Sonic Technology

At Sonic, it's our mission to improve life through enhanced hearing. And we continue to advance that goal every day with two aims in mind: Technology that keeps sound natural and improves speech understanding in noise.

Through the years, Sonic products have been built on two Technology Platforms. Our most recent product lines use Speech Variable Processing as their technology foundation. This sophisticated platform not only achieves great sound quality, it includes benefits users love like binaural processing and the convenience of wireless connectivity.

Prior to this platform, Sonic products gained wide acclaim from the Sonic Sound Technology Platform. Renowned for their natural sound, the products on this platform give people excellent listening experiences in a variety of situations.

Speech Variable Processing

Speech Variable Processing is a fast-acting technology that measures and amplifies sound. By mimicking how the ear analyzes and adjusts sounds, Speech Variable Processing helps keep sound natural and speech clear.

Speed is Key to Accuracy
The inner ear structure - called the cochlea - is key to perceiving sound volume and clarity. Not only does the cochlea "receive" sound, it amplifies sound when it is healthy. A processing system that wants to replicate this behavior authentically has to react just as fast.

Speech Variable Processing is a Wide Dynamic Range Compression (WDRC) system specifically designed for very fast sound processing. It analyzes an incoming signal and adjusts the gain, or amplification, thousands of times per second. This ability to quickly identify a sound and apply amplification (the attack time) and then to change the gain when the sound changes (the release time) is what allows Speech Variable Processing to enhance speech intelligibility and create a natural sound.

A good example of how quickly sounds change is when you say the words, "Everyday Sounds Better." The final "s" in "Sounds" is much quieter than the hard "B" in "Better." A healthy cochlea automatically detects and adjusts for this. Speech Variable Processing also analyzes this sound change in milliseconds in order to provide proportional amplification.

Clarity Requires Frequency Contrast

If speed is the key to accuracy, then contrast is the key to clarity. Sounds have different frequencies that help form speech. Hearing the contrast between frequencies is what gives clarity in speech.

A healthy cochlea maintains this contrast as it amplifies sounds, but with a sensorineural hearing loss, the cochlea isn't able to amplify as well at different frequencies. Speech Variable Processing helps overcome this loss of contrast by measuring and applying gain to the entire wideband acoustic signal.

Other processing approaches split the incoming signal into separate channels, apply gain, then put the channels back together. This creates a "summing" effect—all the amplification is applied equally and the result is a loss of contrast.

Speech Variable Processing, on the other hand, measures and adjusts frequency regions individually. By applying gain to the appropriate ranges, this system preserves the frequency contrast of the natural sound.

Noise Reduction Systems

Unwanted noise can be distracting, confusing, and simply irritating. Sonic puts multiple Noise Reduction Technologies* to work to identify and reduce unwanted sounds. Less noise means better speech understanding and greater comfort.

Speech Priority Noise Reduction
A hearing device's first job is to help people better understand speech. It's a straightforward goal when everything else is quiet. However, most conversations have some kind of noise in the environment—and distinguishing between speech and noise can be difficult. Some hearing instruments use noise reduction systems that reduce sounds for comfort, but this comes at the expense of intelligibility. Speech Priority Noise Reduction, however, helps listeners clearly hear the sounds that are important.

Speech Priority Noise Reduction works to separate speech from surrounding noise by constantly monitoring incoming sounds. The system takes a modulation "fingerprint" of the signal. Sounds that are highly modulated—with a variety of high and low sounds—are most likely speech and should be preserved. Sounds that do not show modulation—like the steady hum of a fan—are most likely noise and should be reduced. By independently managing the noise and leaving the speech signal intact, Speech Priority Noise Reduction provides comfort and preserves the intelligibility of speech.

Impulse Noise Reduction
Impulse Noise Reduction suppresses unexpected loud sounds, like the clinking of silverware or jangling of keys. The amplification of these sounds is often rated as one of the most uncomfortable aspects of wearing hearing instruments.

Impulse Noise Reduction identifies impulsive sounds by examining the input and checking for the following traits:

  • Is the input unexpected – does it greatly differ from the average input?
  • Is the input quick – is it of a short duration?
  • Does the input have a high intensity – is it loud?

Once an impulsive sound is identified, Impulse Noise Reduction suppresses the sound without modifying other parts of the input that may contain important speech cues. The result is improved listening comfort without sacrificing speech intelligibility.

