Technology to help hearing

Technology to help hearing

Gloves That Translate ASL To English Speech Form Bridge Between Hearing And Hearing Impaired

Posted in Technology to help hearing

April 2016  Medical Daily

Hearing loss affects around 20 percent of the United States population to some degree, and for many of these people, American Sign Language (ASL) is their main form of communication. Although many hearing individuals can sign ASL fluently, there are still significant, everyday communication struggles for the hearing impaired. A new high-tech glove that can translate ASL to spoken English may soon make life a lot easier for this demographic.

Translation gloves

The ASL translating glove is the brainchild of Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, two University of Washington undergraduate students who recently received the $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize to help further develop their invention. According to a recent statement, the “SignAloud,” gloves work by recognizing hand gestures that correspond to words and phrases in ASL. The gloves then send the data via Bluetooth to a computer that matches the gesture with the associated word or phrase. Finally, the computer speaks the word or phrase aloud.

The SignAloud gloves are not the first ASL-to-verbal language translating device. For example, in 2012 a group of Ukrainian students created a glove called EnableTalk that works in a similar way,  using a text-to-speech engine to first translate the ASL signs into text and then convert them into spoken words. Just last year, Hadeel Ayoub from Goldsmiths, University of London, created another type of sign-to-speech glove. This glove works by attaching several sensors to the fingers to record their position and then sending data to a computer using wires sewn into the lining. However, according to the SignAloud co-creator Pryor, there are some differences between SignAloud and past prototypes. “Many of the sign language translation devices already out there are not practical for everyday use. Some use video input, while others have sensors that cover the user’s entire arm or body,” said Pryor in a recent statement. “Our gloves are lightweight, compact and worn on the hands, but ergonomic enough to use as an everyday accessory, similar to hearing aids or contact lenses.”

ASL is a complete and complicated visual language used primarily by the hearing impaired community in North America. The stages of language acquisition for babies are the same as they are for spoken languages, only difference being that deaf children “babble” with their hands as opposed to their mouths. According to co-inventor Azodi, the main purpose of the gloves are to “provide an easy-to-use bridge between native speakers of American Sign Language and the rest of the world,” by allowing the hearing impaired to communicate verbally.

New Implantable Hearing Device can Assist those with Hearing Loss

Posted in Technology to help hearing

April 2016 kbja Missouri

Implantable device

The University of Missouri’s Ear, Nose and Throat Center is now offering a new solution to hearing loss, becoming the only health provider in the state to offer a new fully implantable hearing device to patients. Dr. Arnaldo Rivera is the only doctor certified to give the surgical procedure to patients in the state of Missouri as well.

“Hearing loss is a major issue that many may not be aware of the severity of,” Dr. Rivera said. “We are hoping this new technology will allow for patients with mild to severe hearing loss to hear with 100 percent clarity.” Esteem is the name of this new implantable device. And while Esteem is not designed for patients who are totally deaf, it can help patients who have moderate to severe nerve-related hearing loss. “This device will allow the patient to do everyday activities such as showering and swimming that a typical hearing aid would need to be removed for,” Rivera said.

Once the device is calibrated following the surgical implantation, the battery lasts for several years, and depending on how the device is used, the battery can last up to nine years. Patients also need a mastoid and middle-ear cavity that allows for placement of the implant. Most people have this required anatomy, but to be sure, the ear is reviewed through a CT scan before the device is implanted.

Emily Fry is the information program specialist at the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She believes this device could help those who are hearing impaired greatly, if they choose to use an aid. “A great example is grandparents who are having progressive hearing loss. You go your whole life being able to hear, and a lot of people have traditions through song and singing to their children,” Fry said. “So if you get to a point where you can’t hear your grandchildren you may want to get an aid.”


Thought-controlled hearing aids silence noise

Posted in Technology to help hearing

April 2016  Horizon (EU Research & Innovation)

thought control

A new generation of hearing aids could harness brain signals to isolate individual voices, while future cochlear implants may help to re-grow damaged auditory neurons. The devices have the potential to offer massive hearing benefits over currently available models by drawing on advances in signal processing and gene therapy.

The project coordinator behind one of the devices, auditory scientist Dr Alain de Cheveigné at the Département d’Etudes Cognitives of the Ecole normale supérieure in Paris, France, believes he and his colleagues could radically change the lives of those with hearing loss in noisy environments.

