Jan 2019 Heath24
Hearing aids have improved over the years and continue to provide better quality of life for those who suffer from hearing loss. Unfortunately it’s true that even with the sophistication of modern hearing aids, sound may never be restored to its full quality. Our hearing helps us to differentiate between various sounds in our immediate environment, ranging from voices to background noises.
For someone with compromised hearing, it becomes increasingly difficult to isolate and concentrate on a single voice in a noisy environment, and while hearing aids help, they still have a long way to go.
New research may help improve the situation. Morten Kolbæk, a PhD-student at Aalborg University in Denmark, has developed an algorithm to improve hearing aids. “When the scenario is known in advance, as in certain clinical test setups, existing algorithms can already beat human performance when it comes to recognising and distinguishing speakers. However, in normal listening situations without any prior knowledge, the human auditory brain remains the best "machine".
His algorithm is, however, designed to function in an unknown environment with unknown voices, and will be much stronger than previous technology. “It's an important step forward when it comes to solving challenging listening situations in everyday life," said Jesper Jensen, Senior Researcher at Oticon and Professor at the Centre for Acoustic Signal Processing Research (CASPR) at AAU and one of Kolbæk's two supervisors.
Establishing an algorithm is one thing, but the challenge remains to get it to function inside a tiny device placed behind the user’s ear. According to the press release, Morton’s technology is still too big to be condensed into a tiny piece of wearable equipment, and there are still practical issues to be ironed out – however, these goals all seem achievable.