US20180077504A1 - Contact hearing systems, apparatus and methods - Google Patents

Contact hearing systems, apparatus and methods Download PDF

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Publication number
US20180077504A1
US20180077504A1 US15/695,566 US201715695566A US2018077504A1 US 20180077504 A1 US20180077504 A1 US 20180077504A1 US 201715695566 A US201715695566 A US 201715695566A US 2018077504 A1 US2018077504 A1 US 2018077504A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
ear canal
canal assembly
coil
smartlens
data
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Pending
Application number
US15/695,566
Inventor
Cem Shaquer
Louis Wong
Kulbir Sandhu
Mudhafar Hassan ALI
Thanh Tran
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EarLens Corp
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EarLens Corp
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Priority to US201662385914P priority Critical
Application filed by EarLens Corp filed Critical EarLens Corp
Priority to US15/695,566 priority patent/US20180077504A1/en
Assigned to EARLENS CORPORATION reassignment EARLENS CORPORATION ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: ALI, MUDHAFAR HASSAN, WONG, LOUIS, SHAQUER, CEM, TRAN, THANH, SANDHU, KULBIR
Publication of US20180077504A1 publication Critical patent/US20180077504A1/en
Application status is Pending legal-status Critical

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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/60Mounting or interconnection of hearing aid parts, e.g. inside tips, housings or to ossicles
    • H04R25/604Mounting or interconnection of hearing aid parts, e.g. inside tips, housings or to ossicles of acoustic or vibrational transducers
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04BTRANSMISSION
    • H04B5/00Near-field transmission systems, e.g. inductive loop type
    • H04B5/0025Near field system adaptations
    • H04B5/0031Near field system adaptations for data transfer
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04BTRANSMISSION
    • H04B5/00Near-field transmission systems, e.g. inductive loop type
    • H04B5/0025Near field system adaptations
    • H04B5/0037Near field system adaptations for power transfer
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/30Monitoring or testing of hearing aids, e.g. functioning, settings, battery power
    • H04R25/305Self-monitoring or self-testing
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • H04R25/552Binaural
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • H04R25/554Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired using a wireless connection, e.g. between microphone and amplifier or using Tcoils
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • H04R25/558Remote control, e.g. of amplification, frequency
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/65Housing parts, e.g. shells, tips or moulds, or their manufacture
    • H04R25/652Ear tips; Ear moulds
    • H04R25/656Non-customized, universal ear tips, i.e. ear tips which are not specifically adapted to the size or shape of the ear or ear canal
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/023Completely in the canal [CIC] hearing aids
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/31Aspects of the use of accumulators in hearing aids, e.g. rechargeable batteries or fuel cells
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2460/00Details of hearing devices, i.e. of ear- or headphones covered by H04R1/10 or H04R5/033 but not provided for in any of their subgroups, or of hearing aids covered by H04R25/00 but not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2460/15Determination of the acoustic seal of ear moulds or ear tips of hearing devices

Abstract

The present invention is directed to a hearing aid which includes a lateral ear canal assembly and a medial ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention the medial ear canal assembly may include smart circuitry adapted to control parameters and outputs of the medial ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention various methods and circuitry are described, wherein the methods and circuitry are adapted to improve the performance and efficiency of the hearing aid.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE
  • This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 120 to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 62/385,914, filed Sep. 9, 2016, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • In contact hearing aid systems, the system, including a contact hearing device, an ear tip and an audio processor, is employed to enhance the hearing of a user. Depending upon the contact hearing aid, the system may also include an external communication device, such as a cellular phone, which communicates with the audio processor. An example of such system is the Earlens Light Driven Hearing Aid manufactured by Earlens Corporation. The Earlens hearing-aid transmits an audio signal by laser to a tympanic membrane transducer which is placed on an ear drum of a user. In such systems, it may be beneficial to add smart components to the contact hearing device in order to improve the overall function and/or efficiency of the system. It may also be beneficial to use alternative methods of transmitting the signal and/or the energy required to power the contact hearing device and/or electronic components on the contact hearing device.
  • As an example, in some prior contact hearing aid systems, e.g., those using light to transmit sound to a contact hearing device positioned on the tympanic membrane of a user, it was beneficial to bias the transmitted signal in order to transmit both positive and negative elements of the encoded data (e.g., sound signal) from a lateral ear canal assembly positioned in the user's ear canal to a medial ear canal assembly positioned on the user's tympanic membrane. The transmitted signal was then received, by, for example, a photodetector, and transmitted directly to the vibratory load, e.g., a transducer assembly. In such systems, the bias consumed a significant amount of energy in the transmitted signal. In some devices, the amount of energy required for the bias signal was reduced by using a sliding bias. In such systems, the bias is changed according to the level of the incoming sounds, with a smaller bias for lower level input sounds and a larger bias for higher level input sounds. Unfortunately, the use of a sliding bias, while reducing the amount of energy required for the bias, does not eliminate the need for a bias signal, which consumes energy, potentially resulting in a shorter battery life or the need for a larger battery. Further, the use of a sliding bias may result in sound artifacts which are audible to the hearing aid wearer. Thus, it would be beneficial to design a system which does not require a bias to transmit data and power to the lateral ear canal assembly.
  • Further, in prior systems, the input from the lateral ear canal assembly would be used to drive the output of the medial ear canal assembly directly with the data and power signals remaining combined. In these devices, the level of the output of the medial ear canal assembly was a function of the level of the input to the medial ear canal assembly. This arrangement could be disadvantageous because the output of the medial ear canal assembly was subject to change, by, for example, changes in the distance between the medial and lateral ear canal assemblies, which may be caused by, for example, the positioning of the lateral ear canal assembly in the ear.
  • Further, in prior systems, such as those using light to transmit sound through the ear canal of a user or from a lateral hearing aid assembly to a medial hearing aid assembly, it may be difficult to obtain and maintain alignment between the transmitting element (e.g., a laser) on the lateral ear canal assembly and the receiving element (e.g., a photodetector) on the medial ear canal assembly. For example, the alignment may depend upon the placement of transmitting and receiving elements in the ear canal, if they are not properly placed, the alignment may be off and the transmitted signal may be too low to be useable at the medial ear canal assembly. Alternatively, or in addition, movements of, for example, the jaw of a user, may result in changes to the alignment caused by changes to the shape of the ear canal or position of the transmitting or receiving elements. It would, therefore, be advantageous to design a hearing aid system wherein alignment between components on the lateral ear canal assembly and components on the medial ear canal assembly had little or no effect on the strength of a signal received at the medial ear canal assembly. It would further be advantageous to design a hearing aid system wherein changes in the shape or structure of the ear canal resulting from, for example, movement of the user's jaw, would have little or no impact on the strength of a signal received at the medial ear canal assembly.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present disclosure relates to improved contact hearing aid systems, apparatuses, and methods and more particularly to improved designs for such contact hearing aid systems and improved methods for transmitting energy and information between components of such systems.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of embodiments of the present inventive concepts will be apparent from the more particular description of preferred embodiments, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which like reference characters refer to the same or like elements. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the preferred embodiments.
