Watch a television show with your elderly parents and you could find it difficult to settle on a volume that works for you and them, as human hearing degrades with age.
The scientists from School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering's (EEE) Centre for Infocomm Technology (INFINITUS), led by Prof Gan Woon Seng have come up with a Personal Assistive Listening (PAL) system that uses different types of loudspeakers to amplify sounds for the hard of hearing, while delivering normal sound to other people, all within the same room.
The system uses conventional electrodynamic loudspeakers and directional parametric loudspeakers to create two zones of hearing within a room, one for those with hearing losses and the other for people who can hear normally.
While conventional loudspeakers throw sound as clearly and wide as possible across a room, parametric ones focus their sounds into a relatively small area. Two people can be near each other with only one of them hearing the sounds from the parametric loudspeakers.
When the EEE researchers tested two variations of their system, PAL 1 and PAL 2, both were able to compensate for moderate hearing loss. PAL 1 performed better than PAL 2 at the lower frequency range, while the results were reversed at the higher frequency range.
The team said their system could work better in the home than hearing aids and other personal amplification devices. The latter can be uncomfortable to wear, and a study in 2009 found that the use of personal hearing aids did not significantly improve the recognition of televised speech.
Still, the system could help families to bond over watching television, said Prof Gan Woon Seng, director of the INFINITUS. He explained: “With the two different hearing zones, people ofdifferent age groups can enjoy television together even if they require different audio volumes.”
The team is currently working with otolaryngologist and audiologists from the Tan Tock Seng Hospital to perform clinical trial on the effectiveness of the PAL system on hearing impaired personnels.
By Associate Professor Gan Woon Seng, School of EEE
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Published on: 7-Feb-2017