environmental sounds such as footsteps approaching from behind, or a bird in a tree beside the trail will be heard easier.
Does Motion Sensor Hearing also detect when riding a bike?
The motion sensor in Phonak Paradise hearing aids was designed to detect walking and responds to the impulse of steps. Any other modes of transportation, by land, water or air, will not be detected nor activate Motion Sensor Hearing.
The accuracy of motion sensors depends on positioning and walking speed.2 Our motion sensor was evaluated for accuracy with people walking at a slow, moderate and fast pace, and demonstrated reliable detection in all use cases.3 If a hearing aid user walks very slowly, i.e. when strolling past an art gallery display, the sensor might not detect walking. However, this is perfectly fine, as people tend to face their conversation partner anyways when walking that slowly. Conventional signal processing, possibly utilizing directional microphones, will accommodate the listening needs in that situation.
How to fit Motion Sensor Hearing?
When fitting a new pair of Phonak Paradise hearing aids, Motion Sensor Hearing is activated by default and can be adjusted in the program options tab of AutoSense OS 4.0.
Motion Sensor Hearing has three levels which define the strength of the beamformer when walking is detected; narrow, wide, and open. If clients prefer to have maximum environmental awareness, the open setting will be suitable. For clients who feel overwhelmed by environmental sounds when walking while having a conversation, the narrow or wide setting will be more appropriate.
Once Motion Sensor Hearing is fit!
Once you have activated the motion sensor and defined the strength that works best for your client, listening to a talker from the side while paying attention to environmental sounds when walking should be easier. This results in better speech understanding and improved awareness when on the go.
The first time I tried this feature during a walk with my husband was a huge surprise because I didn’t need to turn around to check if our dog was still walking behind us when I was listening to his voice. His little paws were audibly clicking on the pavement, telling me he was still happily following us!
To learn more about the benefits of Motion Sensor Hearing, you can read a recent Field Study News about how we evaluated speech understanding and localization in a real-world study.
- Voss, S., Pichora-Fuller, M. K., Ishida, I., Pereira, A. E., Seiter, J., ElGuindi, N., Kuehnel, V., & Qian, J. (2020b). Evaluating the benefit of hearing aids with motion-based beamformer steering in a real-world setup. Preprint. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/5xdpj (Paper submitted to the International Journal of Audiology).
- Shcherbina, A., Mikael Mattsson, C., Waggott, D., Salisbury, H., Christle, J. W., Hastie, T., Wheeler, M. T., & Ashley, E. A. (2017). Accuracy in wrist-worn, sensor-based measurements of heart rate and energy expenditure in a diverse cohort. Journal of Personalized Medicine, 7(2), 1–12.
- Voss, S. C., Pichora-Fuller, K., Pereira, A., Seiter, J., ElGuindi, N., & Qian, J. (2020a). Evaluating the accuracy of motion detection using a behind-the-ear sensor. The Annual Scientific and Technology Conference of the American Auditory Society.