BeHear ACCESS: Interview with Alexander Goldin

In the past, we reviewed the BeHear NOW personal sound amplifier, and even compared it with the Bose Hearphones. BeHear is back with an upgraded version of their neckband amplifier, dubbed the BeHear ACCESS, that offers multiple improvements over the BeHear NOW:

  1. Sound Focus™ – Enables the user to define sound directionality, ie, from which direction(s) to amplify and clarify sound
  2. Own Voice – Lessens the perceived echo effect of the wearer’s own voice
  3. CROS/BiCROS – Provides an all-around hearing experience for those with single-sided deafness
BeHear Access and BeHear Smartphone App

BeHear Access and BeHear Smartphone App

To learn more about the differences, we recently connected with Dr. Alexander Goldin, CEO of Alango Technologies, Ltd., the company behind BeHear.

What does Sound Focus do?

Dr. Goldin: Understanding speech in places with noisy backgrounds is especially difficult for those with impaired hearing. To tackle this challenge Alango has integrated Sound Focus in BeHear ACCESS. Sound Focus is an innovative technology for directional hearing that amplifies sounds which originate from specific directions. Sound Focus significantly improves comprehension of spoken language by reducing amplification of distracting noises.

How is sound directionality achieved in the BeHear ACCESS hearing amplification headset?

Dr. Goldin: BeHear ACCESS employs four microphones (one in each ear bud and one in each control box). Using proprietary Alango technology, the difference in the time it takes for sound from the source to arrive to each of the microphones is measured to determine different “sound regions”. These regions have been divided into three types of directionality: narrow, wide, and omni.

What is the difference between the three types of directionality?

Dr. Goldin: Depending on the current listening environment, and the desire of the listener, any of the three directionality settings can be applied to the active BeHear ACCESS hearing profile (Indoor, Outdoor, Crowd, Live Music). The three types are defined as follows:

  • Narrow: Focuses on the space directly in front of the user, minimizes sounds generated from outside this limited field, and amplifies only what remains, to improve comprehension of nearby conversation.
  • Wide: Allows the BeHear amplifier to capture a range of about 180-degrees in front of the wearer. This setting is useful for an outdoor situation, or if a group of individuals is participating in the conversation.
  • Omni: Full 360-degree range for sound input (this is the default setting in previous versions of BeHear ACCESS), preserving natural directivity and sound localization.
W&H BeHear app

The sound focus can be changed at any time by tapping the desired icon in the W&H BeHear app.

For which hearing modes can Sound Focus be applied?

Dr. Goldin: The sound focus function is available for the live hearing mode in BeHear ACCESS. The default sound focus settings are as follows:

  • Indoor = Omni
  • Outdoor = Wide
  • Crowd = Wide
  • Live Music = Wide

How does a user activate the Sound Focus function?

Dr. Goldin: Users can change the default settings using the W&H BeHear app by tapping the “equalizer” icon at the bottom of the Home screen, just above the menu options, and selecting one of the three sound focus icons.

What exactly is the “own voice” echo?

Dr. Goldin: A typical downside of wearing a pair of earbuds is the “occlusion effect”; a perceived echo of your own voice when your ear canal is sealed. Some people can get used to this phenomenon over time (their brains learn to disregard it as unimportant) while for others it totally ruins the hearing amplification experience.

How does BeHear ACCESS address the “own voice” echo?

Dr. Goldin: Due to its proximity to the microphones in the control boxes the speaker’s voice can identified and separated from the other sound sources. A graduated function with four different levels attenuates the occlusion effect, reducing the degree to which the ACCESS user hears their own voice.

What is CROS/BiCROS?

Dr. Goldin: CROS (Contralateral Routing Of Signal) and BiCROS (Bilateral microphones with Contralateral Routing Of Signal) are methods for providing a complete sound experience for those who suffer from single-sided deafness. CROS aids those who have no hearing in one ear and close to perfect hearing in the other ear; BiCROS aids those who have no hearing in one ear and mild-to-moderately-severe hearing loss in the other ear. CROS/BiCROS functionality is typically found only in high-end hearing aids.

How does the CROS/BiCROS function work in BeHear ACCESS?

Dr. Goldin: Sound that reaches the BeHear ACCESS microphones on the non-hearing side is transferred to the speaker in the ear bud of the hearing ear. Users selecting CROS will hear the sound signals without amplification, while those selecting BiCROS will receive the sound signals after personalized amplification algorithms, suiting the requirements of the hearing ear, have been applied.

For which hearing modes is the CROS/BiCROS function supported in BeHear ACCESS?

Dr. Goldin: The function takes effect for all hearing modes: Personal Hearing, Mobile Calls, and Audio Play.

How does the CROS/BiCROS function in BeHear ACCESS help people with single-sided deafness enjoy streamed music?

Dr. Goldin: During audio playback via stereo headphones a listener with two healthy ears will hear different left and right audio streams, simulating a live listening situation. If one ear is damaged, the listener will hear only part of the music being streamed. BeHear ACCESS overcomes this disadvantage by automatically mixing all the audio down to mono and reproducing it in the functional ear, thus allowing people with unilateral hearing to enjoy the full sound spectrum without missing the channel corresponding to the other, damaged side.

Further reading

A more detailed explanation of the technology described in this interview can be referred to Dr. Goldin’s recent LinkedIn post.