Hearing aid makes use of new technology

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Bionica Corp. has submitted eight patent applications for its new hearing aid.

The hearing aid, known as Clio, is boasted as being simple to operate and modeled after popular digital music players, Bionica’s chief executive officer Peter Hahn said in an interview. Additionally, a “very powerful” microprocessor, specially designed software and a strategic microphone array will help distinguish between speech and background noise.

The company also said the new hearing aid has been built to adapt to various settings, with special software “programs” designed to interpret doorbells, house alarms and TVs. Different programs will initiate different microphones depending on the situation.

Users of the Clio hearing aid will be provided with a handheld device to change or alter the programs to cater to the user’s needs. Bionica compares the handheld device to an Apple iPhone. Several hearing aids currently on the market already incorporate handheld controls and sophisticated software programs.

“We have solved problems very uniquely,” Hahn said.

Bionica said that though they will not market the Clio until 2009, the company has been planning a more scientific analysis, partnering with The Cleveland Clinic for a nine-month clinical study, though the company is not required to register the device with the Food and Drug Administration.

The study, scheduled to begin early next year, will also help determine what types of hearing losses are improved by the Clio, as well as how patients with different levels of hearing loss respond to the device.

There are 30 million hearing-impaired Americans, but only 5 million of them use hearing aids, according to Bionica. Hearing aids cost $3,000 on average, Hahn said.