New technology to cut through background noise

Research

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The most commonly cited problem for hearing aid and cochlear implant users is the inability to hear people in noisy situations, specifically in a social or work context. When there is just too much background noise, users may switch off because focusing on voices is simply too difficult.

In a press release, the Hearing CRC, an Australian consortium of research, clinical and industry organizations, reports on new technology that aims to remedy the problem of excess background noise. According to the group, initial testing of their solution has shown that it can improve speech understanding in noisy environments by up to 50%.

The technology is based on the use of outputs from two microphones located on each side of the head to create a super‐directional output. “This in effect creates an invisible beam in the direction the hearing aid wearer is facing, while reducing noise from the side. The wearer can then steer the beam to the left or the right of the head as desired, in the direction of the person speaking,” explains Dr Jorge Mejia, leader of the research team. The group believes their invention has the potential to significantly improve current hearing devices that generally only work well in quieter settings.

The “Super‐directional Beamformer” is currently being assessed and fine-tuned in hearing laboratories for a range of realistic acoustic environments at the National Acoustics Laboratories and the University of Melbourne. Evaluation is expected to be completed later in the year so that the technology can be used in commercial hearing aids and cochlear implant systems.

Source: The Hearing CRC

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