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a smartlens system, including a lateral ear canal assembly and medial ear canal assembly according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a smartlens system, including a lateral ear canal assembly and medial ear canal assembly according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a smartlens system which is adapted for communication with external devices according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a medial ear canal assembly (which may also be referred to as a smart lens) according to one embodiment of the invention.
  • FIG. 5 is a further example of a medial ear canal assembly according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an optically coupled lateral and medial ear canal assembly according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 7 is a block diagram of an inductively coupled medial ear canal assembly according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 8 is a circuit diagram of an RF smartlens system according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 9 is a circuit diagram of a current driver driving a transducer assembly which may be used in embodiments of the present invention.
  • FIG. 10 is a diagram of a rectifier and converter circuit according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 11 is a diagram of a rectifier and converter circuit according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 12 is a diagram of a rectifier and converter circuit according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 13 is a diagram of a portion of a medial ear canal assembly according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a smartlens system 30 according to one embodiment of the present invention, including lateral ear canal assembly 12 (which may also be referred to as a light tip or eartip in some embodiments) and medial ear canal assembly 100 (which may also be referred to as a tympanic lens or tympanic lens transducer in some embodiments).
  • In the embodiment of FIG. 1, lateral ear canal assembly 12 includes a plurality of microphones 810 which are connected through pre-amplifiers 820 to analog to digital (A to D) converters 830. Analog to digital converters 830 may be connected to digital signal processor 840. The output of digital signal processor 840 may be connected to a circuit for modulating the output, such as, for example, pulse density modulator 850. In the embodiment of the invention, the output of pulse density modulator 850 may be connected to radio frequency (RF) modulator 860. The output of RF modulator 860 may be connected to power amplifier 870 and the output of power amplifier 870 may be connected to antenna 880. In the embodiment illustrated, signals radiated from antenna 880 may be received by medial ear canal assembly 100.
  • In FIG. 1, medial ear canal assembly 100 may include antenna 890. The output of antenna 890 may be connected to monitor 900, Power regulator 910 and RF demodulator 920. The output of monitor 900 may be connected to power regulator 910. The output of power regulator 910 and RF demodulator 920 may be connected to driver 930. The output of driver 930 may be connected to actuator 940. The output of actuator 940 drives umbo lens 960, using, for example, a vibratory output.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a smartlens system 30, including a lateral ear canal assembly 12 (which may also be referred to as a processor) and medial ear canal assembly 100 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 2, lateral ear canal assembly 12 may include an external antenna 802 adapted to send and receive signals from an external source such as a cell phone (see FIG. 3). External antenna 802 may be connected to a circuit for processing signals received from external antenna 802, such as blue tooth circuit 804, which, in some embodiments, may be a blue tooth low energy circuit. The output of Bluetooth circuit 804 may be connected to digital signal processor 840, which may also include inputs from microphones 810. Ear canal assembly 12 may further include battery 806 and power conversion circuit 808 along with charging antenna 812 (which may be a coil) and wireless charging circuit 814. Digital signal processor 840 may be connected to interface circuit 816, which may be used to transmit data and power from lateral ear canal assembly 12 to medial ear canal assembly 100. In embodiments of the invention, power and data may be transmitted between lateral ear canal assembly 12 and medial ear canal assembly 100 over power/data link 818 by any one of a number of mechanisms, including, radio frequency (RF), optical, inductive and cutaneous (through the skin) transmission of the data and power. Alternatively, separate modes of transmission may be used for the power and data signals, such as, for example, transmitting the power using radio frequency and the data using light.
  • In FIG. 2, power and data transmitted to medial ear canal assembly 100 may be received by interface circuit 822. Interface circuit 822 may be connected to energy harvesting and data recovery circuit 824 and to electrical and biological sensors 823. In FIG. 2, medial ear canal assembly 100 may further include energy storage circuitry 826, power management circuitry 828, data and signal processing circuitry 832 and microcontroller 834. Medial ear canal assembly 100 may further include a driver circuit 836 and a microactuator 838. In the illustrated embodiment, data transmitted from medial ear canal assembly 100 may be received by interface circuit 816 on lateral ear canal assembly 12.
  • FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a smartlens system 30, adapted for communication with external devices according to one embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 3, smartlens system 30, illustrated previously in FIG. 2 is adapted to communicate with external devices such as cell phone 844 or cloud computing services 842. Such communication may occur through external antenna 802 on lateral ear canal assembly 12 or, in some embodiments directly from medial ear canal assembly 100.
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a medial ear canal assembly 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 4, medial ear canal assembly 100 includes interface 720, clock recovery circuit 730, data recovery circuit 740 and energy harvesting circuit 750. In embodiments of the invention, interface 720 is adapted to transmit data from medial ear canal assembly 100 and to receive data transmitted to medial ear canal assembly 100. Interface 720 may be a radio frequency (RF) interface, an optical interface, an inductive interface or a cutaneous interface. Medial ear canal assembly 100 may further include power management circuit 760, voltage regulator 770, driver 780, data processor encoder 790 and data/sensor interface 800.
  • In FIG. 4, upstream data 702 collected from data processor/encoder 790 may be transmitted via interface 720 as a part of upstream signal 700. Downstream signal 710 may be transmitted to interface 720, which may extract the data portion and may distribute downstream data 712 to data recovery circuit 740 and clock recovery circuit 730. Interface 720 may further transmit at least a portion of downstream signal 705 to energy harvesting circuit 750. The output of energy harvesting circuit 750 may be transmitted to power management circuit 760, which may then distribute energy to voltage regulator 770. Voltage regulator 770 may distribute its output to driver 780, which may also receive input from data recovery circuit 740. The output of driver 780 may be sent through matching network 831 to drive, for example, microactuator 840.
  • Microactuator 840 may include sensors (not shown) which generate data about the function of microactuator 840. This data may be transmitted back to medial ear canal assembly 100 through matching network 831 and to data/sensor interface 800, which, in turn may transmit the sensor information to data processor/encoder 790, which generates upstream data 702. Data/sensor interface 800 may also receive information from other sensors (e.g., Sensor 1 to Sensor n in FIG. 4), which data is, in turn, transmitted to data processor/encoder 790 and becomes part of upstream data 702.
  • FIG. 5 is a further example of a medial ear canal assembly 100 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 5, a circuit 510 (which may be a hybrid circuit) may be positioned on medial ear canal assembly 100. Hybrid circuit 510 may include smart chip 520, antenna 540, matching network 550 and capacitor 660. Smart chip 520 may include current bias circuitry 600, voltage reference circuit 590, regulator 560 (which may be, for example, a Class-G H-Bridge regulator), energy harvesting circuit 650, driver 570 (which may be, for example, a Pulse Density Modulation (PDM) driver), current driver 620 (which may be a Class-G H-Bridge current driver), data decoder 580, clock 640 and diagnostic circuit 610. In the illustrated embodiment, regulator 560 may be, for example, a Class G H-Bridge Regulator which may be a push-pull positive negative driver with a zero bias. Using a regulator with a zero bias may reduce energy consumption by a factor of 10 or more when compared to prior contact hearing aid systems which used light to transmit the power and information.
