Hearing in noise is one of the major problems reported by hearing-impaired individuals wearing hearing aids when trying to participate in conversations with background noise. In a typical restaurant or similar noisy situation, background noise significantly reduces the intelligibility of speech for hearing-impaired listeners The objective of this project is to build a compact, battery-powered device to demonstrate mh acoustics' higher-order, super-directional steerable circular microphone array beamforming technology for hearing-impaired listeners. mh acoustics' patent- pending beamforming technology is unique in that it provides much higher directional gain than currently available devices and can therefore greatly improve a hearing- impaired listener's ability to hear and communicate in high background-noise conditions. The overall size of the array and associated processing hardware can be made small enough to result in a complete battery-powered device that fits in a shirt pocket. Also, by utilizing a wireless audio streaming connection (Bluetooth BL standard) to existing hearing aids, the device allows a hearing-impaired person to also place the microphone closer to the desired source. The combination of better placement of the external microphone device along with the large amount of linear signal-to-noise improvement provided by the beamformer will significantly increase the intelligibility for listeners in high background-noise environments. Our device will have the ability to manually or automatically steer the highly directional beam (or beams) to a desired speech source (or sources), something that is not currently available commercial technologies. Furthermore, currently available technologies do not provide nearly as much directional gain. With mh acoustics' novel array hardware and beamfomer-design methodology, we can better handle issues experienced with traditional directional hearing devices such as loss of output level, increased internal noise, wind-noise sensitivity, and absence of synchronous binaural processing. mh acoustics, founded by researchers from Bell Laboratories, is currently successfully commercializing beamforming technologies for public safety radio products as well as products in the mobile headset and handset markets. mh acoustics' higher-order super-directional beamforming technologies achieve linear, distortionless, acoustic background-noise reduction capability unequaled in the industry and can therefore significantly improve the ability of hearing-impaired listeners to communicate in high background-noise conditions. In this project, we will also work closely with Professor Ruth Bentler, Chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa, to address audiological issues related to directional hearing-aids during the initial software definition and design process.
Hearing in noise is consistently one of the major problems reported by hearing- impaired individuals wearing hearing aids when trying to participate in conversations in acoustic environments with background noise. In a typical restaurant or similar noisy situation, background noise can severely reduce the intelligibility of speech for hearing impaired listeners. The objective of this project is to build a compact, battery- powered, highly-directional low-power Bluetooth wireless microphone device that can stream high quality audio to hearing aids to demonstrate the ability of mh acoustics' super-directional microphone array beamforming technology to improve speech intelligibility in noise for hearing-impaired listeners.