Compensation for hearing loss and cancellation of acoustic feedback indigital hearing aids

Abstract: The development of integrated circuits during the last decades has made it possible to incorporate digital signal processing in hearing aids that fit into the ear canal and are powered by small zink-air batteries. The digital signal processing provides new possibilities for the hearing aid to modify the signal to fit the impaired ear. A linear phase filter bank that is intended as a basic building block of the signal processing in digital hearing aids is introduced in this dissertation. The filterbank is computationally very efficient and divides the input signal into a number of narrow band signals for further signal processing. The filter bank was combined with band specific gains and two compressors to form the signal processing of a hearing aid. The compressors allow leveldependent gain. Three alternative fitting strategies used to adjust the characteristics of this hearing aid to the individual hearing impaired listener were evaluated. The three fitting strategies differed mainly in the characteristics of the compressors. The strategies were evaluated by hearing impaired subjects in a field test and in laboratory tests. When the subjects were grouped according to their preference among the fitting strategies, the results showed significant differences in the hearing loss configuration between the groups.One of the main tasks of a hearing aid is to amplify the signal to make it audible for the hearing impaired user. The maximum gain that can be used in a hearing aid will be controlled by the feedback from the output to the microphone, as the hearing aid will be a part of a closed loop system. The feedback path depends on several factors such as the position of the microphone (differs between hearing aid categories), size of vent, and the acoustics around the hearing aid. The feedback, and thus the maximum gain that can be used in a hearing aid, has been identified with a number of different hearing aids in a number of conditions that can be expected when the hearing aid is used under real-life conditions.Feedback cancellation can be used to reduce the negative effects of feedback on the performance of the hearing aid. An internal feedback in the hearing aid that is an estimate of the external feedback is then used to cancel the feedback signal. The external feedback path will vary as the hearing aid is used ( e.g. when a telephone set is placed by the ear). It is thus desirable to continuously identify the feedback path. One approach to do this is to utilize closed loop identification with the direct method and some recursive identification method. The output and input signals of the hearing aid are then considered as input and output signal of the system to be identified, i.e. the feedback path. An advantage with this method is that the identification can be done without modifying the output signal. A drawback is that the estimate may be biased, depending on the characteristics of the input signal. A difference from many other closed loop identification problems is that the data used for identification will depend on previous estimates of the system. A feedback cancellation algorithm where Filtered-X LMS is used with the direct method has been analyzed. Filtered-XLMS is computationally efficient and gives a possibility to incorporate known characteristics of the feedback path in the model set used. Prefiltering was also used in the algorithm as it can provide an unbiased estimate if the spectrum of the input signal is known.

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