Why Personal Hearing Assistants

Audio display 973-339-7209 of three example audiograms provides great insight into hearing loss.

We may think that hearing aids solve all problems. But that's not precisely true. There is an important role for traditional hearing aids; but SensoSmart team members recognize opportunities in Personal Hearing Assistants. Approximately seventeen percent of American adults experience hearing loss while only approximately twenty percent of those who would benefit from hearing aids has them.

NIDCD Quick Statistics

Fiona Barker - A Cochrane Systematic Review of Interventions

When people have diminished hearing, even in only one ear, they experience inequities in their lives. Statistics reveal hearing loss affects social, educational, healthcare, business, employment, income, and other aspects of life. More people are living longer all over the world and approximately one third of people over age 65 have hearing loss; five percent of the population of the world or 360 million people have disabling hearing loss while the majority live in developing countries.

WHO World Health Organization -- Deafness and Hearing Loss

Video of phonemically balanced phrases and an example of how an individual hears the phrases

Video of three people listening to phonemically balanced phrases

Since people are living longer, hearing loss poses a major risk of depression due to social isolation and inability to perform at the workplace. Those without hearing loss have an advantage in the workplace making a gap for those with hearing loss and also for the growing number of those who are aging. And even unilateral hearing loss affects one’s ability to reach economic parody with one’s peers. SensoSmart strategy is to provide mainstream hearing augmentation, making the solutions available to any networked device and addressing a variety of important issues in our society. We already know that the world's production of hearing aid devices only meets about 10% of the need so there's a great opportunity to provide a solution.

SensoSmart research will include analytics to detect behavior changes taking place over time and in a variety of settings and contexts that might indicate hearing loss and the level of hearing performance. Then SensoSmart can predict benefits from hearing augmentation applications provided in networked devices.

Dr Yingying Jennifer Chen's research publications

We predict access to such hearing augmentation applications will eventually become mainstream, reducing impact of aging related hearing loss for example, in the work place. With networked features, we predict that even people with unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) who would benefit will be able to access hearing support that is appropriate to them whereas at present, many of them remain under served. We predict access to such applications will reduce economic inequities, as well as reduce social isolation in those with hearing loss and in aging populations.

How do our friends hear the world around us?

Have you ever wondered what the world sounds like to a friend or family member who has a hearing loss? SensoSmart team members wondered also.

Now you can call into a platform and hear phonemically balanced phrases spoken by a male and a female voice.

In addition, when you call the SensoSmart platform, you can hear audio displays of how people with the three selected audiograms hear these same phrases. A SensoSmart team member crafted recordings using equalizers to replicate the hearing represented by three example audiograms. The recordings are based on measures from the example audiograms, which represents a profile of hearing at a number of pre-selected frequencies used by audiologists, when measuring hearing loss.

By calling + 973-339-7209, you can hear the unaltered spoken phrases and some examples of characteristic frequency hearing losses when selecting directly from the menu. In addition, when you return to the main menu by selecting option '0', you can then select option '4' to hear how the person with one of the example audiograms hears in the 'good' ear.

Then select option '0', return to the main menu, and select '5' then repeat and select '6' to hear the left and right ears represented by another example audiogram.

Then return to the main menu and select '7' to hear the very amplified recording filtered by another audiogram. The unamplified recording was not loud enough for any of us to hear. This audio display provides a lot of information to SensoSmart team members to help us appreciate why we're committed to the project.

From Wikipedia -- a key to the Audiogram

Wikipedia Audiogram

One thing you may notice is that it can become impossible to determine if the speaker is a male or a female. In addition, it is impossible to recognize the person who is speaking. This is information we can take for granted when we have 'normal' hearing. For our friends who hear only in one ear, it is impossible for them to determine the direction of the person who is speaking. And in that case, traditional hearing aids do not help. Without two microphones, hearing aids cannot perform advanced features such as to reduce background noise or focus on a speaker's voice. And the ideal distance for hearing aids is still limited -- often to three feet -- leaving people with hearing loss without advanced features in many common business and social situations.

SensoSmart uses sensors on the smart phone to determine the person who is speaking, identify the speaker, and then display to the listener additional visual information. Then the listener can direct attention to the person who is speaking. When the speaker is on the telephone, or VOIP, and not in the same location, this information can provide automatic knowledge of who is speaking improving conditions for work, education, social and other situations.

Telephone, VOIP, and mobile networks automatically provide information to identify the channel carrying sound/speech and that information is useful to identify the speaker based on the channel that is carrying the sound/speech; then SensoSmart can display the information. Alternatively, multiple microphones can be used to localize speech for direction and identification.

Another thing you may notice is that certain sounds in our language appear to be much more similar to one another. It is difficult to differentiate those sounds. You must concentrate in order to understand what is being said. This can be tiring and can lead to misunderstandings.

Many of our team members have years of experience in inventing, designing, and creating new communication platforms and services. We recognized that we can improve personal hearing assistants in a low cost model.

Among other systems, we have experience in systems for learning, acoustics, and speech. Our Language Tutor will be re-invented for SensoSmart to provide Aural Rehabilitation, Listening Practice, and Speech Practice. SensoSmart will extend our research to include investigation to understand which supplemental information and sensory modes provide enough information to satisfy users' needs in a variety of contexts. SensoSmart Closed Captioning 23 will integrate these features for real time communication and also for training and practice.

Language Tutor Patent

Listening to the display of how our friends hear the speech around us provides great insight into the issues facing people who have hearing loss.

It inspires us to improve access to technology.

Some things don't change much. It's difficult to get a chance to practice language skills alone. SensoSmart expands on ideas of the Language Tutor to provide a kind of Khan Academy for practicing listening and speech.

SensoSmart predicts the sounds that are difficult to discriminate based on the Audiogram. Then provides visual cues to enhance listening understanding.

Then users can select the level of Cue they find helpful.

SensoSmart provides Personalized Language Practice predicting sounds that will be challenging and offering levels of visual assistance to improve listening enjoyment.

Our research will extend understanding of how cues improve enjoyment, listening, and other language skills.

SensoSmart Personalized Aural Language Tutor.

Very cool.