App helps hearing-impaired sort through aural clutter

Electrical engineers at Tel Aviv University develop a mathematical algorithm that enables hearing aids to filter out background noise.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants work like complicated miniature microphones to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing pick up the noises around them. Unfortunately, the hum of background noise also tends to be amplified, often creating a confusing melee of sound.

An ear with a cochlear implant. NIH, Medical Arts & Photography Branch

Miriam Furst-Yust, a professor at Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering, has developed new software called Clearcall that can improve speech recognition by up to 50 percent in hearing aids and cochlear implants, according to a press release put out by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

Clearcall was initially developed for cell phones, but the Clearcall-filtered voices are distorted, and therefore distracting to those without hearing impairment. So Furst-Yust adapted the technology to instead be used as a software add-on for existing hearing aid devices.

Clearcall is patented and is available for licensing through Tel Aviv University's commercialization company, Ramot. It could hit the market in a matter of months, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, Furst-Yust will keep working on her algorithm for other possible applications, including a device that filters out the sounds those without hearing impairment don't want to hear--particularly music, which she says is easier to target than voices because our brains listen to music differently.

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