  • In the embodiment of FIG. 5, antenna 540 may be adapted to receive RF signals, inductively coupled signals or cutaneously transmitted signals. Signals received by antenna 540 may include a power component and/or a data component. Antenna 540 may also be used to transmit data from medial ear canal assembly 100 to an external device, such as, for example, a lateral ear canal assembly 12. In the illustrated embodiment, matching network 550 provides matching between antenna 540 and smart chip 520. Driver 570 may control the gain applied to the incoming signal, ensuring that the output of microactuator is uniform for a given input. The gain applied to a given signal will be a function of the gain required by the user of the device. Amplified signals from current driver 620 are passed through a matching network, such as, for example, capacitor 660, to transducer assembly 20 (which may be, for example, a microactuator, such as, for example, a balanced armature transducer), which may be used to vibrate the tympanic membrane of a user.
  • In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5, data decoder 580 decodes and confirms the validity of data received by antenna 540, performing functions such as error correction and data verification. In embodiments of the invention, particularly those using RF, inductive and/or cutaneously coupled data transmission, interference from external sources could be a problem and it is important to ensure that only verified data is used by the system. In light based systems, interference is of less concern since the light is confined to the ear canal where it was not subject to interference from other light sources. In embodiments of the invention, voltage reference circuit 590 and Current bias circuit 600 provide the appropriate voltage and current to drive transducer assembly 20. In embodiments of the invention, diagnostic circuit 610 gathers data from sensors located on or connected to medial ear canal assembly 100 to transmit that data back to lateral ear canal assembly 12. In embodiments of the invention, current driver 620 supplies the current necessary to drive transducer assembly 100. In embodiments of the invention, clock 640 supplies clock signals to the digital components on medial ear canal assembly 100.
  • In embodiments of the invention, energy harvest circuit 650 harvests energy for use by the components of medial ear canal assembly 100. Energy harvest circuit 650 may harvest energy from the signals received by antenna 540 and/or from environmental energy sources, which environmental energy sources may include, for example, movement of the person wearing medial ear canal assembly 100 and/or movement of body parts, including the wearer's mouth. In embodiments of the invention, capacitor 660 provides a matching network between current driver 620 and transducer assembly 20.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an optically coupled medial ear canal assembly 100 and lateral ear canal assembly 12 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 6, photo detector 150 may receive optical input signals from laser 864 on lateral ear canal assembly 12. The received signals result in an output voltage V1, which is measured at the output of photodetector 150 and may be relayed to data acquisition circuit 846 and maximum power point tracking (“MPPT”) control circuit 848. Data acquisition circuit 846 and MPPT control circuit 848 may also receive the measured current at the output of photodetector 150 from current sensor 852. In the illustrated embodiment, photo detector 150 may be modeled as current source 152 and parasitic diode 853. In the illustrated embodiment, capacitor 854 may be connected across the output of photodetector 150. In FIG. 6, switch 856 may be positioned between the output of photodetector 150 and the input of converter 857. The output of converter 857 may be connected to load 882 and to storage device 869. Storage device 869 may be, for example, a rechargeable battery.
  • In FIG. 6, switch 856 controls the connection of converter 857 to the output of photodetector 150. Switch 856 is controlled by the output of MPPT control circuit 848. Converter 857 supplies energy to and receives energy from storage device 869, which may be, for example, a rechargeable battery. Data acquisition circuit 846 and converter circuit 857 drive load 882, with data acquisition circuit 847 proving load 882 with control data (e.g. sound wave information) and converter 857 providing load 882 with power. The power provided by converter 857 is used to drive load 882 in accordance with the control data from data acquisition circuit 846. Load 882 may, in some embodiments of the invention, be a transducer assembly, such as, for example, a balanced armature transducer.
  • FIG. 7 is a block diagram of an inductively coupled medial ear canal assembly 100 and lateral ear canal assembly 12 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 7, the output of lateral ear canal assembly 12 may be inductively coupled through coil 858 to coil 862 on medial ear canal assembly 100. The inductive coupling may induce a current in coil 862 on medial ear canal assembly 100. The inductively induced current may be measured by current sensor 852. The inductive coupling may further induce an output voltage V1 across coil 862 which may be measured by a voltage meter 863. The measured current and voltage may be used by MPPT control 848 and data acquisition circuit 846. The output of coil 862 may be further connected to a rectifier and converter circuit 865 through capacitor 854. In embodiments of the invention, coil 862 may be connected directly to rectifier and converter circuit 865 (eliminating capacitor 854). In FIG. 7, capacitor 854 may be positioned between the output of coil 862, which may include capacitor 872, and the input of rectifier and converter circuit 865. The output of rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be connected to load 882 and to storage device 869. In embodiments of the invention, rectifier and converter circuitry 865 may include circuitry which provides power to storage device 869 and transmits power from storage device 869 to load 882 when required. In embodiments of the invention, storage device 869 may be connected directly to coil 862 or to other circuity adapted to harvest energy from coil 862 and deliver energy to load 882. Load 882 may be, for example, a microactuator positioned on the medial ear canal assembly 100 such that load 882 vibrates the tympanic membrane of a user when stimulated by signals received by coil 862. Storage device 869 may be, for example, a rechargeable battery.
  • In embodiments of the invention: coil 858 may comprise a transmit coil and coal 862 may comprise a receive coil; coils 858 and 862 may be elongated coils manufactured from a conductive material; coils 854 and 862 may be stacked coils; coils 854 and 862 may be wound inductors; coils 854 and 862 may be wound around a central core; coils 854 and 862 may be wound around a core comprising air; coils 854 and 862 may be wound around a magnetic core; coils 854 and 862 may have a substantially fixed diameter along the length of the wound coil.
  • In embodiments of the invention: rectifier and converter circuit 865 may comprise power control circuitry; rectifier and converter circuit 865 may comprise a rectifier; rectifier and converter 865 may be a rectifying circuit, including, for example, a diode circuit, a half wave rectifier or a full wave rectifier; rectifier and converter circuit 865 may comprise a diode circuit and capacitor.
  • In embodiments of the invention, energy storage device 869 may be a capacitor, a rechargeable battery or any other electronic element or device which is adapted to store electrical energy.
  • In FIG. 7, the output of MPPT control circuit 848 may control rectifier and converter circuit 865. Rectifier and converter circuit 865 may supply energy to and receive energy from storage device 869, which may be, for example, a rechargeable battery. Data acquisition circuit 846 and rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be used to drive load 882, with data acquisition circuit 846 proving load 882 with control data (e.g., sound wave information) and rectifier and converter circuit 865 providing load 882 with power. In embodiments of the invention, rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be used to drive load 862 directly, without information from a data circuit such as data acquisition circuit 846. In embodiments of the invention rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be used to drive load 862 directly without energy from storage device 869. The power provided by rectifier and converter circuit 865 is used to drive load 882 in accordance with the control data from data acquisition circuit 846. Load 882 may, in some embodiments of the invention, be a transducer assembly, such as, for example, a balanced armature transducer.
