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Visual Cues May Help Amplify Sound, University College London Researchers Find

Visual Cues May Help Amplify Sound, University College London Researchers Find

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Looking at someone’s lips is good for listening in noisy environments because it helps our brains amplify the sounds we’re hearing in time with what we’re seeing, finds a new University College London (UCL)-led study, the school announced on its website.

The researchers say their findings, published in Neuron, could be relevant to people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, as they tend to struggle hearing conversations in noisy places like a pub or restaurant.

The researchers found that visual information is integrated with auditory information at an earlier, more basic level than previously believed, independent of any conscious or attention-driven processes. When information from the eyes and ears is temporally coherent, the auditory cortex —the part of the brain responsible for interpreting what we hear—boosts the relevant sounds that tie in with what we’re looking at.

“While the auditory cortex is focused on processing sounds, roughly a quarter of its neurons respond to light—we helped discover that a decade ago, and we’ve been trying to figure out why that’s the case ever since,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jennifer Bizley, UCL Ear Institute.

In a 2015 study, she and her team found that people can pick apart two different sounds more easily if the one they’re trying to focus on happens in time with a visual cue. For this latest study, the researchers presented the same auditory and visual stimuli to ferrets while recording their neural activity. When one of the auditory streams changed in amplitude in conjunction with changes in luminance of the visual stimulus, more of the neurons in the auditory cortex reacted to that sound.

“Looking at someone when they’re speaking doesn’t just help us hear because of our ability to recognize lip movements—we’ve shown it’s beneficial at a lower level than that, as the timing of the movements aligned with the timing of the sounds tells our auditory neurons which sounds to represent more strongly. If you’re trying to pick someone’s voice out of background noise, that could be really helpful,” said Bizley.

The researchers say their findings could help develop training strategies for people with hearing loss, as they have had early success in helping people tap into their brain’s ability to link up sound and sight. The findings could also help hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers develop smarter ways to amplify sound by linking it to the person’s gaze direction.

The paper adds to evidence that people who are having trouble hearing should get their eyes tested as well.

The study was led by Bizley and PhD student Huriye Atilgan, UCL Ear Institute, alongside researchers from UCL, the University of Rochester, and the University of Washington, and was funded by Wellcome, the Royal Society; the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Action on Hearing Loss; the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Hearing Health Foundation.

Original Paper: Atilgan H, Town SM, Wood KC, et al. Integration of visual information in auditory cortex promotes auditory scene analysis through multisensory binding. Neuron. 2018;97(3)[February]:640–655.e4. doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.12.03

Source: University College London, Neuron

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Tinitus help now on horizon.

ADM Tronics Unlimited, Inc (OTCQB: ADMT), a technology-based developer and manufacturer of innovative technologies, has authorized its subsidiary, Aurex International Corporation (“AIC”) to begin advertising its new hearing protection product, Tinnitus Shield™ in Tinnitus Today, the official publication of the American Tinnitus Association, ADM announced.

Tinnitus Shield™ has been designed to protect against damaging sounds shown to cause tinnitus for individuals at risk of acquiring this condition, according to the company’s announcement.  These include military, police, musicians, construction workers, and many other occupations subject to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

The US Veterans Health Administration (VA) reports that tinnitus is the most prevalent combat-related disability affecting veterans, making it a high-priority healthcare issue facing the military and the VA.

While Tinnitus Shield™ has been specifically engineered to protect against the sounds which may cause tinnitus, AIC also plans to bring to market Aurex-3®, a patented, non-invasive therapy technology for the treatment and control of tinnitus.

Heading up AIC is CEO Mark Brenner, BSc, PhD, who draws upon years of experience serving the tinnitus market in the United Kingdom.  Brenner brings with him the vision and resources necessary to set in motion the launching and distribution of Aurex-3 throughout the US and Europe.  For these reasons, the company believes that under Brenner’s leadership and guidance, both AIC technologies can effectively penetrate this burgeoning market.

“The potential market for effective technologies that addresses the tinnitus marketplace is significant, considering the millions and millions of sufferers in the US and worldwide,” said Andre’ DiMino, president of ADMT.

Brenner commented, “AIC is now able to offer the full spectrum of support to the worldwide tinnitus community with its Tinnitus Shield, providing protection from noise-induced tinnitus, and the Aurex-3, as an active treatment and management system for those who have developed tinnitus. This is receiving great interest in the UK where we are actively working with The Tinnitus Clinic, a group of specialist tinnitus clinics. In the US we have active discussions with the American Tinnitus Association.”

Source: ADM Tronics Limited

Tinitus, Chalfont, new, hearing, Tinitus-Help

New Tinitus therapy from a leading UK company can now be marketed. Contact Chalfont Hearing Centre for more details on how to live with Tinitus.

