TSMC's technology powers Oticon's latest hearing aids with an on-board Deep Neural Network.
Through TSMC’s low-power technology, Oticon’s latest hearing aids only need one charge to last the whole day.

TSMC Enables Oticon to Bring Artificial Intelligence to Hearing Aids

Keri Yang
Katherine Fan

Technology can Help

TSMC is committed to driving positive changes with our technology and innovation, including enabling innovative hearing aid solutions to people affected by hearing loss or hearing impairment. Recently, our collaboration with a long-time partner Oticon has reached an important milestone with the launch of their newest hearing aid, featuring the first hearing aid chip with an embedded Deep Neural Network (DNN). TSMC's powerful and power-efficient technologies have been an integral part of Oticon's ground-breaking hearing solutions, helping them to bring smart and connected products to adults and children all over the world. We would like to take the occasion of World Hearing Day on March 3rd to highlight the significance of hearing aid technology.

IC technology started playing a big role in the 1960s, when integrated circuits were invented and introduced to hearing devices. TSMC’s partnership with Oticon started in 2005, with a common belief in innovation and technology empowerment. Throughout our years of working together, TSMC has continued to support Oticon’s vision of creating a world where no one is limited by hearing loss. In the past 16 years, millions of Oticon hearing aids equipped with chips enabled by TSMC technologies have been sold worldwide. Our journey together on this road of hearing aid innovation is focused on the microscopic core of hearing aids – integrated circuits.

Major Milestones for Hearing Aids

Major Milestones for Hearing Aids Source: IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society

Most devices nowadays contain three IC chips - DSP (Digital Signal Processor), Front End, and Radio – and they work in synergy to receive, convert, and process sound signals while at the same time enabling hearing aids to connect to other devices such as smartphones. The illustration below is a teardown of a hearing aid:

What Goes Into a Hearing Aids Image courtesy of Oticon

The advancements in semiconductor technology enable hearing aids to become powerful yet discreet, ultimately offering more freedom and mobility to wearers.

Traditional Hearing Aids v.s. New Brain-friendly Hearing Aids

Traditional Hearing Aids Brain-friendly Hearing Aids
Sound Source Prioritize speech only All meaningful sounds
Sound Quality Compressed and restrictive Preserve the natural quality of sound
Speech Understanding Less and unclear More and easier to follow
Overall Effect on Brain Fatigue and overwhelmed Reduced listening effort
Brain’s Capacity Less capacity for memory and other cognitive processes Increased cognitive functions
Source: How does hearing work in your brain?

The Vital Role of TSMC's Low-power Technology

In 2020, our long-time partner Oticon took hearing solutions to another level with their latest offering, Oticon More™. The newest model is powered by TSMC’s 28nm low-power technology and contains 154 million transistors. Compared to the previous generation of Oticon Opn S™ which is powered by TSMC’s 65nm low-power technology and contains 64 million transistors, the newest model features one of the most advanced chips with AI sound processing and analysis capabilities. The migration to TSMC’s 28nm opened the door for Oticon to utilize DNN, which is trained with 12 million real-life sound scenes. This new feature allows hearing aids to mimic how the brain would hear sounds and aims to respond the same way as the brain. As more functions are added, more compute performance and improved power efficiency will be required to support future generations of hearing solutions. This collaboration between TSMC and Oticon is the epitome of how TSMC’s low-power technology continues to be an incredible apparatus for innovators.

TSMC's Continual Support for Innovators' Visions

TSMC technology has enabled leaders and innovators in audiology to move forward with infusing artificial intelligence (AI) to their most advanced hearing aids. Our low-power technology and manufacturing excellence continues to support innovators worldwide to offer increased capabilities without increasing the power budget. Driven by our mission to bring positive changes to society, TSMC will continue to work with leaders in hearing care technology to deliver hearing solutions that help people to live their lives to the fullest.