  • In embodiments of the invention, information and/or power may be transmitted from lateral ear canal assembly 12 to medial ear canal assembly 100 by magnetically coupling coil 858 to coil 862. When the coils are inductively coupled, the magnetic flux generated by coil 858 may be used to generate an electrical current in coil 862. When the coils are inductively coupled, the magnetic flux generated by coil 858 may be used to generate an electrical voltage across coil 862. In embodiments of the invention, the signal used to excite coil 858 on lateral ear canal assembly 12 may be a push/pull signal. In embodiments of the invention, the signal used to excite coil 858 may have a zero crossing. In embodiments of the invention, the magnetic flux generated by coil 858 travels through a pathway that includes a direct air pathway that is not obstructed by bodily components. In embodiments of the invention, the direct air pathway is through air in the ear canal of a user. In embodiments of the invention, the direct air pathway is line of sight between lateral ear canal assembly 12 and medial ear canal assembly 100 such that medial ear canal assembly 100 is optically visible from lateral ear canal assembly 100.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the output signal generated at coil 862 may be rectified by, for example, rectifier and converter circuit 865. In embodiments of the invention, a rectified signal may be used to drive a load, such as load 882 positioned on medial ear canal assembly 100. In embodiments of the invention, the output signal generated at coil 862 may contain an information/data portion which includes information transmitted to medial ear canal assembly 100 by coil 858. In embodiments of the invention, at least a portion of the output signal generated at coil 862 may contain energy or power which may be scavenged by circuits on medial ear canal assembly 100 to charge, for example, storage device 869.
  • In embodiments of the invention, wherein inductive coupling is used in the transmission of data and/or power between components of a hearing aid, advantages of inductive coupling over other mechanisms of energy/data transfer may include: a reduced sensitivity to directionality and motion of the hearing aid; a reduced sensitivity to relative positioning of the components of the hearing aid; a reduced sensitivity to the relative motion of components of the hearing aid; improved user comfort, particularly with respect to components of the hearing aid positioned in the ear canal of the user; extended battery life; and a reduced sensitivity to bodily fluids (e.g. cerumen) present in the ear canal of a patient.
  • FIG. 8 is a circuit diagram of an RF smartlens system according to the present invention. In FIG. 8, the output of lateral ear canal assembly 12 may be coupled through antenna 880 to antenna 890 on medial ear canal assembly 100. The RF coupling induces a current in antenna 890, which may be measured by current sensor 852 and further induces an output voltage V1 which may be measured by voltage sensor 863. The measured current and voltage V1 are used by MPPT control 848 and data acquisition circuit 846. The output of antenna 890 may be connected to a rectifier and converter circuit 865 through capacitor 854. In FIG. 8, capacitor 854 may be positioned between the output of antenna 890, which may include capacitor 872 and the input of rectifier and converter circuit 865. The output of rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be connected to load 882 and to storage device 869. Load 882 may, in some embodiments of the invention, be a transducer assembly, such as, for example, a balanced armature transducer. Storage device 869 may be, for example, a rechargeable battery.
  • In FIG. 8, the output of MPPT control circuit 848 may control rectifier and converter circuit 865. Rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be used to supply energy to and receive energy from storage device 869, which may be, for example, a rechargeable battery. Data acquisition circuit 846 and rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be used to drive load 882, with data acquisition circuit 846 proving load 882 with control data (e.g., sound wave information) and rectifier and converter circuit 865 providing load 882 with power. The power provided by rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be used to drive load 882 in accordance with the control data from data acquisition circuit 846. Load 882 may, in some embodiments of the invention, be a transducer assembly, such as, for example, a balanced armature transducer.
  • FIG. 9 is a circuit diagram of an H Bridge current driver 620 driving transducer assembly 20 which may be used in embodiments of the present invention. FIG. 9 illustrates a current driver 620 which may be used in one embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 9, the actuator driver is a full bridge, which may be, for example, an H class amplifier. In this embodiment, the bridge consists of two legs (or half bridge—left and right). Each leg is totem pole of two MOSFET transistors 970.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the data fed into the actuator driver is typically binary patterns with pulse wave modulation (PWM) timing. In these embodiments, the voltage across the actuator is based on the PWM pattern. In embodiments of the invention, the H class topology uses a variable bias of the bridge based on the audio level.
  • FIG. 10 is a diagram of a rectifier and converter circuit according to one embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 10, rectifier and converter circuit 865 may include diode 974 and capacitor 972. In embodiments of the invention, the input to rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be connected directly to coil 862. In embodiments of the invention, the output of rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be coupled directly to a load, such as, for example, a transducer or a balanced armature transducer. In embodiments of the invention, the output of rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be coupled to the windings in a load, such as, for example, a transducer or a balanced armature transducer.
  • FIG. 11 is a diagram of a rectifier and converter circuit according to one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 12 is a diagram of a rectifier and converter circuit according to one embodiment of the present invention. In embodiments of the invention, rectifier and converter circuit 865 may include diodes 974 and capacitors 972 which may form, for example, bridge circuits such as, for example, half wave bridges or full wave bridges.
  • FIG. 13 is a diagram of a portion of a medial ear canal assembly according to one or more embodiments of the present invention. In embodiments of the invention, the input to rectifier and converter circuit 862 may be connected to coil 862 through additional circuitry, such as, for example, capacitor 854 or input circuitry 976. In embodiments of the invention, the output of rectifier and converter circuit 865 may be coupled to a load, such as, for example, a transducer or a balanced armature transducer through an output circuit 978. In embodiments of the invention, output circuit 978 may be, for example, a capacitor, an inductor, a combination of electrical or electronic components and/or a matching circuit.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the lateral ear canal assembly may use, for example, energy which is transmitted using RF transmission, inductive coupling and/or cutaneous transmission to transmit data and/or power to the medial ear canal assembly. The use of RF transmission or inductively coupled energy to transmit the data and/or power is beneficial because it eliminates the need to bias the signal before it is transmitted, reducing the amount of energy required to transmit a given signal and eliminating the need to use a sliding bias to reduce the amount of energy required to be transmitted. The use of RF or inductive coupled mechanisms for transmitting the data and power signals without biasing the signal, where the transmitted signal includes both a positive and a negative component may be referred to as a Push/Pull driving strategy.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a Push/Pull driving strategy means that the output of the lateral ear canal assembly can have both positive and negative components (unlike an optical drive, which can only go positive and therefore, needs to incorporate negative information into a positive signal), allowing the system to transmit both positive and negative data (e.g. sound wave information) without using a bias or offset signal. Thus, using a push/pull driving strategy, it is only necessary to deliver enough energy to: i) transmit the data; ii) power the medial canal assembly circuitry, including any sensors; and iii) activate the microactuator. This is advantageous because the system is only using energy when it is necessary and eliminating the need for a bias signal and the need for sliding bias to minimize the bias signal.
