Cambridge researchers discover how to ‘rub out’ background noise on hearing aids


Researchers at Cambridge University’s engineering department are developing a device which could rid hearing aid wearers of annoying background noise.

Led by Dr Richard Turner, the research could forever remove sounds such as wind, traffic and talking, which affect people’s aids. Dr Turner said: “The poor performance of current hearing devices in noise is a major reason why six million people in the UK who would benefit from a hearing aid do not use them.”

“Many interfering noises are immediately recognizable. Raindrops patter on a surface, a fire crackles, talkers babble at a party and the wind howls. But what makes these so-called auditory textures sound the way they do? “No two rain sounds are identical because the precise arrangement of falling water droplets is never repeated. Nonetheless, there must be a statistical similarity in the sounds compared with, say, the crackle of a fire.”

Using this statistical similarity, the team have developed a mathematical system capable of being trained to recognize sound. It is hoped different devices could be made in the future to work in different settings and environments, including public transport and loud outdoor environments.

“If these preliminary tests go well, then we’ll be looking to work with hearing device companies to try to adapt their processing to incorporate these machine learning techniques. If all goes well, we would hope that this technology will be available in consumer devices within 10 years.”