Sonova developed an electronically controlled acoustic vent, or ActiveVent for short, for use in hearing aids. Current hearing aids trade-off comfort with sound quality and speech intelligibility because of the acoustic nature of how hearing aids deliver sound. The ActiVent was designed to allow hearing aid wearers to have both a comfortable fit while also achieving good sound quality and speech understanding, not having to sacrifice one for the other. The ActiveVent automatically opens and closes a vent in the ear canal to improve how the user’s own voice sounds and to improve the quality of other sounds by extending the frequency range of the hearing sound to lower frequencies. The Researchers at the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) compared hearing aids using the ActiveVent to a standard hearing aids currently on the market.
24 participants rated the ActiveVent hearing aid in comparison to the standard hearing aid while listening to a frontal talker in noise, to their own voice, and to audio streaming of sounds. The results showed that with the ActiveVent improved speech understanding in noise performance by 12% compared to the standard hearing aid. Also, the ActiveVent the own voice sound quality ratings were comparable to those of standard hearing aids. We observed no noticeable differences between the devices in sound quality while listening to the frontal talker in noise or to audio streaming sounds. However, overall participants preferred the ActiveVent when listening to audio streaming in a quiet listening condition. Although further research is ongoing to evaluate the real-world implications of these findings, the laboratory assessments demonstrate the potential benefits of this new technology.