  • In embodiments of the invention, no bias is required and the signal may be transmitted directly, resulting in reduced energy consumption and an increased battery life.
  • By using smart lens circuitry on the medial ear canal assembly, power for operating the elements of the medial ear canal assembly may be harvested from the transmitted signal and stored on the medial ear canal assembly until needed (e.g., in a rechargeable battery or supercapacitor). The harvested power may be used to drive the medial ear canal assembly electronics (e.g., the smart chip logic and/or sensors on the medical ear canal assembly) in addition to providing power for the transducer assembly which provides vibratory input to the tympanic lens. This harvested power from the incoming signal may, in some embodiments, be supplemented or replaced by power harvested directly from the wearer, e.g., through harvesting the energy generated by the motion of the wearer's body, such as, for example, the motion of the wearer's jaw when chewing or talking or the heat generated by the wearer.
  • In embodiments of the present invention, the output of the medial ear canal assembly is regulated directly by the circuitry on the medial ear canal assembly such that the output is not a function of the power or intensity of the incoming signal from the lateral ear canal assembly, which intensity may fluctuate as, for example, a function of the distance between the medial ear canal assembly and the lateral ear canal assembly. For example, in these embodiments, loudness, as perceived by the wearer, will not be a function of the distance between the lateral and medial ear canal assemblies. Nor will it be a function of the intensity of the signal transmitted by the lateral ear canal assembly to the medial ear canal assembly, although the signal will have to be intense enough to reach a threshold value. Once the threshold value is reached, the medial ear canal assembly will be receiving a signal which is strong enough to provide sufficient power to the medial ear canal assembly to both power the assembly and transmit the information (e.g., sound signals) carried by the received signal. As long as the input reaches and remains above that threshold value, the patient will not perceive any changes resulting from fluctuations in the intensity of the input signal resulting from, for example, fluctuations in the distance between the medial and lateral ear canal assembly. In these embodiments, the output of the medial ear canal assembly may be regulated by circuitry on the medial ear canal assembly, rather than, for example, the intensity of the incoming signal.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the medial ear canal assembly may be adapted to include an energy storage system (e.g., a rechargeable battery or capacitor) to collect energy received from the incoming signal and store it for use at a later time (e.g., when the incoming signal drops below the threshold value). In these embodiments, once the energy storage system is charged to a predetermined level, the level of incoming signal required to run the medial ear canal assembly is reduced since the power from the incoming signal may be supplemented by the stored energy. In such embodiments, the threshold level may be reduced to the minimum level required to transmit the information in the input signal.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the information signal (e.g., the signal representative of the sound received by microphones on the processor and/or the lateral ear canal assembly) is separated from the energy source after the incoming signal is received by the medial ear canal assembly and prior to driving the output of the lateral ear canal assembly. In other embodiments of the invention, the incoming signal to the medial ear canal assembly comprises only a data signal with the medial ear canal assembly being powered by energy stored on the medial ear canal assembly (e.g., in a rechargeable battery or capacitor) or scavenged from the local environment (e.g., from movements of the user's jaw muscles which move the tissue in the ear canal). In embodiments of the invention, where the input signal reaches the threshold level necessary to create user perceptible sound, the power in the incident signal received by the medial ear canal assembly may be used directly to drive the output of the medial ear canal assembly. Once the input signal exceeds the threshold level, at least a portion of the received power may be stored in a storage device on the medial ear canal assembly (e.g., a battery), the stored power may thereafter be used to provide power to components of the medial ear canal assembly, allowing the medial ear canal assembly to operate even when the input level drops below the threshold level.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the output of the medial ear canal assembly is a transducer assembly coupled to the patient's tympanic membrane. With the power separated from the data, the medial ear canal assembly requires only a minimum data signal to provide an output (e.g., a vibratory output) to the tympanic membrane. Once a minimum input signal level is reached, the vibratory output may be regulated to the appropriate levels regardless of the magnitude of the input signals, particularly where the power signal has been harvested and/or stored by the medial ear canal assembly.
  • Energy harvesting in addition to or instead of getting energy directly from an outside source, such as, a lateral ear canal assembly 12, may reduce the need for a lateral ear canal assembly. Energy harvested could be used to provide power while very little energy would be required to transmit the data. In such a device, the data may be transmitted from outside the user's head, using, for example, RF, inductive coupled or cutaneous transmission mechanisms.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the lateral ear canal assembly may be designed to harvest power from the input signal before the acoustic data is transmitted to the load (e.g. the microactuator). This harvested power may be put into a reservoir, such as a battery. The stored power may then be modulated by the incoming acoustic data to drive the output of the medial ear canal assembly, e.g., to drive the microactuator coupled to the tympanic membrane of the user. Control of the power also makes it possible to limit the maximum range of vibration, protecting the user's hearing.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the lateral ear canal assembly may include a Wi-Fi power harvesting circuit which may be uses to harvest power from Wi-Fi signals received by the lateral ear canal assembly. The harvested Wi-Fi signals may be used to power circuitry on the lateral ear canal assembly. The harvested Wi-Fi signals may also be used to provide power to energy storage devices, such as rechargeable batteries, located on the lateral ear canal assembly. The stored energy may be used to power the lateral ear canal assembly and to transmit signals, including data and power components, to the medial ear canal assembly.
  • In embodiments of the invention, gain may be controlled on the medial ear canal assembly, ensuring that the gain is not subject to fluctuation resulting from, for example, fluctuations in the input signal level. The gain may be optimized for each patient by transmitting patient specific gain profiles to the medial ear canal assembly as part of the data transmitted from the lateral ear canal assembly. Such patent specific gain profiles may then be used to determine the amount of gain to be applied to the incoming signal from the lateral ear canal assembly, depending, for example, on the strength of the signal received from the medial ear canal assembly. Such patient specific gain profile may further be stored on the medial ear canal assembly and used whenever a signal is received to match the gain applied to the actual needs of the patient. The application of the patient specific gain at the medial ear canal assembly is beneficial because it allows the medial ear canal assembly to compensate for losses or changing circumstances in the transmission path through the ear canal which may be caused by, for example, changes in the head position of the user or movement of the user's jaw. The signal reaching the patient's tympanic membrane will, therefore, more accurately reflect the gain requirements of that patient. The gain may also be modified in real time by sending modification data from the lateral ear canal assembly to reflect, for example, the surroundings of the patient and/or the geographic location of the patient, such as, for example, increasing gain when the patient is in a noisy environment.
  • In embodiments of the invention, wherein a microactuator located on the medial ear canal assembly uses a drive post and/or umbo platform to directly drive the tympanic membrane of a user, changes in drive post location can be compensated automatically (e.g., by looking for changes to back EMF measured at, for example, the input to the microactuator). Such back EMF may be reflective of, for example, generator effects resulting from movement of the reed. In embodiments of the invention where back EMF can be measured and such back EMF is reflective of the movement of the drive post, such measurements may eliminate the need for regular checkups with physicians. Such changes in back EMF may be indicative of, for example, changes in the position or location of the medial ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention, notifications of changes in back EMF may be sent to a server through a cell phone and from there to a physician who can then determine whether to ask the patient to come in to have the position or location of the medial ear canal assembly checked.
