Researchers are looking into ways to apply new signal processing strategies to the design of hearing aids. Signal processing is a method for modifying normal sound waves into amplified sound that best matches the remaining hearing ability of a hearing aid user. NIDCD-funded researchers also are studying how hearing aids can enhance speech signals to improve understanding.
Researchers are additionally investigating the use of computer-aided technology to design and manufacture better hearing aids. Researchers seek ways to improve sound transmission and to reduce noise interference, feedback, and the occlusion effect. Additional research focuses on the best ways to select and fit hearing aids in children and other groups whose hearing ability is hard to test.
From the Research Lab
Another promising research focus is to use lessons learned from animal models to design better microphones for hearing aids. NIDCD-supported scientists are studying the tiny fly Ormia ochracea because its ear structure allows it to determine the source of a sound easily.
Scientists are using the fly’s ear structure as a model for designing miniature directional microphones for hearing aids. These microphones amplify the sound coming from a particular direction (usually the direction a person is facing), but not the sounds that arrive from other directions.
Directional microphones hold great promise for making it easier for people to hear a single conversation, even when surrounded by other noises and voices.
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