Soft Noise Reduction
While amplifying important speech signals is part of a hearing device's basic function, amplifying annoying and unwanted noise shouldn't be. This is particularly true of low-level sounds: the whirring of a fan or the soft rumble of a refrigerator. Soft Noise Reduction reduces these quiet but distracting sounds without modifying the amplification of important speech-related signals.

Wind Noise Reduction
Wind Noise Reduction makes time spent outdoors more enjoyable by preventing wind sounds from being amplified. When wind is detected, the Wind Noise Reduction feature quickly sets the lowest frequencies to an optimal omni-directional response and applies maximum attenuation across all frequencies, providing instant relief.

*Sonic products may feature one or more Noise Reduction technologies; see product specifications for details.

Directional System

Listeners are surrounded by sounds all day, from all different directions. Directional Systems* help people focus their listening on the things they want to hear—the important sounds happening right in front of them.

What is Directionality?
The term "directionality" refers to a hearing aid's sensitivity to sounds coming from different directions. If you imagine a listener in the middle of a circle, you can imagine that sounds near the center (closer to the listener) will not need to be amplified as much as sounds coming from the edges of the circle, or farther away from the listener. The following graphs help illustrate this concept of directionality.

When there's no particular source for a sound, directional systems will apply amplification equally around the listener. For example, when a listener is in a quiet place reading a book, there's no key sounds the hearing aid needs to focus on. This is called the Omni Directional pattern

With Omni Directionality, sounds from all locations around the listener are amplified the same.

Fixed Directionality
Just because a sound is coming from a particular location doesn't always mean you want to hear it. Directional Systems help focus on desirable sounds—typically the ones you're facing. So, if a sound comes from a single, fixed location from behind, Fixed Directionality helps reduce that sound. It then applies the most amplification to sounds in front. A dinner conversation is a great example: you want to focus on the conversation from your friend facing you, not on the conversations of other diners around you.

Fixed Directionality amplifies sounds in front of the listener and gives less amplification to sounds behind and to the sides of the listener.

Adaptive Directionality
What if the source of a sound is changing? You might be listening to different people around the room or another friend joins you at the dinner table. In that case, Adaptive Directionality comes into play. The system analyzes incoming sounds with remarkable speed to determine the location of the loudest sound. It also takes into account four different frequency regions, adjusting the amplification for the loudest sound in each region independently. This gives the best results for the listener in each frequency region. Adaptive Directionality helps bring focus to the person speaking, while keeping other sounds from being distracting. It's ideal in dynamic environments like a day at the office or going out on the town.

With Adaptive Directionality, incoming sounds are constantly, quickly analyzed. The system instantly focuses on specific sounds within a given frequency region.

Hybrid Adaptive Directionality
Hybrid Adaptive Directionality most closely mimics how a healthy, open ear canal performs. It is specifically designed to keep speech sound clear while addressing challenging conditions such as wind or environments that have an echo. Hybrid Adaptive Directionality combines Adaptive and Omni Directionality patterns. It "fixes" amplification on low frequencies and constantly adapts to higher frequencies to help reduce noise while maintaining important environmental cues.

Hybrid Adaptive Directionality uses both Adaptive Directionality and Omni Directionality to maintain important sounds while reducing noise from wind or reverberating sounds.

*Sonic products may feature one or more Directional System technologies; see product specifications for details.

Adaptive Feedback Canceller

Feedback — that high-pitched whistle often associated with hearing devices — is a thing of the past with Sonic's Adaptive Feedback Canceller*. This sophisticated system removes offending feedback signals — often before they are even heard — for squeal-free, easy listening.

What is Feedback?
First, it's important to understand how a hearing aid works. In simple terms, the microphone on a hearing aid receives an incoming sound, amplifies it, and sends it through the receiver into your ear.

Feedback, however, is when this process unintentionally turns into an audio loop. Sometimes the sound that's already been amplified enters the microphone again. It gets amplified another degree, the process repeats, and suddenly, the sound is amplified to the point it becomes a screeching whistle or unpleasant squeal.

How Does the Sonic Adaptive Feedback Canceller Work?
Feedback signals typically build in intensity before they become loud enough to be audibly perceived as feedback. So, the Adaptive Feedback Canceller system continually monitors these signals to catch them before they become a problem. The system looks for oscillation characteristics typical of feedback, then quickly applies a counter signal. This "cancels out" the offending frequency, typically eliminating feedback before you ever hear it.

If an amplified signal re-enters the microphone within 5 milliseconds of exiting the receiver, the system recognizes it, and treats the signal as feedback. This allows for very quick removal of unwanted feedback.