  • The described embodiments allow data collected by the medial ear canal apparatus to be transmitted back to a receiver, such as a lateral ear canal apparatus, where the data can be analyzed and, where appropriate, transmitted back to a second device, such as a BTE, a cell phone or directly to a cloud based computer. The type of data collected may include biometric data relating to the person wearing the device and/or data relating to the function of the apparatus or components of the apparatus.
  • In embodiments of the present invention, sensors on the medial ear canal assembly may be used to gather data, including, for example, biometric data, which may then be transmitted from the medial ear canal assembly to a suitable receiving device, such as a lateral ear canal assembly, a BTE, a cell phone or some combination of devices. Combinations of the preceding devices may also be used to receive and process data from the medial ear canal assembly, for example, data may be transmitted from the medial ear canal assembly to a lateral ear canal assembly, which may then transmit the received data to a BTE which processes the data and, where appropriate, transmits the processed data to the wearer's cell phone. The data may then be displayed on the cell phone and/or transmitted by the cell phone to, for example, the wearer's physician or a central data base.
  • Sensors on the medial ear canal assembly may be used to measure many parameters, including parameters related to physiological or characteristics of the wearer and/or operating parameters of the system. For example, the sensors may measure lens functionality, automatically regulating power levels. Further, the system may include communication channels to send measurements and/or data back to the lateral ear canal assembly, BTE processor and/or, to a remote device, such as a cell phone, or a remote data system, such as, for example, cloud storage. As further examples, the sensors may be adapted to measure power consumption, and/or back EMF, enabling the system to perform self-diagnostics.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a smartlens system may include a lateral ear canal assembly and a medial ear canal assembly, the medial ear canal assembly may include: a receiver adapted to receive a signal which includes a power component and a data component, wherein the data component includes sound data; power harvesting circuitry being connected to the receiver and adapted to harvest the power from the received signal; power storage circuitry connected to the power harvesting circuitry and adapted to receive power from the power harvesting circuitry, wherein the power storage circuitry is adapted to store the harvested power; and an actuator connected to the receiver and the power storage circuitry, wherein the output of the actuator is driven in accordance with saved data derived from the data component. In further embodiments of the invention, the sound data uses harvested power from the power storage circuit. In further embodiments of the invention, the power storage circuitry is selected from the group comprising: a rechargeable battery and a capacitor. In further embodiments of the invention, the actuator is a transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the actuator is a balanced armature transducer.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a smartlens system may include a lateral ear canal assembly and a medial ear canal assembly, the medial ear canal assembly may include: a transceiver adapted to receive a signal which includes a power component and a data component; data control circuitry connected to the transceiver and adapted to manage data from the signals received by the medial ear canal assembly wherein such data control circuitry includes data storage; control circuitry for driving an output transducer positioned on the medial ear canal assembly; and gain control circuitry responsive to the data for managing the gain applied to signals driving the transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the medial ear canal assembly may include power control circuitry connected to the transceiver adapted to harvest energy from the signals received by the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the stored data includes data specific to the hearing characteristics of a specific user. In further embodiments of the invention, the stored data includes a user's hearing thresholds at predetermined frequencies. In further embodiments of the invention, the gain applied controls the output of the output transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the output transducer is adapted to vibrate the tympanic membrane of the user.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a method of transmitting vibrations to a tympanic membrane of a user may include the steps of: transmitting a first signal from a lateral ear canal assembly to a medial ear canal assembly, wherein at least a portion of the first signal comprises data which is generated from the hearing characteristics of the user wearing the medial ear canal assembly; storing the characteristic data on the medial ear canal assembly; transmitting a second signal from the lateral ear canal assembly to the medial ear canal assembly, wherein at least a portion of the second signal comprises data which is indicative of sounds in the proximity of the user; using the data which is generated from the hearing characteristics of the user to control amplification circuitry located on the medial ear canal assembly, wherein the amplification circuitry is adapted to amplify a signal derived from the data indicative of sounds in the proximity of the user's ear and the amplification circuitry is adapted to drive a microactuator attached to the medial ear canal assembly and in contact with the user's tympanic membrane. In embodiments of the invention, a method may further include a system wherein the amount of amplification applied a given frequency is proportional to the amplification required by the user at that frequency.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a smartlens system may include a lateral ear canal assembly and a medial ear canal assembly, the medial ear canal assembly may include: sensors adapted to sense parameters related to the status of components of the medial ear canal assembly; a transceiver positioned on the medial ear canal assembly and adapted to receive a signal which includes a power component and a data component; power control circuitry connected to the transceiver, the power control circuitry being adapted to harvest energy from signals received by the medial ear canal assembly; data control circuitry connected to the transceiver and adapted to manage data in the signals received by the medial ear canal assembly; sensor control circuitry for managing data from the sensors on the medial ear canal assembly; and control circuitry for driving an output transducer positioned on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the data control circuitry includes circuitry adapted to manage sound data in the data in the signals received by the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the transceiver control circuitry is adapted to transmit data from the sensor control circuitry to the lateral ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the lateral ear canal assembly is adapted to relay data from the medial ear canal assembly to a remotely located device. In further embodiments of the invention, the remotely located device is a cell phone. In further embodiments of the invention, the remotely located device is a computer. In further embodiments of the invention, the sensors on the medial ear canal assembly provide data on the output transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the data provided is data related to the back EMF of the output transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the data managed by the data control circuitry is data related to the physical characteristics of the person wearing the smartlens.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a smartlens system may include: a lateral ear canal assembly comprising a first transceiver including a first coil; a medial ear canal assembly comprising a second transceiver including a second coil, wherein the first coil is adapted to inductively couple to the second coil; a vibratory load connected to the second coil and adapted to vibrate in response to signals transmitted from the first coil to the second coil through inductive coupling; and a rectifying circuit connected between an output of the second coil and the vibratory load. In further embodiments of the invention, the smartlens transmits a signal having a push-pull format. In further embodiments of the invention, the smartlens transmits a signal having a zero crossing. In further embodiments of the invention, the coil is manufactured from conductive material. In further embodiments of the invention, the first and second coils are elongated coils. In further embodiments of the invention, the medial ear canal assembly includes a current sensor adapted to measure the current in the second coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the medial ear canal assembly includes a voltage sensor adapted to measure the voltage across the second coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the medal ear canal assembly includes power control circuitry connected between the second coil and the vibratory load. In further embodiments of the invention, the power control circuitry is further connected to an energy storage device. In further embodiments of the invention, the energy storage device is a capacitor. In further embodiments of the invention, the energy storage device is a rechargeable battery. In further embodiments of the invention, the transmission path between the first coil and the second coil comprises air. In further embodiments of the invention, the transmission path comprises a line of sight transmission path. In further embodiments of the invention, the transmission path comprises air in the ear canal of a user. In further embodiments of the invention, the lateral ear canal assembly is separated from the medial ear canal assembly by air in the ear canal of a user. In further embodiments of the invention, the first and second coils are stacked coils. In further embodiments of the invention, the first and second coils comprise wound inductors. In further embodiments of the invention, the first coil is wound around a first core and the second coil is wound around a second core. In further embodiments of the invention, the first core comprises air. In further embodiments of the invention, the first core has a substantially fixed diameter along at least a portion of the length of the first coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the second core comprises air. In further embodiments of the invention, the second core has a substantially fixed diameter along at least a portion of the length of the second coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the vibratory load is a transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the transducer is a balanced armature transducer.