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Sensor Image-Based Environmental Listening Assistant

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43DC015416-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43DC015416
Amount: $218,912.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: Y
Solicitation Number: PA15-269
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2016
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2016-03-15
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2017-03-31
Small Business Information
Bedford, MA 01730-1417
United States
DUNS: 837257039
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (781) 276-4580
Business Contact
Phone: (781) 861-7827
Research Institution

DESCRIPTION provided by applicant Environmental Listening Assistance from Sensor Images Recent years have witnessed a veritable explosion of innovative personal audio devices wireless sound systems active earpieces and other personal digital audio devices These appliances are typically much less expensive and seemingly much more innovative than traditional hearing aids But hearing aids are subject to many constraints that their more innovative and uninhibited cousins ignore These constraints include significant size and power limitations and stringent signal processing latency These greatly limit the potential of many innovations even though they could be relaxed if an aid could be environmentally connected and aware From a recent NIDCD workshop report andquot The result of these constraints is a wide `valley of deathandapos that limits the ability to translate innovations from academic research into widespread commercial use andquot We propose a system for environmental awareness based on separated sensor images the signals that microphones would produce from single sources if all others were quiet Critically these allow determining whether a latency constraint even matters for a given source of interest Modular system design will allow it to make use of further innovations in both consumer audio and academic research as they arise The many different audio processing capabilities of present day hearing aids fall into two categories user centered compensations for hearing deficits e g amplification dynamic range compression frequency transposition and for the undesirable side effects of hearing aid operation e g feedback suppression and acoustic space centered signal enhancement techniques designed to compensate for the complexities of a userandapos s acoustic environment e g speaker separation noise reduction speech enhancement echo cancella tion Broadly speaking present day hearing aids do a much better job of compensating for user centered characteristics than space centered characteristics It is precisely this weakness that this project addresses We propose to develop an assistive listening product designed to be located in an acoustic space rather than worn by a listener This Environmental Listening Assistant or ELA would be part of the every day envi ronmental support that hearing aid users could expect to find in their home car or office just as they expect to find appropriate lighting that allows them to see well The ELA would communicate bidirectionally with any ELA aware hearing aid and could support multiple hearing aid users simultaneously Just as a roomandapos s lighting infrastructure typically includes multiple light emitting devices and a switch a roomandapos s ELA infrastructure would include multiple microphones and a control box The ELA control box would continually process microphone signals to create separate output audio channels one for each active audio source When a listener wearing an ELA aware hearing aid entered the room they would use a simple interface running on their smartphone smartwatch or similar device to choose one of the ELA source images to listen to The ELA will help hearing aid users to better hear the sounds they want to hear in complex acoustic spaces

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE Environmental Listening Assistance Present day hearing aids try to do many different things but generally do a better job with user centered compensations e g signal amplification dynamic range compression and feedback suppression than with acoustic space centered signal enhancement tasks such as speaker separation noise reduction speech enhancement and echo cancellation These latter tasks are hard for a tiny device placed in or by a userandapos s ear to do well and could be carried out much more successfully by a separate device temporarily or permanently located in a room car or other acoustic space We propose to improve hearing healthcare by developing an Environmental Listening Assistant which would be placed in a room to separate out individual sounds and consistent with the constraints of hearing aids deliver the best rendition of them to the aids of listeners in the vicinity upon request

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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