Hearing Better in Crowded Spaces
Imagine you’re at a restaurant. Your friend in front of you is trying to say something, but you just can’t seem to make out what exactly he’s saying.
“I can’t hear you…”
“Can you please repeat what you just said?”
If any of this rings a bell, then you’ve probably experienced a phenomenon called the cocktail party problem. This issue is a top complaint among hearing aid users.
For hearing aid users, all of the background voices tend to flood into the hearing aid’s single microphone at once, drowning out the primary speaker.
Unlike glasses, which can restore up to 20/20 vision, hearing aids more-or-less amplify all sounds. Increasing the volume of hearing aids increases the volume of background voices.
The status-quo hardware approach uses beamforming microphones. Beamforming works by using multiple microphones to identify the primary source. An intuitive explanation is that the microphones, in tandem, are looking for the “strongest” signal, which can then be amplified as the main direction of sound.
On the other hand, software approaches like digital signal processing. These approaches can differentiate voices from background noise by analyzing factors like frequency. Companies like Whisper AI and Phonak use processes like machine learning to produce high-clarity audio.
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