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Multicore drives customizable hearing aid

Posted: 10 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:aid hearing? multicore processor? algorithms audio?

A technology licensing company is in the final design stages of a novel hearing aid that it says could be sold over the counter for as little as $100. The low-cost but powerful device is based on the company's homegrown multicore processor and audio algorithms.

The behind-the-ear device can be customized by the user on a standard PC. It performs as well as top-end $3,000 devices that fit inside the ear canal, and require insertion and tuning by an audiologist, the company claimed.

About six million people now use hearing aids that cost about $350 or more and require customization by an audiologist. As many as 300 million people have hearing loss but can't afford today's products or don't have access an audiologist, opening up a kind of retail market TPL hopes to address.

"For example, Pakistan has 190 million people and one audiologist," said Nicholas Antonopoulos, VP of business development for TPL. "We believe we can give people the best hearing aid of all time at a lower price point," he added.

TPL, a 125-person company that makes 90 percent of its revenues licensing its technology and patents, is seeking a partner to take the device to market. It believes the technology could also be used to create a line of headsets for cellphones and MP3 players.

The device is based on the company's Seaforth, a 24-core asynchronous processor running at 700MHz designed by TPL's Intellasys unit. The company claims the 3mm x 3mm chip delivers up to 20,000 MIPS, and it has a 40-core version now in production.

"In the last few years, hearing aid developers have lived in world of devices with 8-10 MIPs," said Daniel Leckrone, TPL CEO.

The company has a team of engineers in Vienna that has developed the audio algorithms running on the chip. A separate group in Cincinnati has created a 6mm x 4mm transducer that could become its speaker unit.

"We are excited about the convergence of these three technologies that could outperform state-of-art $3,000 devices that you can customize yourself," said Leckrone.

The company does not plan to seek approval from the FDA or other regulatory agencies for the device.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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