High level programming chip for advanced hearing aids

High level programming chip for advanced hearing aids

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

A European consortium is developing the industry’s first low power binaural hearing aid system-on-chip (SoC) prototype, which is programmable with high-programming languages.

Cadence Design Systems is working with GlobalFoundries (GF), Hoerzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH and Leibniz University Hannover to develop a chip that allows developers to create hearing aids that process critical sounds more optimally while simultaneously reducing background noise.

The Smart Hearing Aid Processor (SmartHeAP) is based on the Cadence Tensilica Fusion G6 DSP and Xtensa LX7 processor, the Cadence digital full flow and the GF 22FDX low power fully depleted silicon on insulator platform. The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under grant 16ES0760.

The binaural design allows the hearing aids in the right and left ears to communicate with one another, enabling a wearer to pick up sounds from the full auditory scene without destroying the binaural cues.

Advanced algorithms automatically analyze the incoming signal and provides adaptive sound amplification that is customized to the wearer’s unique hearing needs. The high level programming allows the hearing aid software to be quickly upgraded without replacing the hardware, as well as faster innovation cycles.

The Tensilica Fusion G6 DSP is a multi-purpose DSP that provides low energy consumption and a small footprint. The Xtensa LX7 processor adds performance, flexibility, and longevity to the design. The Cadence digital full flow enabled a fast path to design closure and better predictability while delivering optimal, power, performance and area (PPA).

The 22FDX platform provided up to 50% lower power at the same high-performance frequencies as 28nm, enabled by the adaptive body bias (ABB) feature. This is critically important for ultra-low 0.5V VDD or below to reduce power consumption on battery-powered devices, such as hearing aids.

“By collaborating with GF, Hoerzentrum Oldenburg and Leibniz University Hannover on the SmartHeAP SoC prototype, our research and technology advancements are improving the hearing experience,” said Rishi Chugh, vice president, product management in the IP Group at Cadence. “Each organization involved brought a unique perspective to the project, and delivering a successful prototype that can make a positive impact on the hearing experience is the ultimate reward. The Cadence digital full flow and Tensilica Fusion G6 DSP and Xtensa LX7 controller were foundational for this project, and the consortium is already seeing a high level of interest in the prototype from the hearing aid industry.”

“The collaboration between GF, Cadence, Hoerzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH and Leibniz University Hannover resulted in a successful hearing aid SoC that consumes significantly less power while providing hearing aid wearers with the first-of-its-kind binaural technology that transforms how they process a complete auditory scene. By harnessing the power of the Cadence Tensilica DSP and digital full flow combined with the energy efficiency of the 22FDX platform, we delivered compelling PPA results,” said Ted Letavic, corporate fellow at GlobalFoundries.;


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