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Hearing protection, Chalfont Buckinghamshire

GN Store Nord Develops Device to Protect Soldiers’ Hearing

soldier aims gun

GN Store Nord has announced a “first of its kind, fully fledged hearing protection solution, enabling defense and security forces to hear more, do more, and be more.” With this advanced tactical hearing-protection solution, GN reports that it is leveraging unique leading competencies within intelligent audio solutions in both hearing aids and headsets to create an unparalleled noise management solution. The product will be manufactured at its Bloomington, Minn, facility where ReSound is also located.

The global market for military communication systems is estimated to be about $630 million, and features competitors such as Peltor (3M), INVISIO, Silynx, Racal Acoustics, and MSA Sordin, according to long-time hearing industry analyst Niels Granholm-Leth of Carnegie Investment Bank in Copenhagen.  GN has embarked on several projects in its GN Stratcom organization, which is currently part of GN Hearing, although the company could eventually establish it as a stand-alone division alongside its Hearing (ReSound, Beltone, and Interton) and Headset divisions (Jabra).

The new patented hearing protection solution is designed specifically for defense and security forces. GN says the solution offers the user a communication headset which is designed to be comfortable, highly durable, and protects the user against high volume noise. At the same time, by leveraging GN’s expertise within situational awareness, the solution allows its user to clearly identify important sound in 360°.

Anders Hedegaard

Anders Hedegaard

“The GN Group encompasses consumer, professional, and medical grade hearing technology under the same roof,” says CEO of GN Hearing, Anders Hedegaard. “This unique platform makes it possible to expand GN’s business into adjacent opportunities within the sound space. With our user-centric approach we aim to be the leader in intelligent audio solutions to transform lives through the power of sound.”

GN will be starting to build a small, swift group related to this new business opportunity. This year, GN will participate in military tenders in the United States and with other NATO-countries. The new product line will, under the name GN FalCom, include:

  • Comfort. Designed for optimal physical comfort allowing for multiple hours of use in extreme combat situations;
  • Clarity. Enables users to localize sounds all around them without the need to remove the earpiece. To maintain high quality communications at all times, GN FalCom will integrate seamlessly with military radio technology, and
  • Protection. Allows users to stay connected while benefitting from noise protection. For example, users will experience the highest level of safety without blocking out wanted sounds.

The  hearing protection solution builds on GN’s expertise in sound processing from both GN Hearing and GN Audio—and across R&D teams in the United States and Denmark. It is a successful result of corporate level investments made through GN’s Strategy Committee guided initiatives to explore opportunities outside of, but related to, GN’s existing business areas. According to the company, the hearing protection solution will be manufactured at GN’s existing production facilities in Bloomington, Minn, and will not impact GN’s financial guidance for 2018.

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Oticon Opn™ Outperforms Traditional and Narrow Directionality

With the Oticon Opn, users can expend less effort and recall more of what they encounter in a variety of complex listening environments. This open sound environment, powered by Oticon’s Velox platform, allows for greater speech comprehension, even in a challenging audiological setting with multiple speakers. With its OpenSound Navigator scanning the background 100 times per second, the Opn provides a clear and accurate sound experience.

 

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Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Want to know what A.I. Hell is like?

How about interacting with a machine that repeatedly professes stupefaction when you just know it should know what you’re talking about?

I was excited when I heard last fall that Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google’s new wireless ear pieces would perform a kind of “real time” translation of languages, as it was billed.

The ear pieces, “Pixel Buds,” which arrived in the mail the other day, turn out to be rather limited and somewhat frustrating.

They are in a sense just a new way to be annoyed by the shortcomings of Google’s A.I., Google Assistant.

The devices were unveiled at Google’s “Made By Google” hardware press conference in early October, where it debuted its new Pixel 2 smartphone, which I’ve positively reviewed in this space, and its new “mini” version of the “Google Home” appliance.

The Buds retail for $159 and can be ordered from Google’s online store.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Getting the things to pair with the Pixel 2 Plus that I use was problematic at first, but eventually succeeded after a series of attempts. I’ve noticed some similar issues with other Bluetooth-based devices, so I soldiered on and got it to work.

The sound quality and the fit is fine. The device is very lightweight, and the tether that connects the two ear pieces — they are not completely wireless like Apple’s (AAPL) AirPods — snakes around the back of one’s neck and is not uncomfortable.

The adjustable loops on each ear piece made the buds fit in my ears comfortably and stay there while I moved around. So, good job, Google, on industrial design.

Translating was another story.

One has to first install Google Translate, an application from Google of which I’m generally a big fan. Google supports translation in the app of 40 languages initially.

