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Insects inspire new hearing aid technology

April 23, 2015
by Richard R. Rogoski
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For those who are hearing impaired, eliminating background noise and focusing on only one sound, such as someone speaking, is a challenge. But scientists at the University of Strathclyde and the MRC/CSO Institute for Hearing Research (IHR)-Scottish Section at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, have developed a new hearing aid with a miniature directional microphone similar to the ear of an insect.

“Our research aims to create a hearing aid system that can reduce or control unwanted noises, focusing the hearing aid on only the sound arriving from in front of the user,” said James Windmilll, PhD, of the Center for Ultrasonic Engineering at Strathclyde, in a press release. “Currently, users can tell whether a sound source is in front or behind, but struggle to detect sounds from below or above, such as echoes in a large room.

“We will be able to evaluate the problems caused by the distance from which a sound emanates, for example how to separate a sound from a loud source far away, like a train or plane, from a quiet sound from nearby, like a human voice,” he added.

The University of Strathclyde will design, build and test the new microphones and hearing aid structures, whereas the IHR will test their operation as hearing aids, including in human trials.