FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Breakthrough technology brings digital cellular phones to the hearing impaired
May 15, 2002 - San Francisco - There are millions of people in the U.S. and Europe actively using hearing aids who cannot use cellular phones in conjunction with their hearing aids. This is caused by electromagnetic interference (EMI), radiating from the antenna of the cellular phone. The RF radiation is picked up by the hearing aids and amplified to create a disturbing buzzing sound in the output of the hearing aid.
This incompatibility issue has prevented the hearing impaired access to our wireless services and has been the focus of technical studies around the world causing controversy since 1988. Hearing aid manufacturers and cellular manufacturers have both been attempting technological solutions to no avail. The access issue has heated up in the last 5 years when digital phones began replacing older analog cellular phones. Digital phones use pulses that allow software to manage several hundred users sharing the same frequency within a particular cell. The pulses manifest as buzzing sounds in the hearing aid.
Hearing aid advocates began lobbying governing bodies for enforcement of compatibility requirements while hearing aid and cellular technology companies claimed no reasonable solution that is readily achievable. It's kind of like trying to park two cars in the same parking spot. The physics just doesn't allow a sensitive circuit (hearing aid) next to an RF energy-radiating device (cellular phone) without the two interacting. Although some hearing aid manufacturers have improved their hearing aid's immunity to the RF radiation emitted by the cellular phone, the vast majority of these hearing aids and users remain incompatible in this technology-based issue.
Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (section 255) to ensure technology solutions would be developed coincident with technology advancements. A part of this act is called the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 in order to address the access issue directly. National hearing impaired organizations have petitioned the FCC to enforce compliance to no avail. The delays have been largely based on the assumption that there is no practical solution that can be scaled to this relatively small market of around 12 million people not all of which desire to use cellular phones. In a recent move to resolve the issue, the FCC invited interested parties to file comments in regards to removing exemptions given to the cellular industry due to technical reasons. With comments coming from common carriers such as AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS, Cingular Wireless LLC, Pacific Bell Mobile Service as well as comments coming from cellular phone manufacturers such as Nokia Mobile Phones Inc., Ericsson Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Siemens Stromberg-Carlson, it is clear that the basic position of the technology leaders is that compatibility is not economically available.
In a declaration to the FCC on May 15th, John Hamilton of the Boston Law Firm Choate, Hall and Stewart stated "We have read a number of the industry comments submitted by wireless communications equipment providers and the CTIA and find them unpersuasive." Mr. Hamilton, a representative of Myers Johnson, Inc. (MJI), a technology company found that the solution is relatively strait forward. Just don't require the second car to park in the same parking space! In other words, don't radiate energy from the cellular phone toward the hearing aid. This seems reasonable since the RF energy radiating to the head gets absorbed and isn't used anyway. MJI was formed for the purpose of taking their new technology public in response to compatibility issues.
Myers Johnson Inc. has devoted significant attention to the access issues and the Commission's reexamination of the exemption granted to Personal Communications Services (PCS) devices from certain provisions of the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (the HAC Act) as announced in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the NPRM), WT Docket 01-309. "We believe that the technology MJI has developed makes compliance with the HAC Act technologically feasible and readily achievable, and hereby urge the Commission to repeal the exemption" declared Mr. Hamilton.
"The RF energy comes primarily from the handset's standard wire antenna. An omni-directional element that transmits half of the phone's RF signal in the direction of the head and hearing aid," says Dr. Steven L. Myers, CTO for Myers Johnson, Inc. Persuading an antenna to not radiate its energy in one direction is like asking a light bulb to not shine light in certain directions. The only way this was possible was to use barriers. Barriers such as shields or reflectors don't work well with cellular phones because of the way the software works. However, an experiment in early physics using a light bulb revealed that if two light waves are out of phase of each other they can cancel each other out resulting in darkness at the areas of intersection. This opened the door to the science of interferometry (base word interference) that has lead to new technologies such as 3D photography, GPS tracking systems, military radio signal jamming and a Earth device for discovering cosmic gravity waves. "An antenna that can cancel out signals in certain directions has value as it relates to this issue and cost little more that existing antennas." says Dr. Myers, this is why we invented it."
MJI filed an international patent on this unique antenna technology that can be easily embedded into existing cellular phones or attached to existing handsets as an after market device. "The interference issue is literally two technologies (and industries) colliding in the user's ear" says James R. Johnson, President and CEO of Myers Johnson Inc. "Our solution is to change the cellular phone's antenna so as to create a void of energy in the area toward the user's head. This eliminates the interference with the hearing aid and is accomplished using our patented interferometric array antenna we have named the Vortis." "The Vortis create nulls in the near fields surrounding the antenna while allowing RF energy to propagate outward and around a users head to close in on the nulls at the far fields." "This allows the Vortis to meet basic industry requirements of connectivity."
There have been various proposed solutions to the access issue using antennas but many of them are incompatible with the cellular operating software or the cellular device or simply have a poor radiating pattern that is not compatible with the cellular service infrastructure. In comparison, the Vortis antenna's ability to reduce interference with hearing aids is due to its ability to cancel out signals directed towards the user's head. While the unit is canceling out near fields toward the user's head, the Vortis is actually reinforcing signals in the front and rear of the user and toward receiver sites.
The principle behind the operation of the Vortis lies in the cancellation of selected RF energy waves as they propagate from the antenna array and before they introduce electromagnetic interference in hearing aid circuitry. Through the placement of two simple antenna elements with phase shifting and power division capability, a significant reduction of the RF energy can be achieved. Our testing demonstrates that in a free space environment (undisturbed by the antenna's surrounding host or users hand or head), a reduction in the order of 1000 times less (-30 dBi) can be achieved. The FCC uses a measurement to calibrate the amount of energy flowing to a users head. This is referred to as the SAR (Specific Absorption Rating) and is measured as heat within a users head. The current standard is 1.6 Watts per gram of brain tissue in order to ensure the body can dissipate the heat safely.
"The Vortis is a natural and absolute means for controlling energy around a desired location such as a user's head or body" says Dr. Myers. "We believe this is the type of technology that could easily be adopted and virtually change the wireless industry as it relates to electromagnetic interference issues."
"We are committed to improving the wireless industry by sharing our low cost, practical technology solution with handset manufacturers, common carriers or consumers" says Mr. Johnson. "Thus, we will continue our efforts with organizations that represent the hearing impaired to ensure that they have a variety of wireless options available to them." "We are especially delighted that our product launch comes in May, the national Better Hearing and Speech Month." Since 1927, May has been chosen as a time to raise public awareness for the hearing impaired. "Experiencing the problem first hand with a loved one gives this issue a special significance."
Myers Johnson Inc. is currently seeking partners for distribution and integration and look forward to providing this technology to the hearing impaired immediately.
The new Vortis equipped phones will also be recommended by participating audiologists around the world who will be subscribing to the best PCS or cellular service in their local market areas.
"We see this as a means to resolve the access issue and provide greater revenues to common carriers by enrolling new users who have not previously been able to access cellular service" says Mr. Johnson.
Myers Johnson Inc. is headquartered in San Francisco, California and has been developed for the sole purpose of launching and licensing the Vortis antenna technology. "Clearly, this antenna is a revolutionary design" says Dr. Myers, "and should be given to technology companies and service providers to meet the needs of their customer base."
Vortis proprietary antennas can be incorporated into the design of wireless handsets or used as an add-on accessory product. Key applications for the company's technology include the reduction of specific absorption rate (SAR) or the creation of directional antennas without the use of directional controlling parasitic elements (Yagi antennas) for any wireless device.