Even in noisy environments, most of us are able to understand what another person is saying by directing our hearing to their voice. Regular hearing aids are currently unable to do this, but that may soon change thanks to a new prototype.
Coming from scientists at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology, the new device is designed to render speech more intelligible against background noise, thereby making it easier to follow a single speaker.
Called mEEGaHStim — which stands for EEG-based brain stimulation for better hearing — the futuristic hearing aid incorporates an EEG (electroencephalograph) which analyzes the electrical activity of the wearer’s brain in order to determine the direction in which they’re currently focusing their hearing.
The information is then transmitted to the hearing aid, which focuses a directional microphone—known as a beamformer—in the corresponding direction, while simultaneously filtering out noises from either side.
The present prototype, which takes the form of a headset, has reportedly been successfully tested on non-deaf volunteers. Plans now call for trials on partially-deaf users, and for the technology to be miniaturized into something more akin to a traditional hearing aid.