Experimental brain-controlled hearing aid decodes, identifies who you want to hear

ScienceDaily | 5/15/2019 | Staff
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Though still in early stages of development, the technology is a significant step toward better hearing aids that would enable wearers to converse with the people around them seamlessly and efficiently. This achievement is described today in Science Advances.

"The brain area that processes sound is extraordinarily sensitive and powerful; it can amplify one voice over others, seemingly effortlessly, while today's hearings aids still pale in comparison," said Nima Mesgarani, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the paper's senior author. "By creating a device that harnesses the power of the brain itself, we hope our work will lead to technological improvements that enable the hundreds of millions of hearing-impaired people worldwide to communicate just as easily as their friends and family do."

Hearing - Aids - Speech - Types - Background

Modern hearing aids are excellent at amplifying speech while suppressing certain types of background noise, such as traffic. But they struggle to boost the volume of an individual voice over others. Scientists calls this the cocktail party problem, named after the cacophony of voices that blend together during loud parties.

"In crowded places, like parties, hearing aids tend to amplify all speakers at once," said Dr. Mesgarani, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering. "This severely hinders a wearer's ability to converse effectively, essentially isolating them from the people around them."

Columbia - Team - Hearing - Aid - Sound-amplifiers

The Columbia team's brain-controlled hearing aid is different. Instead of relying solely on external sound-amplifiers, like microphones, it also monitors the listener's own brain waves.

"Previously, we had discovered that when two people talk to each other, the brain waves of the speaker begin to resemble the brain waves of the listener," said Dr. Mesgarani.

Knowledge - Team - Algorithms - Networks - Models

Using this knowledge the team combined powerful speech-separation algorithms with neural networks, complex mathematical models that imitate the brain's natural computational abilities. They created a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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