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MED-EL 2.4 GHz digital wireless technology alternatives

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2.4 GHz digital wireless technology promises to be a novel technology which will impact our daily use of our MED-EL hearing devices. Unfortunately MED-EL has not presented any specifics on how 2.4 GHz digital wireless technology will be implemented.  Hopefully this discussion will start something.

 

The SONNET processor is wireless ready which refers to the fact that it has a 2.4 GHz radio band antenna, which receives wireless Radio Frequency (RF) signals, which allow for direct streaming of audio signals to the SONNET processor.

The 2.4 GHz platform communicates directly, device to device. The induction/T-coil-based wireless technology does not use the 2.4 GHz platform and thus still requires the user to wear a neck loop to transmit the signal to the cochlear implant. This reduces the sound quality and requires the user to stay within 8-10 feet of the signal transmitter.  True wireless uses the 2.4 GHz technology platform, making the sound quality and the signal range much greater and much more stable.

Wireless is not a new concept for cochlear implants. The challenge is which technology to use and how to use it. Today we have three main wireless technologies: Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI), Bluetooth (RF) and Proprietary radio frequency (RF).

Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) is an example of analog wireless technology. Analog wireless is the transmission of audio and video signals using radio frequencies. NFMI systems are designed to contain transmission energy within the localized magnetic field. NFMI requires a gateway device to communicate between the accessory (TV, mp3 player, etc) and the cochlear implant processor. This device is typically worn around the neck and uses an inductive loop to broadcast from the gateway device to the cochlear implant processor. NFMI does not use the 2.4 GHz platform.

Bluetooth and Proprietary radio frequency are examples of digital wireless technology. Digital wireless is the transmission of audio and video analog signals encoded as digital packets over high bandwidth radio frequencies. Digital wireless possesses frequency hopping technology which eliminates the need to manage a frequency and is interference-free. It also provides Higher-quality video and audio and increased range of transmission as compared to analog wireless.

Bluetooth is an open standard for wireless communications and uses the 2.4 GHz platform. Currently there are nearly 12,000 different products using Bluetooth. Communication protocols for Bluetooth must be broad and flexible enough to accommodate many uses. Bluetooth uses significant computational and power resources to operate. Bluetooth broadcasts to a very limited number of receivers and the audio delay of a Bluetooth system is high. Near Field Magnetic Induction is typically combined with Bluetooth. An example is the MED-EL provided Quattro Bluetooth neckloop.

The Proprietary radio frequency system uses a radio to generate an electrical wave and an antenna to send the information and uses the 2.4 GHz platform. In these types of systems all of the transmission energy is designed to radiate into free space. This type of transmission is referred to as a far-field. The electrical wave carries the information and it can be done by using different frequencies. Advantages of using  Proprietary radio frequency with 2.4 GHz Wireless Technology include: no gateway device required for media connectivity; long distance signal transmission, robust and reliable connections; high transmitted data capacity: bandwidth, stereo, low distortion; low latency processing delay and worldwide application. Drawbacks include: requires a specially designed antenna and a streaming device for Bluetooth connectivity.

One of the key requirements of a wireless system is its ability to transmit with good sound quality and with the smallest possible delay (latency). A latency of 35ms or more is enough to cause the perception of echoes or even lip sync issues due to a mismatch between sound and visual information. Even when the delay is too small to be consciously perceived, there may be a significant negative impact on the television viewing experience. The Proprietary radio frequency system 2.4 GHz technology is associated with a very minor latency (less than 18ms) well below the threshold for lip sync issues and echo effects. However, other  wireless technologies, such as NFMI, transmit with latency (delay) from 40 up to 125 milliseconds, which can provide significant issues for the user. In addition, the Proprietary radio frequency system 2.4 GHz system uses high-density audio compression, resulting in superior audio quality transmitted directly to the sound processor, while other wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and NFMI may use a so-called “low density” solution for audio compression. Thus Bluetooth and NFMI are not being considered for direct streaming of audio signals to the cochlear implant processor by the three major cochlear implant vendors. The Proprietary radio frequency system is the technology currently being used by the three major cochlear implant companies to directly stream audio signals to a cochlear implant processor via digital RF transmission.

