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New Research Poses Interesting Question

New research from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science has got people intrigued about the future of hearing aid technology!

Current Hearing Aid Tech

Current hearing aid technologies use a variety of approaches to improve speech intelligibility in background noise. Some hearing aids try to suppress the level of background noise to accentuate the foreground speech. This might be through constant broadband noise reduction, by using directional microphones, or even by using narrowed zoom microphones.

Regardless of which system the hearing aid uses, they all still adopt the same basic premise; they analyse and assess the environment they find themselves in and then choose an appropriate alteration or mode. This requires (and requests) no input from the hearing aid user. In essence, the hearing aid guesses what you do or don’t want to listen to, with no input from the user,

Some hearing aids can give the user an element of control via accessories such as remote controls or smartphone applications. But this can be limited, especially in challenging dynamic environments.

What’s on the Horizon?

The latest research has been looking at hearing aids that can monitor a user’s brain signals to decide which voice it wants to listen to. For most hearing aid users, the greatest difficulty is hearing people in background noise. More specifically, trying to identify a specific voice in a crowd of many.

What the research team at Columbia have been working on is a system that can continually monitor a person’s brain activity. With the device, they can separate the different speakers in an environment, and then, by monitoring the person’s brain activity, process which person in the environment they wish to focus on. The device can then amplify the chosen voice, and reduce the distracting noises.

At present, this is only a concept, and further research is required. However, the idea is an intriguing one that may yield interesting developments for the future of hearing aid technology.

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