Hear better through the noise

November 9, 2016

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Even if it’s a daily occurrence, navigating and understanding complex acoustic environments is extremely difficult and one of the greatest unmet needs of people with hearing loss. It can be so difficult to hear that some people avoid the most difficult environments and limit their social activities.

Speech in a noisy environment gets mixed up with all kinds of stray sounds. To make sense of this acoustic din, we use a cognitive process to focus on the relevant sound and send other sounds to the background. However, sounds are constantly changing in relevance and importance. To successfully navigate these complex acoustic environments, we need to have access to all the sounds and be able to focus on different sounds as needed, like when we hear someone say our name.

While sound amplification is an effective way to improve speech understanding in quiet environments, the advantages are limited in environments with many different sounds. Current hearing aid technologies used fixed directionality to concentrate on the person in front of you, and a noise reducer to minimize other sounds around you. These technologies are limited because they require the user to keep their head unusually steady to fully benefit from the directionality. Reducing noise also reduces context—it eliminates information that the brain naturally uses to find meaning and organize the sounds in its environment.

A powerful algorithm

OpenSound Navigator (OSN) is a vocal improvement algorithm that uses the new Velox™ platform. It is replacing traditional directional and noise reduction systems. OSN still uses these two technologies, but in a very different way.

OSN employs three modules: Analysis, Balance, and Noise Reduction. The Analysis module notifies the Balance and Noise Reduction module of the acoustic conditions using a multi-microphone algorithm that captures all the sounds in a 360° environment. The Balance module rebalances the soundscape so that speech is clearer and the loudest noises are modulated. The Noise Reduction module accurately reduces the noise between words, without altering the fundamental properties of speech such as temporal amplitude modulation. What makes these systems so successful is the way they assess the acoustic conditions, in this case by OSN’s Analysis module.

OSN marks a breakthrough in the development of speech enhancement systems. It was designed not only to improve the clarity of the sounds the user hears, but also to make it easier for the brain to process them. It doesn’t isolate the person who is speaking right in front of you but lets you hear all speakers, just like we do naturally. OSN is opening up many possibilities and new advantages for people with hearing aids.

Talk to an audioprosthetist to learn more.

To determine which hearing aids are best for you, consult an audioprosthetist.