Audio software specialist Audio Telligence has developed Aiso for Hearing, a product that addresses hearing problems caused by the so-called ‘cocktail party problem’.
Some 80 percent of adults between the ages of 40 and 64 find it difficult to follow conversations in noise – with more than 200 million people worldwide looking for a solution, according to research from the Cambridge-based company. Aiso for Hearing has been shown to improve speech understanding in noisy environments from five percent to 98 percent.
Assistive listening technologies, based on beamforming and noise reduction, provide a partial solution to the cocktail party problem. When hearing aids are used in noisy environments, they tend to amplify all sounds, including background noise, so that the user still finds it difficult to follow the conversation.
Aiso for Hearing separates the speech signals from the ambient noise, allowing a user to hear individual voices clearly, with the technology delivering an improvement in speech-to-noise ratio (SNR) of up to 30 decibels (dBs) compared to improvements ranging between just 2-4 dB for the directive beamformers typically found in hearing aids.
Aiso for Hearing is a software solution that integrates into devices with multiple microphones – including smartphones and hearing solutions – to provide them with enhanced assistive listening capabilities.
Audio Telligence claim Aiso for Hearing is unique in that it uses a combination of proprietary blind source separation and noise reduction for a two-pronged approach to the cocktail party problem. The technology first analyzes the acoustic scene, separates sound sources and isolates the voices of interest. It then uses noise reduction techniques to reduce the background noise.
The company added that their technologies have been developed with very low latency (5 ms), which they believe is crucial for assistive listening solutions that need to work in real time and avoid ‘lip-syncing’ problems.
AudioTelligence has produced a prototype tabletop to demonstrate this groundbreaking technology.
In a statement, Ken Roberts, CEO of AudioTelligence, said: “Our alternative, very low-latency approach separates voices from noise, improving speech intelligibility, while other solutions tend to amplify sound from one direction. At the same time, Aiso for Hearing suppresses background noise , minimizing the effort required to follow a conversation and reducing listening fatigue, and if multiple conversations are happening around them, the user can choose which one to focus on, eliminating unwanted speech .
“Our technology portfolio is the result of more than 12 years of research into the most effective approaches for extracting pure speech signals in complex acoustic scenes. This has enabled us to develop assistive audio technology to solve the cocktail party problem and help 200 million people worldwide participate in the conversation.”