There are two ways to directly stream audio signals to a cochlear implant processor using Proprietary radio frequency system technology via digital RF transmission: 1) via a wireless accessory/streamer, 2) directly to the cochlear implant processor. The two approaches are described below in the context of streaming audio from a smartphone.

1) Via a wireless accessory/streamer. Receive the phone signal via a wireless phone accessory or streamer that connects to the phone via Bluetooth. The accessory or streamer accepts the Bluetooth signal from the phone and converts it to the appropriate wireless signal that can be received by the cochlear implant processor. The accessory converts the standard Bluetooth signal to the 2.4 GHz digital wireless signal for transmission to the cochlear implant processor. In addition, the accessory must be worn or placed such that a built-in microphone in the accessory can pick up the voice of the hearing aid wearer, convert it to a Bluetooth signal, and transmit it back to the cell phone. This capability is current being used in Roger technology. Roger is a Phonak developed proprietary radio frequency system standard protocol which uses adaptive digital wireless transmission technology. Cochlear implant users use Roger receivers as the accessory or streaming device to receive audio signals from Roger microphones. Cochlear Corporation also uses a proprietary 2.4 GHz radio frequency system standard protocol to enable a direct connection to the wireless signal. With the Cochlear 2.4 GHz system, the Nucleus CI or BAHA user may connect directly to three streaming accessories, such as the TV Streamer, and/or the Mini Microphone, plus a Phone Clip. In addition, several users may share the signal transmitted from one wireless accessory. However Cochlear did not develop the technology but instead licensed the proprietary ReSound 2.4 GHz digital wireless system from GN Resound corporation.

2) Directly to the cochlear implant processor. Receive the phone signal directly to the hearing instruments with no wireless phone accessory or streamer. Currently this capability has not been implemented with any cochlear implant processor. The main problems are that the cochlear implant processor has: 1) no Bluetooth connectivity to accept the Bluetooth signal from the phone and 2) no proprietary 2.4 GHz digital wireless system protocol software to convert the Bluetooth signal to 2.4 GHz digital wireless (just has the 2.4 GHz antenna).

There is however one hearing instrument which has developed the capability to directly stream to a hearing aid without accessory/streamer, the Made for iPhone hearing aid. Apple has developed a proprietary audio streaming protocol in the 2.4 GHz band (ReSound LiNX) that the hearing aid must be able to tap into in order to receive the phone signal directly. That means that the hearing aid must have a 2.4 GHz radio, and must also have adopted the communication protocol developed by Apple. The hearing aid wearer speaks into the phone itself, so the phone can either be held normally or just placed nearby so that it can pick up the user’s voice. It is the the first hearing aid to allow direct connection to Apple devices. As of today, no cell phone manufacturers other than Apple have made this type of functionality available for hearing instrument manufacturers to connect to.

Naturally there are many questions for MED-EL.

Which of the two approaches will MED-EL use to directly stream audio signals to the SONNET processor via digital RF transmission?
Will MED-EL design wireless accessories/streamers?
Will the SONNET have Bluetooth connectivity?
What 2.4 GHz digital wireless system will MED-EL use?
Will MED-EL create the 2.4 GHz digital wireless system technology themselves or license it from vendors like GN Resound/Cochlear Corp, GN Resound LiNX/Apple or Phonak?
Can older FM systems interface to the MED-EL design wireless accessories/streamers?
Will other MED-EL processors like Samba or the RONDO be 2.4 GHz ready?


 

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Hadron,

This is an awesome post! I love it. Thank you so much.

I hate the latency with Bluetooth to the Quattro4 to the telecoil and can not use that set up for videos. I can't wait for the 2.4 wireless connectivity from MedEl.

