Hearing management

22 January 2019

New algorithm can dramatically improve life for those with hearing aids

Wearing a hearing aid, but still struggling to differentiate between voices and sounds? Thanks to new research, this may soon improve.

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.

Algorithm the way forward

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. This is what he said:

“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.

Still a challenge

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.

Get the most out of your hearing aid

While hearing aids still present some challenges, research and technology are progressing all the time and are able to provide great improvements in hearing ability. Here are some tips on how to achieve the best results with a hearing aid:

  • Consult an accredited professional and a known manufacturer. Not only will you be guaranteed quality and good advice, but will also be able to access aftercare and regular servicing, which is necessary to keep your device in optimal working order.
  • Be patient. It may take a while to become accustomed to a new hearing aid. Take the time to carefully read the manual and learn about all its features and settings.
  • Wear your hearing aids in as many environments as possible to get used to its different settings and gain confidence in making conversation in noisy environments.
  • Clean your device regularly according to instructions, store it properly and know when to remove it (e.g. when showering or swimming).
  • Know when to troubleshoot your hearing aid and what you should do when it’s not functioning as it should.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Minette Lister graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Pathology (Audiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville in 2015. Thereafter, she completed her compulsory year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre in Durban. In 2017, Minette started working for Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. She is passionate about working with children and adults to diagnose and manage hearing loss using state of the art technology. Minette offers hearing screening programmes for newborn and high-risk babies, as well as school-aged children, in order to decrease the incidence of late or unidentified hearing loss.

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