Researchers from Siemens and the University of Oldenburg won the German Future Prize 2012. Siemens achieved the highest award honoring technology and innovation in Germany for the fourth time – more often than any other company. Joachim Gauck, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, awarded the prize on November 28th for an innovation which makes it possible for patients with hearing loss to hear stereophonically again. This binaural technology is based on the sound perception of both ears. It enables state-of-the-art hearing aids to remedy a significant component of hearing loss.
The binaural technology is modeled after the natural hearing function of a healthy individual: Analogous to stereo vision, hearing can be stereophonic only through the interaction of both ears. This requires patients with hearing loss to have the hearing aids of their right and their left ear interconnected. Eight years ago Siemens researchers managed for the first time to create this interconnection – with what was then the world’s smallest wireless system. This makes it possible for both hearing aids to interchange and recalculate large data volumes and to adapt synchronically to the momentary auditory situation. The interaction creates an authentic ambient sound quality. The individual hearing aids of the left and right ear interchange wireless information and, for example, adjust the volume automatically.
The principal challenges in developing new hearing aids are to optimize voice transmission while presenting a homogenous ambient stereophonic sound. Ongoing development of binaural hearing systems with integrated wireless technology will target further optimization of the sound pattern. The intelligent devices of the future will automatically identify more and more hearing situations and automatically react to them.
The German Future Prize was established in 1997 by former President Roman Herzog. In addition to the research achievement itself, the most important selection criteria include patentability and marketability. Siemens researchers have been nominated for the Prize eight times and claimed victory in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
Photos and more information: http://www.siemens.com/press/en/events/2012/corporate/2012-09-zukunftspreis.php