How technology helps the hard of hearing

Over the years I’ve written about a number of fascinating innovations to detect and support hearing loss, whether it’s headphones that warn of tinnitus or the mobile devices that allow for easy ear examinations.

One of the more interesting projects was undertaken by New York University however, who developed an algorithm designed to make it easier for people to hear in a noisy environment.

They’ve developed an algorithm that is able of detecting the talker’s voice, and can thus distinguish that from less important noise.  The approach is interesting because most existing methods are ok at eliminating steady background noise (such as your air con) but struggle with noise that is similar to the foreground noise you hope to capture, such as the babble in a coffee shop.

To manage this, the team developed a noise reduction technology, called SEDA (for Speech Enhancement using Decomposition Approach), which breaks the speech into waveforms that allow differentiation on both frequency and number of oscillations.

Raising the volume

Along similar lines is Isle of Man based startup Goshawk Communications.  The company, which recently received investment from the Manx Telecom incubator Vannin Ventures, aims to help mobile phone users with hearing loss.

The system sits on the mobile phone network and builds up a personalized auditory profile for each user.  This profile then allows the volume of calls to be increased to make it easier for those with hearing issues to engage in normal conversations.

The device has already undergone clinical trials on the island with a positive impact on the communication abilities of those with hearing loss.  The hope is that they can now roll the technology out more widely and begin to make a difference to peoples lives.

“We are really proud to see our technology become part of something that has all the ingredients and potential to improve the lives of millions of global users. As a hearing impaired person myself, I am passionate about the benefits this technology can bring,” the company say.

Check out the video below to hear from some of the participants in the clinical trial.

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