Signia helps people with hearing aids to communicate during Covid-19 with updated Face Mask Mode

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Hearing aid innovation leader Signia has launched an upgraded version of its ground-breaking Face Mask Mode, available via the Signia smartphone app.

Signia was the first in the industry to launch a feature of this kind in July, 2020 which enables hearing aid wearers to better understand the speech of those wearing face masks. While masks are necessary to help protect from coronavirus infection, they pose a serious challenge to speech understanding for anyone, even those with mild hearing loss.

The updated Face Mask Mode further increases the loudness of frequencies associated with speech – thereby making it even easier to understand speech through face masks.

“Understanding speech requires an ability to hear high frequency tones, and those with hearing loss lose this ability,” explained Dr. Tish Ramirez, Au.D., Signia’s Vice President, Clinical Education & Professional Relations. “While hearing aids amplify high frequencies to increase speech understanding, masks then suppress these frequencies – which is why it can be difficult to hear what others are saying. It’s a problem for all, but particularly those with hearing loss.”

Continued Ramirez, “Signia’s new Face Mask Mode boosts the loudness of the high frequency tones associated with speech, making it much easier for hearing aid wearers to comprehend speech when communicating with those wearing masks.”

Face Mask Mode is available in the Signia app and appears on-screen as an easy-to-activate button. It’s activated by tapping the button, which then turns it from grey to red. When the hearing aid wearer has finished talking to the person wearing a mask, they can deactivate Face Mask Mode by simply tapping the button again, turning back to grey. 

Signia’s Face Mask Mode is the most complete solution on the market and requires no in-person adjustments with a hearing care professional. 

How Face Mask Mode compensates for muffled speech signals

The new Face Mask Mode tackles specific parameters of the hearing aids’ settings that are crucial for optimal speech understanding. These include gains to frequencies most relevant to speech intelligibility – thereby effectively compensating for the adverse acoustic effects of the face mask.

Furthermore, Face Mask Mode also adjusts noise reduction and microphone beamforming settings to the ideal levels for speech understanding. In combination, these automatic adjustments offer the best possible sound experience to help the hearing aid wearer understand what is being said.

Specifically, Face Mask Mode works by applying an increase of around 6 decibels to the high frequency range from 4000 to 8000 Hz – i.e. that which is most commonly associated with speech. The Mode’s increase combats the impact of the mask, which can reduce speech frequencies by between 3 to 12 decibels* depending on the type of mask.

The new Face Mask Mode is available via Signia smartphone app (Android 6.0 or iOS 11 or higher) and is compatible with Signia Xperience hearing aids enabled with Bluetooth™ connectivity. For press imagery, click here.