Your post is awesome.

Mary Beth

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To me, these 2 statements are interesting:

 

"With the Cochlear 2.4 GHz system, the Nucleus CI or BAHA user may connect directly to three streaming accessories, such as the TV Streamer, and/or the Mini Microphone, plus a Phone Clip."

 

"Will other MED-EL processors like Samba or the RONDO be 2.4 GHz ready?"

 

For now I know that Samba is BT ready but I did not know anything about 2,4 GHz wireless connection. On the other side, in the text is specified that competitor of Samba - BAHA has that ability. Then I have found this link where it is specified that miniTEK which is a streamer for Samba uses NFMI:

http://www.mddionline.com/article/3-wireless-medical-devices-watch-siemens-minitek

So - only if they plan to renew the BB, it can have 2,4 GHz wireless specification.

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The Baha 5 is 2.4 GHz ready. This gives MED-EL incentive to upgrade the Samba. Once the 2.4GHz connectivity is ready MED-EL will want to interface to as many devices as possible. So Samba will be eventually upgraded.

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Great information, thanks Hadron

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I agree Hadron. They won't want to leave you in the dinosaur age!! Lol

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The Baha 5 is 2.4 GHz ready. This gives MED-EL incentive to upgrade the Samba. Once the 2.4GHz connectivity is ready MED-EL will want to interface to as many devices as possible. So Samba will be eventually upgraded.

 

Of course - right now what we have with Samba is progress because Amade couldn't be connected with any device. Samba can be connected over this streamer - I just couldn't identify what kind of connection it has (or hasn't). This part is not particularly well described.

 

Also - Cochlear refresh BAHA now quite more often: that's why BAHA 5 has 2,4 GHz wireless option but on the other side - it's pretty challenging for their implantees to track development of new models if they are planned on the annual rhythm. 

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Great info hadron, thanks!!

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Yes, finally useful and understandable description of all available technology...

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Interesting text about what has accomplished in this field:

 

http://thehearingblog.com/archives/5042

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I am a little baffled by this promised 2.4Ghz connectivity from MED-EL.

Firstly the ISM (2.4Ghz) band is used by literally thousands of devices - from burglar/fire alarms, cordless phones, bluetooth and wifi, so saying "we offer 2.4Ghz connectivity" is very vague..

Why cannot MED-EL followed Cochlears' example and help all their users who are bimodal (use a hearing aid as well as CI)?

They can do this by adopting and licensing one of the already too numerous 2,4Ghz remote systems like eg Phonaks Roger and GN Resound streamer.

Why does MED-EL have to come up with yet another proprietary system on 2.4Ghz alongside the others.

It is long overdue that we had some standardisation in hearing aid and Cochlear Implant technology - ISO and other organisations should be involved.

Or could it be that there is a captive market that is being "tapped"?

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Because everyone has to have something to keep the product marketable. I love my Sonnet and have no regrets with what I already have. Also to add I think getting a CI is a life changing event. Not to be taken lightly. We have to start all over with regards of how we hear and we don't need to be bombarded with the "extras" right fro the get go. It is a financial burden for many so if they spread out the release of the "extras" I'm ok with that!!!

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Andrew,

Yes it is frustrating. MED-EL has not released any information about their implementation of 2.4GHz connectivity.

Once Cochlear started selling their implementation using Resound technology in Australia and Europe it took an additional 15 months to get it approved by the FDA for release in the USA. Hopefully we will not have to wait that long.

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Waiting for things that excite us is always difficult. In the US, we are eagerly awaiting the dual mics, windblock feature, waterwear for Opus2 and Sonnet, DL-coil, rechargeable batteries for the Sonnet and the 2.4 GHz connectivity. Some of this wait is due to the FDA process. Some of it is waiting on Med-El to release new tech.

I expect that there will be many moments like this for me as a new CI user. At least I hope I am excited about new tech/features that Med-El has in store for me over the years.

