Ask the Audiologist

Widex INTEO hearing aid

Widex has introduced a new top-of-the line hearing instrument to improve on the features pioneered by the Senso and Senso Diva. The new INTEO (in TA’ o) features “Integrated Signal Processing,” a Dynamic Integrator, High Definition Sound Analysis, High Definition Sound Processing, a High Definition System Optimizer and an Audibility Extender system.

Widex defines “Integrated Signal Processing” to mean that the large integrated circuit that is the heart of the hearing instrument, has a central controller that orchestrates the many features of the instrument, even shutting down some features to conserve power when they are not needed. The central input to this controller is the patient’s hearing parameters and needs. The goal is to provide better speech audibility and intelligibility in quiet and in noise, and in more situations; to provide more comfort in noise and comfort with the patient’s own voice; to provide better matching to the patient’s needs; and to give closer attention to the clinician’s wishes.

The INTEO has 15 channels of sound processing, with a sampling rate of 32Khz. The input Sigma/Delta analog to digital converter runs at 2Mhz, twice the rate of the Senso Diva instrument. The integrated circuit has one million gates operating at a resolution of 32 bits, twice that of the Diva. Overall the circuitry is 4 times more complex than the Diva instrument!

One section of the processor focuses on the sound environment. It locates speech and noise in each of the 15 channels, in intensity, frequency, and location using the dual microphones. It computes the levels of speech versus noise and their ratios over time and direction. It does all of this 32,000 times per second. From all of this, using templates, it identifies the types of sound being heard.

The net result is that the INTEO can reduce the gain for noise in a particular frequency band and direction without turning the whole instrument down. The result is a dramatic improvement in perceived speech to noise ratio. One of the features that makes this possible is the continuous calibration of the microphones, one against the other, all the time the hearing instrument is on. In other systems, one microphone may get dirty or something and drift in response away from the other one, even though both were calibrated at manufacture.

Another new feature introduced is feedback correlation in both microphone channels. This reduces feedback in the second microphone when the hearing instrument switches to directional mode. The signal processor has templates for common “feedback like” sounds such as music, door slams, and key noises, and will prevent the feedback circuits from interfering with them. This system gives as much as 15dB SuperGain ™ which allows vents with a larger diameter, better intelligibility, less artifacts, less annoyance, and less likelihood of feedback in noise.

The INTEO uses its 15 channel fully adaptive, fully matched, dual microphone directional system to preserve audibility for speech in noise, even when the speech and noise are both behind the listener. In older systems like the DIVA, the directional microphones would switch away from the noise when noise was perceived, but in the INTEO, the system recognizes when speech is present in the noise, even behind the listener, and allows that signal through. This Speech Tracer system allows better preservation of audibility of speech from the sides and back.

The Speech Enhancer in the INTEO uses the knowledge of the patients audiogram along with the characteristics of the speech in noise signals to adjust the speech spectrum in all 15 channels using twelve 1dB steps, at a rate of 32,000 times per second to get the highest speech intelligibility for that situation.

New to Widex is the ability of the INTEO to perform Frequency Translation to move signals from above the patient’s hearing range down into the audibility region. This is not frequency compression, but a linear translation of some of the higher range sounds down to where they can be heard. This is useful for patients who have little or no hearing above a particular frequency. The INTEO has two such translations available to the audiologist, one for translating one octave of sound from above 1 kHz, and another for translating two octaves of sound from above 2 kHz. The translated sound is moved smoothly down to just below the translation point at a volume that makes it audible, but not loud enough to cover up the sounds already there. There is very little clinical evidence as to the efficacy of this new feature, but for some patients it may be beneficial. In a classroom demonstration, a bird song was completely inaudible with an above 2 kHz hearing loss, but became a beautiful (if lower frequency) sound with the translation circuit switched on. If for no other reason, this feature might be valuable to people who are denied the simple sounds of nature. The fitting rules require that the patient have a hearing loss of at least 70dB with a 10dB/octave slope between 500 and 4000 Hz.

The INTEO features include up to 5 programming bands and two different remote controls. The programming bands could include a telephone position, music, TV, Comfort, Acclimatization, and the Audibility Extender (frequency translation). These programs can be controlled by a switch on the hearing instrument or by the remote control. There is no room on the CIC for a switch, so to access more than one program, the remote control is necessary with the CIC instrument. The remote control also can control volume and a data logging feature. Other programming features under the control of the audiologist, include programmable frequency and volume beeps for low battery warning and even programmable warning time for the beeps. The INTEO can also use the industry standard boots for FM systems and other assistive devices.

The Widex INTEO is remarkable improvement in the state of the art for hearing instruments. With 4 times the complexity of the Widex Senso DIVA, the instrument is able to better assist the patient in hearing in normal and difficult listening situations. The INTEO is shipping now and is available in all case styles.