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SIRCE: A Sensor Image Based Room-Centered Equalization System for Hearing Aids

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43DC015942-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43DC015942
Amount: $198,321.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIDCD
Solicitation Number: PA15-269
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2016
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2016-09-13
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2018-03-31
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

Reverberant spaces create major problems for hearing impaired listeners Reverberation
reduces the sound quality and intelligibility of speech for such listeners especially if they are
hearing aid HA users Moreover reverberation reduces the effectiveness of many otherwise
useful signal processing methods such as speech enhancement algorithms because
reverberation introduces additional virtual sources and background noise that increase the
complexity of the acoustic signals such algorithms must grapple with
We propose a novel method called SIRCE that equalizes that is dereverberates speech
and other audio signals in complex real world acoustic environments containing multiple
unknown acoustic sources SIRCE has been designed for compatibility with and integration
into NIH s Open Speech Platform initiative
SIRCE s design comprises three critical innovative features it is room centric sensor
image based and listener aware Room centric means that important components of the
system are embedded in the acoustic space itself rather than residing in the user s ear the
hearing aid There are many advantages to placing sensors microphones and processing
components in rooms rather than ears reduced cost increased processing power relaxed form
factor constraints practical deployment of more than two microphones and easy sharing of
processing power and computational results between users A room centric design makes
particular sense for an equalization system because reverberation itself is room specific
Sensor image based means that SIRCE calculates the acoustic image of each active
source in each sensor Sensor image extraction SIX is our innovative contribution to the
active field of blind source separation BSS Sensor image extraction determines what the
response of each microphone would be to each source in isolation even when multiple sources
are always active simultaneously SIX computes multiple independent images of each acoustic
source one for each microphone whereas typical BSS algorithms only generate a single
estimate for each source This is important because the most effective dereverberation methods
are multi channel algorithms that require solo or source separated inputs from multiple
Listener aware means that our system employs the signals from the listener s HA internal
microphones a listener specific acuity profile and the listener specified source of interest
target to determine whether that target is acoustically audible to the listener whether other
sources are acoustically audible and the optimal processing strategy and best sensor image to
present to the listener When a target is far from the listener and close to a room microphone
listening to the HA internal mic response is often not the optimal choice!
In this Phase I project we propose to validate the sensor images SIRCE computes quantify
its ability to equalize reverberant speech and estimate the overall improvement in speech
intelligibility SIRCE delivers
The SIRCE system will help hearing aid users understand speech better in complex
reverberant spaces Project Narrative
Hearing aid users find reverberant spaces such as many classrooms burdensome because speech is
hard to understand in rooms with strong echoes We propose to improve hearing healthcare by developing a
hearing aid compatible system that would determine the reverberation patterns of a particular room and
deliver an enhanced rendition of speech sounds from which interfering echoes have been scrubbed
This product would use multiple microphones permanently placed in a classroom office or other reverberant
space to separate individual sound sources identify and remove echoes and upon request deliver an
enhanced speech signal without obstructive reverberations to the hearing aids of listeners in the area

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

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