Apple’s iOS 6 is reported to be bringing compatibility for “Made for iPhone” hearing aids when the new OS hits Apple devices this fall, and two new patent applications may give us a sneak peek at what we might see as the technology matures.
Apple’s patent for a “Hearing assistance system for providing consistent human speech” and the related “Providing notification sounds in a customizable manner” both interface portable devices, such as the iPhone, with digital hearing aids to create a more effective system for hearing impaired users.
The first patent attempts to solve the problem some hearing aid users face with speakers who have inconsistent speech patterns or speech artifacts. Standard hearing aids amplify all sounds, making it hard for users to pick out what they need or want to hear. Accents, or inconsistencies in speech patterns can also interfere.
Apple proposes a method where a portable computing device, such as an iPhone or iPad, would receive human speech, convert it into text, and then into consistent computer-generated speech which is then sent to a hearing aid. The connection could be wired or wireless.
The user could also define a number of playback parameters to suit their individual needs. They could specify timing for pauses between words or manipulate playback to help with comprehension.
In one solution, an iPhone could detect the ringing of a doorbell with its internal microphone, and signal a user by flashing its screen, or an audible notification to a hearing aid. Also noted is the use of the device’s photo sensors as a means of detection, although the patent doesn’t elaborate on how that would be implemented.
Users can set customized notifications to allow them to either amplify the sound of the notifying sound, such as a fire alarm, or choose from other sounds. The system also allows text messages to be read via a text to speech engine.