Meanwhile, I will happily enjoy my new Sonnets and keep an eye out for announcements of the availability of these items.

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Well... Who knows, maybe it is not that just mics are waiting the rule of the FDA.

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We are new in this wireless things...and

I was wondering what would be the best option for the 3 year old kid to go wireless with OPUS2 processor? What are the accessories (ALDs) we may use for better sound reception for the implanted? Any similar to Cochlear ALDs like mini microphone , tv streamer have Medel ?

Hope someone replies..

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Hello :)

Welcome to the Hearpeers ;) - you'll definitely got response from the Gang. :)

I am not a CI user so I would not mess myself - so I don't tell something misguiding. :)

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Hi adavronbek,

The Opus 2 does not have 2.4 GHz digital wireless technology. You can use the Clearsounds Bluetooth Quattro 4.0 with the telecoil. It also has a mini mic.

You can also interface with analog FM systems.

If you upgrade to the SONNET you will get 2.4 GHz digital wireless technology but there are no MED-EL streamers available at this time.

You can interface the SONNET and Opus 2 to the Phonak Roger Universal X receiver. You would also need a Roger transmitter.

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Welcome ADAVRONBEK,

Hadron already told you about the Bluetooth neckloop (Quattro4). It has a remote mic and you can purchase an accessory that connects to the TV.

Hadron also told you about Roger Systems that use both a receiver (that plugs into the bottom of the FM battery cover) and a transmitter. There are accessories for that as well that work with the TV.

Check out Jeff Campagna's You Tube channel called LifeWithMyMedEl to see videos of how to use various accessories with our CIs. Also check out his Hands On Hearing website. Jeff has a CI and also works for MedEl.

Good luck.

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Welcome to hearpeers

As stated, there are a number of options for you to choose from.

The Quattro is one

I think for me, an FM system works best. I even used it last night. I would talk to your audiologist to get input as far as what they would recommend. As Mary said, Jeffs channel on YouTube and the videos on the Medel website can answer a number of questions. Jeff also conducts a hands on hearing workshop where he discusses all the options that are out there as far as assistive listening and how to use them. You can go to their website and see where and when the next workshops are being held

Adam

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Well.... suddenly things seem to be moving on the 2.4Ghz for SONNET front!

I see from the MED-EL web page for their new SAMBA BAHA processor that it uses the SIEMENS 2.4Ghz TEK (or minTEK) streamer.

Judging (and guessing!) by the identical 2.4Ghz graphic on the SAMBA web page, they will probably use the same streamer for the SONNET.

Now that _is_ a good choice and if I am right wipes out my complaint at a stroke - but why MED-EL can't let us know their plans before they actually drop the product on us is a mystery to me!.

 

The SIEMENS TEK (or microTEK) streamer is very affordable too - good for you MED-EL you are now back in my goody good book! ...... Hope I'm right!!!

If you are bi-modal then obviously you will (like me) need to approach your audiologist for a Siemens H/A.

 

But best to wait for a formal announcement of course.

 

Andy

 

see: http://www.medel.com/uk/samba-audio-processor/

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Actually - one correction - Simens hearing aids were spun off and are now part of Sivantos group.

Andy

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Andy,

This has been out for a bit. I believe Ivana has one. This doesn't mean that will be the option for the wireless connectivity for the Sonnet though. The MedEl promo in Australia mentions that the wireless accessory is expected to be available down under in late 2016, I believe.

It could end up being the same device but then again, it could not.

I am as excited as you for this connectivity.

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Hi Andy,

The Siemens miniTek is a 2.4GHz Bluetooth protocol streamer and not a 2.4GHz streamer. A 2.4GHz streamer uses the 2.4GHz proprietary protocol which removes many of the inefficiences of Bluetooth. This is the protocol Cochlear America and AB are using and which MED-EL will use.

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Yes - miniTEK uses Bluetooth protocol. If only we have wireless option. :(

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