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a method of transmitting data from a lateral ear canal assembly to a medial ear canal assembly is described, the method including: modulating the data; exciting a first coil on the lateral ear canal with the modulated data such that the coil generates a magnetic field; receiving the generated magnetic field at the medial ear canal assembly and generating a received signal representative of the modulated signal; and demodulating the received signal to generate a demodulated signal; using the demodulated signal to generate a drive signal; and using the drive signal to drive a microactuator positioned on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the received signal comprises an electrical current which is induced in a coil by the magnetic field and wherein the coil is positioned on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the received signal comprises an electrical voltage induced across at least one coil by the magnetic field and wherein the coil is positioned on the medial ear canal assembly.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a method of transmitting data from a lateral ear canal assembly to a medial ear canal assembly is described, the method including: exciting a first coil on the lateral ear canal assembly to generate a magnetic field; receiving at least a portion of the generated magnetic field at a second coil positioned on the medial ear canal assembly, wherein the received magnetic field induces a received signal in the second coil; rectifying the output of the second coil; and transmitting at least a portion of the rectified output to a load positioned on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the load comprises a vibratory element adapted to vibrate in response to the rectified output. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the load comprises a balanced armature transducer. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the received signal comprises a voltage induced across the second coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the received signal comprises a current induced in the second coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein first coil is excited with a signal having a push/pull format. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the first coil is excited with a signal having a zero crossing. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the first coil generates magnetic flux and the first coil is coupled to the second coil by the magnetic flux. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the received signal comprises a data portion. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the received signal further comprises an energy portion. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein at least a portion of the energy in the received signal is used to charge an energy storage device. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein at least a portion of the received signal provides data to the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the medium between the lateral ear canal assembly and the medial ear canal assembly comprises air. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the medium between the lateral ear canal assembly and the medial ear canal assembly comprises air in the ear canal of a user. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the magnetic field travels between the first and second coil through air. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the air between the first and second coil comprises air in the ear canal of the user. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the medial ear canal assembly is optically visible from the lateral ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the only material between the medial ear canal assembly and the lateral ear canal assembly is air in the ear canal of a user.
  • In an embodiment of the invention, a smartlens system may include: a lateral ear canal assembly comprising a first transceiver including a first antenna; a medial ear canal assembly comprising a second transceiver including a second antenna, wherein the first antenna is adapted to couple to the second antenna using radio frequency communications. In further embodiments of the invention, the smartlens transmits a signal having a push-pull format. In further embodiments of the invention, the smartlens transmits a signal having a zero crossing.
  • In an embodiment of the invention, a smartlens system, may include a lateral ear canal assembly and a medial ear canal assembly, the medial ear canal assembly may include: sensors adapted to sense parameters related to the status of components of the medial ear canal assembly; a transceiver adapted to receive a signal which includes a power component and a data component; power control circuitry connected to the transceiver adapted to harvest energy from signals received by the medial ear canal assembly; data control circuitry connected to the transceiver and adapted to manage data in the signals received by the medial ear canal assembly; sensor control circuitry for managing data from the sensors on the medial ear canal assembly; and control circuitry for driving an output transducer positioned on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the transceiver communicates using one or more of radio frequency, optical, inductive and cutaneous transmission of the data and power.
  • In an embodiment of the invention, a method of transmitting data and power from a lateral ear canal assembly to a medial ear canal assembly, the method including the steps of: encoding the data to be transmitted into a signal; driving a first coil positioned on the lateral ear canal assembly using encoded data; driving a second coil positioned on the medial ear canal assembly by inductively coupling the first coil to the second coil.
  • In an embodiment of the invention, a method of transmitting data and power from a lateral ear canal assembly to a medial ear canal assembly is described, the method including the steps of: encoding the data to be transmitted into a signal; driving a first antenna positioned on the lateral ear canal assembly using encoded data; driving a second antenna positioned on the medial ear canal assembly by inductively coupling the first coil to the second coil.
  • In an embodiment of the invention, a method of transmitting data and power from a lateral ear canal assembly to a medial ear canal assembly is described, the method including the steps of: encoding the data to be transmitted into a signal; driving an optical transmitter positioned on the lateral ear canal assembly using encoded data; driving an optical receiver positioned on the medial ear canal assembly by inductively coupling the first coil to the second coil. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the optical transmitter comprises a laser. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the optical receiver comprises a photodiode.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a method of providing energy to circuitry on a medial ear canal assembly is described, the method including the steps of: radiating a signal from a lateral ear canal assembly to the medial ear canal assembly; receiving the radiated signal at the medial ear canal assembly wherein the received signal includes a data component and a power component; detecting the data in the detected signal; harvesting the power in the detected signal; and storing the harvested power on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step wherein the method including the step driving a microactuator using the detected data and the stored power.
  • In embodiments of the invention, a method of providing energy to circuitry on a medial ear canal assembly is described, the method including the steps of: harvesting Wi-Fi energy at a lateral ear canal assembly; using the harvested Wi-Fi energy to power the lateral ear canal assembly; radiating a signal from the lateral ear canal assembly to the medial ear canal assembly; receiving the radiated signal at the medial ear canal assembly wherein the received signal includes a data component and a power component; detecting the data in the detected signal; harvesting the power in the detected signal; and storing the harvested power on the medial ear canal assembly. In further embodiments of the invention, the method may further include a step including driving a microactuator using the detected data and the stored power.
  • In embodiments of the invention, where the data and power is transmitted optically, such sensors may further be used for automatically calibrating the light tip to the individual lens. This calibration may be accomplished by providing feedback on the output level from the photodetector to the light tip and comparing that output level to the drive level for the laser on the light tip. In embodiments of the invention, light calibration or other calibration of the hearing aid to the unique requirements of the hearing aid user is accomplished using data collected from the medial ear canal assembly.