‘Imagine being able to shift focus effortlessly from one speaker to the next, or to the music, yet not lose awareness of the environment around you,’ he said. ‘To no longer fear annoying people by making them repeat everything, or to not lose your job because you can’t keep up.’ ‘If we get things right,’ Dr de Cheveigné added, ‘this could be the impact.’

Dr de Cheveigné’s EU-funded hearing aid project, COCOHA, relies on two rapidly developing areas of research. The first, known as acoustic scene analysis, involves the placement of microphones in different locations to isolate and amplify individual sources of sound.

The microphones could be within the hearing aid itself, either side of a person’s glasses, or they could exist already, for example in people’s smartphones. The idea is to map the sound of the immediate environment, and use computer algorithms to pinpoint individual sources, thereby excluding noise from elsewhere.The second area of research is the measurement of brain signals such as the ‘evoked response’ – a type of signal that fluctuates every time a person hears a sound. The evoked response is bigger for a sound that a person is attempting to focus on than a sound a person is trying to ignore. Together, these technologies can isolate various sound sources, determine which one is of interest, and then selectively amplify that sound’s source within the hearing aid. The result is that the wearer of the hearing aid hears only what he or she wants to hear. Developing COCOHA into a commercial hearing aid will take years, but even then it will not suit everyone. Hearing impairment is often due to deficient auditory hair cells in the inner ear – if the majority are still working a hearing aid will help, and if not a cochlear implant can electrically stimulate the auditory nerve.

In some cases, however, even the auditory nerve may have degenerated. It is this more serious type of hearing loss that scientists on the EU-funded NeuEar project – led by former neurosurgeon Dr Lars Wahlberg of NsGene, a biotechnology company based in Denmark and the US – are attempting to remedy. NeuEar aims to boost the function of a normal cochlear implant with a component that secretes proteins responsible for the growth of neurons. By secreting them into the inner ear, the electrical response of the auditory nerve ought to improve. The scientists have tested a simple version on deaf guinea pigs, by measuring the amount of electric current needed to stimulate the animals’ auditory nerve cells. They found that the implant reduced the amount of current necessary, compared with an implant that didn’t secrete the proteins.

‘For those who don’t benefit optimally from a normal cochlear implant, there is currently no supplemental treatment,’ said engineer Dr Pavel Mistrik, ‘A biological implant like the one developed in the NeuEar project could help such patients to make their return back to the hearing world more satisfying.’

NYU Tandon Doctoral Student's Cochlear Implant Technology Banishes Ambient Babble

Posted in Technology to help hearing

Algorithmic Solution for Hearing Aids and Implants Tunes Out Talkers, Tunes in the Person the Wearer Wants to Hear   May 2016 PRNewswire

Wearers of cochlear implants and hearing aids often have difficulty teasing out what someone is saying over "babble" — the cacophony of other talkers — and other ambient sounds. New York University researchers have devised a novel solution: an algorithmic approach that, like making drinkable water from pond water, distills the talker's voice from a turbid wash of noise.

Most algorithms for acoustic noise suppression aim to eliminate steady background noise — the sound of an air conditioner or road noise are familiar examples — which is relatively easy to attenuate. Babble is much more difficult to suppress because it resembles the foreground voice signal one aims to hear. Few algorithms even attempt to eliminate it.

To tackle the problem, Roozbeh Soleymani, an electrical engineering doctoral student, created an innovative noise reduction technology called SEDA (for Speech Enhancement using Decomposition Approach) with Professors Ivan Selesnick and David Landsberger in the NYU Tandon Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the NYU Langone Department of Otolaryngology, respectively. The traditional method to analyze a speech signal decomposes the signal into distinct frequency bands, like a prism that separates sunlight into a rainbow of colors. SEDA, however, decomposes a speech signal into waveforms that differ not just in frequency (the number of oscillations per second) but also in how many oscillations each wave contains.

"Some waveforms in the SEDA process comprise many oscillations while other comprise just one," said Selesnick.  Waveforms with few oscillations are less sensitive to babble, and SEDA is based on this underlying principle; this powerful signal analysis method is practical only now because of the computational power available in electronic devices today.

The potential uses for SEDA, for which a U.S. patent application has been submitted, go way beyond helping the hearing impaired. "While it was originally conceived for improving performance with cochlear implants (which it does very well), I can imagine the market might even be bigger in a mobile phone arena," said Landsberger.