Conventional feedback cancellation systems typically react too late to stop feedback before it starts; they react only once it is a noticeable problem. The Adaptive Feedback Canceller proactively attacks feedback, so it's far less likely to get squeals in the first place.

*Bliss, Charm, and Flip products offer the Adaptive Feedback Canceller described above. Other Sonic products feature different forms of feedback cancellation; see product specifications for details.

Universal Environment

Life is full of the unexpected. And listening environments change day to day, even hour to hour. Sonic products are ready to tackle them all with features that deliver accurate, hands-free operation. So you can take on the day with a seamless listening experience.

You recognize different sounds around you as voices, music, background noises, and more. Sonic hearing instruments differentiate them too, but by identifying sound level, presence of speech, harmonics, and the frequency content. The Universal listening environment* is constantly monitoring for these specific characteristics.

As the system analyzes all these different traits, it simultaneously determines the combination of features and amplification you need. Just like your environment's sounds change from moment to moment, the right combination for ideal listening changes, too. The Universal listening environment automatically makes the right adjustments for better hearing at that moment.

Although the Universal environment addresses a variety of listening situations, it gives priority to speech intelligibility. The Universal environment is specifically tuned to optimize essential speech-related cues, maximizing speech intelligibility in noisy situations.

*Bliss, Charm, and Flip products offer the Universal Environment technology. Other Sonic products feature different forms of environment adaptability; see product specifications for details.

Binaural Coordination

Listening involves both ears working together — although it's a process you don't consciously have to think about. With healthy hearing, your ears automatically combine input and exchange information about the sounds. Binaural Coordination allows Sonic hearing instruments to provide a similar experience.

With Binaural Coordination*, Sonic products wirelessly share information between the left and right devices. Instead of the listener having to adjust each device as the sound environment changes, Binaural Coordination assures both instruments work together. The experience is so natural, listeners might forget they're wearing hearing devices in the first place.

Binaural Synchronization
Most hearing instruments give users the ability to adjust volume and/or change a listening program for different acoustic environments. Without Binaural Synchronization, you'd have to change these settings separately on each device. But with Sonic instruments that have Binaural Synchronization, a volume level or program change made on one device is simultaneously made on the other.

Non-Telephone Ear Control
Telephone conversations can be a challenge with other devices. The hearing instrument next to the telephone receiver must adjust to hear the incoming voice on the line. However, if the opposite instrument uses the same settings, that volume setting can pick up distracting noises elsewhere in the room. Sonic's Auto Telephone listening program works in tandem with Binaural Coordination. When engaged, the program automatically recognizes the non-telephone ear and reduces gain or mutes the input on that side.

Environment Classification
Environment Classification provides a hands-free, unified listening experience in challenging listening environments. Incoming sounds are categorized into one of five different environments - Speech in Noise, Speech in Quiet, Noise Only, Quiet Only or Wind. Next, the hearing aids use Binaural Coordination to synchronize the detected environment between the two hearing aids. Finally, the aids adjust features and amplification to provide the best configuration for that situation. The result is a full 360° binaural optimization of the auditory environment.

*Bliss, Charm, and Flip products offer Binaural Coordination features; see product specifications for details.

Connectivity

Your world is full of cell phones, television, digital music, PCs, and more. Sonic products* help you connect to all of life's conveniences with these accessories.

Many Sonic products come ready to connect to the entertainment and communication devices you use every day. Using SoundGate, audio from nearly any digital source streams directly into your hearing aid—it's almost like having personal speakers for your ears.

*Bliss, Charm, and Flip products offer Connectivity features; see product specifications for details.

Product Quality

Sonic is committed to creating great hearing experiences for our listeners — and that includes limiting user frustrations. As we develop products with the latest technologies, we also keep long-lasting quality top of mind.

A hearing aid is an investment in your health. Something you count on this much should be built to last, so Sonic goes to great lengths to make our products reliable every day, in every situation.

Although unfortunate accidents can damage hearing instruments, experience shows that it's often ordinary circumstances that cause the most wear and tear. Humidity in the air, moisture and oils from your skin, even microscopic dust can have a negative impact. So Sonic proactively tests products in comparable—and some rather extreme—environments.

To help ensure your hearing instruments are safe and long lasting, we put products up against some tough tests:

  • High humidity
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Dust particles
  • Extensive repetition on push buttons
  • Water ingress
  • Drops from various heights