  • In embodiments of the invention, the invention includes a method of inducing a detectable voltage in an electronic component positioned on or attached to a medial ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention, the invention includes a method of inducing a detectable current in an electronic component positioned on or attached to a medial ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention, the electronic component may be a coil. In embodiments of the invention, at least a portion of the power in a signal received by a medial ear canal assembly may be used to provide power to components on the ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention, at least a portion of the energy in a signal received by a medial ear canal assembly may be used to provide power to components on the ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention, at least a portion of the power in a signal received by a medial ear canal assembly may be stored on the medial ear canal assembly and thereafter used to provide power to components on the ear canal assembly. In embodiments of the invention, at least a portion of the energy in a signal received by a medial ear canal assembly may be stored on the medial ear canal assembly and thereafter used to provide power to components on the ear canal assembly. In an embodiment of the invention, a signal received at a medial ear canal assembly may include both data and power. In an embodiment of the invention, a signal received at a medial ear canal assembly may include both data and energy.
  • While the preferred embodiments of the devices and methods have been described in reference to the environment in which they were developed, they are merely illustrative of the principles of the present inventive concepts. Modification or combinations of the above-described assemblies, other embodiments, configurations, and methods for carrying out the invention, and variations of aspects of the invention that are obvious to those of skill in the art are intended to be within the scope of the claims. In addition, where this application has listed the steps of a method or procedure in a specific order, it may be possible, or even expedient in certain circumstances, to change the order in which some steps are performed, and it is intended that the particular steps of the method or procedure claim set forth herein below not be construed as being order-specific unless such order specificity is expressly stated in the claim.
  • REFERENCE NUMBERS
    • Number Element
    • 12 Lateral Ear Canal Assembly
    • 20 Transducer Assembly
    • 30 Smartlens System
    • 100 Medial Ear Canal Assembly
    • 150 Photodetector
    • 152 Current Source
    • 510 Hybrid Circuit
    • 520 Smart Chip
    • 540 Antenna
    • 550 Matching Network
    • 560 Current Regulator
    • 570 Driver
    • 580 Data Decoder
    • 590 Voltage Reference Circuit
    • 600 Current Bias Circuit
    • 610 Diagnostic Circuits
    • 620 Current Driver
    • 640 Clock
    • 650 Energy Harvesting Circuit
    • 660 Capacitor
    • 700 Upstream Signal
    • 702 Upstream Data
    • 710 Downstream Signal
    • 712 Downstream Data
    • 720 Interface
    • 730 Clock Recovery Circuit
    • 740 Data Recovery Circuit
    • 750 Energy Harvesting Circuit
    • 760 Power management Circuit
    • 770 Voltage Regulator
    • 780 Driver
    • 790 Data Processor Encoder
    • 800 Data/Sensor Interface
    • 802 External Antenna
    • 804 Bluetooth Circuit
    • 806 Battery
    • 808 Power Conversion Circuit
    • 810 Microphones
    • 812 Charging Antenna
    • 814 Wireless Charging Circuit
    • 816 Interface Circuit
    • 818 Power/Data Link
    • 820 Pre-Amplifiers
    • 822 Interface Circuit
    • 823 Biological Sensors
    • 824 Energy Harvesting and Data Recovery Circuit
    • 826 Energy Storage Circuitry
    • 828 Power Management Circuitry
    • 830 A to D Converters
    • 831 Matching Network
    • 832 Data/Signal Processing Circuitry
    • 834 Microcontroller
    • 836 Driver
    • 838 Microactuator
    • 840 Digital Signal Processors
    • 842 Cloud Based Computer
    • 844 Cell Phone
    • 846 Data Acquisition Circuit
    • 848 MPPT Control Circuit
    • 850 Pulse Density Modulator
    • 852 Current Sensor
    • 853 Parasitic Diode
    • 854 Capacitor
    • 856 Switch
    • 857 Converter
    • 858 Coil
    • 860 RF Modulator
    • 862 Coil
    • 863 Voltage Meter
    • 864 Laser
    • 865 Rectifier and Converter Circuit
    • 868 Storage Circuit
    • 870 Power Amplifier
    • 872 Parasitic Capacitance
    • 880 Antenna
    • 882 Load
    • 890 Antenna
    • 900 Monitor
    • 910 Power Regulator
    • 920 RF Demodulator
    • 930 Driver
    • 940 Actuator
    • 960 Umbo Lens
    • 970 FET Transistors
    • 972 Capacitor
    • 974 Diode
    • 976 Input Circuit
    • 978 Output Circuit

Claims (26)

1.-22. (canceled)
23. A smartlens system comprising:
a lateral ear canal assembly comprising a first transceiver including a first coil;
a medial ear canal assembly comprising a second transceiver including a second coil, wherein the first coil is adapted to inductively couple to the second coil;
a vibratory load connected to the second coil and adapted to vibrate in response to signals transmitted from the first coil to the second coil through inductive coupling; and
a rectifying circuit connected between an output of the second coil and the vibratory load.
24. A smartlens system according to claim 23, wherein the smartlens transmits a signal having a push-pull format.
25. A smartlens system according to claim 23, wherein the smartlens transmits a signal having a zero crossing.
26. A smartlens system according to claim 23, wherein the coil is manufactured from conductive material.
27. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the first and second coils are elongated coils.
28. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the medial ear canal assembly includes a current sensor adapted to measure the current in the second coil.
29. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the medial ear canal assembly includes a voltage sensor adapted to measure the voltage across the second coil.
30. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the medal ear canal assembly includes power control circuitry connected between the second coil and the vibratory load.
31. A smartlens system according to claim 30 wherein the power control circuitry is further connected to an energy storage device.
32. A smartlens system according to claim 31 wherein the energy storage device is a capacitor.
33. A smartlens system according to claim 31 wherein the energy storage device is a rechargeable battery.
34. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the transmission path between the first coil and the second coil comprises air.
35. A smartlens system according to claim 34 wherein the transmission path comprises a line of sight transmission path.
36. A smartlens system according to claim 34 wherein the transmission path comprises air in the ear canal of a user.
37. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the lateral ear canal assembly is separated from the medial ear canal assembly by air in the ear canal of a user.
38. A smartlens system according to claim 23 wherein the first and second coils are stacked coils.
39. A smartlens according to claim 23 wherein the first and second coils comprise wound inductors.
40. A smartlens according to claim 23 wherein the first coil is wound around a first core and the second coil is wound around a second core.
41. A smartlens according to claim 40 wherein the first core comprises air.
42. A smartlens according to claim 41 wherein the first core has a substantially fixed diameter along at least a portion of the length of the first coil.
43. A smartlens according to claim 40 wherein the second core comprises air.
44. A smartlens according to claim 43 wherein the second core has a substantially fixed diameter along at least a portion of the length of the second coil.
45. A smartlens according to claim 23 wherein the vibratory load is a transducer.
46. A smartlens according to claim 45 wherein the transducer is a balanced armature transducer.
47.-81. (canceled)
US15/695,566 2016-09-09 2017-09-05 Contact hearing systems, apparatus and methods Pending US20180077504A1 (en)

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US15/710,712 US20180077503A1 (en) 2016-09-09 2017-09-20 Contact hearing systems, apparatus and methods

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WO2018048794A1 (en) 2018-03-15
CN109952771A (en) 2019-06-28
EP3510796A1 (en) 2019-07-17

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