You invoke the app by putting your finger to the touch-sensitive spot on the right ear piece and saying something like, “Help me to speak Greek.” When you lift your finger, it invokes the Google Assistant on the Pixel 2 phone, who tells you in the default female voice that she will launch the Translate app.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Several times, however, the assistant told me she had no idea how to help. Sometimes she understood the request the second time around. It seemed to be hit or miss whether my command was understood or was valid. On a number of other occasions, she told me she couldn’t yet help with a particular language, even though the language was among the 40 offered. It seemed like more common languages, such as French and Spanish, elicited little protest. But asking for, say, the Georgian language to be translated stumped her, even though Georgian is in the set of supported tongues.

This dialogue with the machine to get my basic wishes fulfilled fell very far below the Turing Test:

Me: “Help me to speak Greek.”

Google: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help with that yet.”

Me: “Help me to translate Greek.”

Google: “Sure, opening Google Translate.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help with that.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I don’t understand.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet, but I’m always learning.”

Me: “Help me to translate Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that.”

In answer to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who writes of a new era of “continuous learning” for humans, I would like all humans to tell their future robot masters, “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet, but I’m always learning.”

When it does work, the process of translating is a little underwhelming. The app launches, and you touch the right ear piece’s touch-sensitive area, and speak your phrase in your native language. As you’re speaking, Google Translate is turning that into transcribed text on the screen, in the foreign script. When you are fully done speaking, the entire phrase is played back in the foreign language through the phone’s speaker for your interlocutor to hear. That person can then press an icon in the Translate app and speak to you in their native tongue, and their phrase is played for you, translated, through your ear piece.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Even this doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, after asking for help with one language, the Google Assistant would launch the Translate app and the app would be stuck on the previously used language. At other times, it was just fine. In the worst instances, the application would tell me it was having audio issues when I would tap the ear piece to speak, requiring me to kill the app and start again.

This is all rather cumbersome.

I went and tried Translate on my iPhone 7 Plus, using Apple’s AirPods, and had pretty much an equivalent experience, with somewhat less frustration. All I had to do was to double-tap the AirPods and say, “Launch Google Translate,” and then continue from there as normal. It’s slightly more limited in that the iPhone’s speaker is not playing back the translation for my interlocutor; that plays through the AirPods. But on the flip side, it’s actually a little easier to use the app because one can maintain a kind of “open mic” by pressing the microphone icon. The app will then continuously listen for whichever language is spoken, translating back and forth between the two constantly, rather than having to tell it at each turn who’s speaking.

All in all, then, Pixel Buds are just a fancy interface to Google Translate, which doesn’t seem to me revolutionary, and is rather less than what I’d hoped for, and very kludgy. It’s a shame, because I like Google Translate, and I like the whole premise of this enterprise.

At any rate, back to school, Google, keep learning.

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Eargo Launches Eargo Max Hearing Device

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.20.34 PM

Eargo, a direct-to-consumer hearing technology company, announced the launch of Eargo Max.

Eargo Max is designed with an all-new chip set and operating system as well as “Flexi Domes,” that are designed to help decrease feedback and increase gain while preserving speech clarity, according to Eargo.

Each hearing aid also comes with sound profile memory and voice indicators that are designed to make Eargo Max even easier to use than its predecessor.

“We asked our customers, ‘How can we make Eargo even better?’  With their help we developed Eargo Max, the best invisible hearing aid on the planet,” said Christian Gormsen, Eargo’s CEO. “We’re proud of our latest creation but not spending any time patting ourselves on the back.  There’s too much to do and we’re just getting started.”

Eargo provides support to clients transitioning to their hearing aids with the help of a team of licensed personal hearing guides. The company is backed by a group of investors (including NEA, The Nan Fung Group, Maveron, and Charles and Helen Schwab) who continue to invest their time, money, and resources into helping Eargo fulfill its mission.

Eargo Max Pricing & Availability

Eargo Max is available for purchase online at eargo.com or by phone at 1-800-61-EARGO. The Eargo hearing system is regularly priced at $2,500 but currently available for a limited time at the introductory price of $2,250. Financing is available for as low as $104 a month. Each purchase of an Eargo hearing aid comes with a 45-day money back guarantee, one-year warranty, and ongoing support by Eargo’s licensed hearing professionals. Eargo Max is only available in the United States.

Source: Eargo

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Wireless Headphones - wearable tech is not just for the 'elderly'

These headphones have to be the smartest headphones on the market. They can be worn at the gym, when running, even when swimming (as the entire chassis is silicone). They contain their own MP3 player and fitness trackers to monitor heart rate and oxygen saturation level. To use them, users simply tap the control earphone. (more…)

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