Could this be the answer to our Holy Grail? I have seen a few other articles on AI in aids (e.g., Starkey’s press release of a year ago), but what intrigued me about this timely article is that it’s the EXACT reason I’m going in to see my aud-guy lately!
I’ve found - as so many others have, too - that distinguishing SPEECH in noisy places is my biggest challenge. In smaller groups and quiter settings - no prob! But put a dozen people in a crowded room, or go out to a noisy pub in town and YE GODS! The ambient noise competing with ordinary conversations - even at a screaming pitch! - is simply overwhelming for me to zero in on and comprehend.
Part of my brain is in anxiety mode - TOO overloaded with noise from all over! The other part is trying desperately to just face people right next to me and read lips if need be to figure out what they’re saying. So my hubs stumbled across this article today and sent it my way, which I’m now putting up here.
Summary: <<A new piece of technology coming out of Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science could make things even better, however — courtesy of a hearing aid that is designed to read brain activity to determine which voice a hearing aid user is most interested in listening to and then focusing in on it. The resulting “cognitive hearing aid” could be transformative in settings like crowded rooms in which multiple people are speaking at the same time.>>
I realize this type of HA is probably a few years out, but ironically, I’ve just been in to see my aud-guy to boost the speech frequency gain on my Phonak Marvels in an attempt to help me hear speech better. Yes, the setting now boosts all other noises in the same frequencies, but at least it helps me comprehend speech in noisy places much better!
Professor Nima Mesgarani at Columbia U shares her goal: <<“Working at the intersection of brain science and engineering, I saw a unique opportunity to combine the latest advances from both fields, to create a solution for decoding the attention of a listener to a specific speaker in a crowded scene which can be used to amplify that speaker relative to others.”>>
Let’s face it: <<.… up until now, no hearing aid on the market has addressed this specific problem. While the latest hearing aids feature technology designed to suppress background noise, these hearing aids have no way of knowing which voices a wearer wants to listen to, and which are the distractors.>>
I’m SUPER excited about this development, and I can honestly see the day when folks with normal hearing would use such a device at parties, conferences and large gatherings, cuz let’s face it: we ALL have problems hearing speech in noisy places. I’m impaired with the additional challenge of just plain trying to HEAR, but if AI could be harnessed to help me distinguish speech, I bet it could be fine-tuned to improve the quality of just about any frequency.