Simulating particularly difficult environments

December 19th, 2016

This is really impressive. If you close your eyes, you feel as if  you are in a restaurant, on a busy intersection or in a large cafeteria – all of these are particularly difficult hearing environments for the hard of hearing. But in reality you are amidst many, many loudspeakers. Which is exactly why Sivantos developers test hearing aids here.

This location is called the wave field synthesis (WFS) laboratory: 48 loudspeakers (arranged on a height-adjustable structure), nine static ceiling speakers, and two subwoofers on the floor create the sound of different environments. Wave field synthesis is a spatial audio reproduction method that creates acoustic environments virtually. This is achieved by the superposition of sound wave fronts from many individual speaker signals. A computer connected to the system calculates these signals in real-time in such a way that the wave fronts resulting from the superposition hardly differ from the wave fronts of individual audio sources – e.g. speakers, vehicles, etc. – in the corresponding real environment. With WFS, it is also possible to play soundscapes that go beyond the spatial limits of the laboratory.  As a result, the WFS laboratory offers the perfect environment to develop, optimize and test hearing aids.

WFS Prinzip_EN (2)

The test listener (in the middle) hears audio sources simulated with the WFS speakers.

The main advantage: Already at a very early stage of the development phase, the individual functions of a hearing aid can be checked in realistic situations. In the past the hearing aids and the subjects had to be brought into the respective environment, for example, into a restaurant, where the concrete hearing situation could change from minute to minute. High-quality tests in the WFS lab can be reproduced as often as desired which makes the test results more comparable. In the end the hearing aid wearer will benefit from a product that helps them also in difficult environments.

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