The benefits of open source software and hardware far exceed simple cost savings for consumers. Sure, from a consumer perspective, “open source” software usually means “free” software. But, it also often provides a quality improvement through community development. Corporations can also benefit from that in order to reduce their research costs—in exchange for sharing their own research. Now, Tympan is taking advantage of that ethos to bring better hearing aid technology to market.
If you’re not hard of hearing and haven’t used hearing aids, then you may not even be aware that there are advancements to be made. At the most basic level, a hearing aid has three major components: a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. The hearing aid picks up sound through the microphone, amplifies it, and then pipes it out through the speaker in the user’s ear—hopefully loudly enough to be heard.
The problem is that simply making something louder doesn’t necessarily make it easier to hear. Especially as it relates to aging, hearing loss often affects some frequencies more than others. So, someone may be able to hear low frequencies but not high ones, and just cranking up the volume is only going to drown out the high frequencies with the low frequencies that they can already hear.
The answer to that problem is real-time digital signal processing, which is what Tympan is focusing on. Their design has an onboard Teensy 3.6 chip, and can alter audio frequencies during amplification. And, because community development is encouraged, users can tinker with that processing at will. For example, you could modify high frequencies that you have a difficult time hearing to be lower, making them easier to hear without just blasting the volume.
Tympan will be launching this technology—which is a board with microphone and headphone jacks—through their own website on March 1st. The goal is to promote research and improve the quality of life for people living with hearing trouble. At launch, it will cost $299. Of course, because it’s open source, you can go ahead and make your own device by heading over to the Tympan GitHub page.