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TECHNOWATCH

THE GOODS : The Sound Wave of the Future?

November 10, 1995|LYNN SIMROSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What digital technology has done for music and video is about to happen in another industry--the manufacture of hearing devices.

Oticon of Denmark, one of the world's three largest hearing-instrument manufacturers, has developed DigiFocus, a digital audio processor that it says can dramatically improve the quality of life for hard-of-hearing people.

DigiFocus operates on two tiny new computer chips that have the processing power of a normal desktop computer. Traditional hearing instruments have only up to 10 adjustable parameters, but Oticon representatives say that their processor will give a maximum of 100 software-controlled adjustment parameters. And the device can be programmed by an audiologist while the hearing-impaired person is wearing it.

"Today's amplifiers are not smart," said Peter Hahn, managing director of Oticon's U.S. headquarters in Somerset, N.J. "The digital processor can organize frequencies and manipulate speech signals to separate them from background noise."

DigiFocus' computer chips can remember different sound environments and adjust for them, depending on what listening situation the person is experiencing.

Hahn explained that although digital technology has been available for hearing aids for about five years, the wearer of the digital audio aid had to wear large batteries in a remote control pack on a belt. DigiFocus operates on a standard hearing aid (size 13) battery, which lasts 200 hours.

The DigiFocus will probably cost about $2,000, said Hahn, and be available in two models: in-the-ear and behind-the-ear. Oticon expects to have them on the market in the first half of 1996. For more information, call Oticon at (800) 526-3921.

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For Your CD Player: Compact disc aficionados who take particular care to see that their stereo system delivers the best sound quality possible will want to check out AudioSource's new LLCS disc, an unusual four-in-one CD tool.

With LLC5, the user can set up the system to ensure proper performance, to test tones and to clean the laser lens of the CD player. AudioSource of Burlingame, Calif., introduced the first laser lens cleaning disc in 1985 and has continually upgraded its technology since.

In addition to cleaning the CD lens, the LLC5 has a "stereo setup section," in which the narrator guides the listener step by step through a series of checks, explaining what to listen for. The LLC5 also includes four musical selections so the listener can evaluate how the stereo system plays them and fine tune it. The LLC5 (suggested retail price, $29.95) is available at Home Depot, Best Buy, the Wiz and Circuit City.

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