Which speaker are you listening to? Hearing aid of the future uses brainwaves to find out

November 24, 2020

In a noisy room with many speakers, hearing aids can suppress background noise, but they have difficulties isolating one voice - that of the person you're talking to at a party, for instance. KU Leuven researchers have now addressed that issue with a technique that uses brainwaves to determine within one second whom you're listening to.

Having a casual conversation at a cocktail party is a challenge for someone with a hearing aid, says Professor Tom Francart from the Department of Neurosciences at KU Leuven: "A hearing aid may select the loudest speaker in the room, for instance, but that is not necessarily the person you're listening to. Alternatively, the system may take into account your viewing direction, but when you're driving a car, you can't look at the passenger sitting next to you."

Researchers have been working on solutions that take into account what the listener wants. "An electroencephalogram (EEG) can measure brainwaves that develop in response to sounds. This technique allows us to determine which speaker someone wants to listen to. The system separates the sound signals produced by different speakers and links them to the brainwaves. The downside is that you have to take into account a delay of ten to twenty seconds to get it right with reasonable certainty."

Artificial intelligence to speed up the process

A new technique makes it possible to step up the pace, Professor Alexander Bertrand from the Department of Electrical Engineering at KU Leuven continues: "Using artificial intelligence, we found that it is possible to directly decode the listening direction from the brainwaves alone, without having to link them to the actual sounds."

"We trained our system to determine whether someone is listening to a speaker on their left or their right. Once the system has identified the direction, the acoustic camera redirects its aim, and the background noise is suppressed. On average, this can now be done within less than one second. That's a big leap forward, as one second constitutes a realistic timespan to switch from one speaker to the other."

From lab to real life

However, it will take at least another five years before we have smart hearing aids that work with brainwaves, Professor Francart continues. "To measure someone's brainwaves in the lab, we make them wear a cap with electrodes. This method is obviously not feasible in real life. But research is already being done into hearing aids with built-in electrodes."

The new technique will be further improved as well, PhD student Simon Geirnaert adds. "We're already conducting further research, for instance into the problem of combining multiple speaker directions at once. The current system simply chooses between two directions. While first experiments show that we can expand that to other possible directions, we need to refine our artificial intelligence system by feeding the system with more brainwave data from users who are also listening to speakers from other directions."
Professor Tom Francart, tom.francart@kuleuven.be

KU Leuven

Related Artificial Intelligence Articles from Brightsurf:

Physics can assist with key challenges in artificial intelligence
Two challenges in the field of artificial intelligence have been solved by adopting a physical concept introduced a century ago to describe the formation of a magnet during a process of iron bulk cooling.

A survey on artificial intelligence in chest imaging of COVID-19
Announcing a new article publication for BIO Integration journal. In this review article the authors consider the application of artificial intelligence imaging analysis methods for COVID-19 clinical diagnosis.

Using artificial intelligence can improve pregnant women's health
Disorders such as congenital heart birth defects or macrosomia, gestational diabetes and preterm birth can be detected earlier when artificial intelligence is used.

Artificial intelligence (AI)-aided disease prediction
Artificial Intelligence (AI)-aided Disease Prediction https://doi.org/10.15212/bioi-2020-0017 Announcing a new article publication for BIO Integration journal.

Artificial intelligence dives into thousands of WW2 photographs
In a new international cross disciplinary study, researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark and Tampere University, Finland have used artificial intelligence to analyse large amounts of historical photos from WW2.

Applying artificial intelligence to science education
A new review published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching highlights the potential of machine learning--a subset of artificial intelligence--in science education.

New roles for clinicians in the age of artificial intelligence
New Roles for Clinicians in the Age of Artificial Intelligence https://doi.org/10.15212/bioi-2020-0014 Announcing a new article publication for BIO Integration journal.

Artificial intelligence aids gene activation discovery
Scientists have long known that human genes are activated through instructions delivered by the precise order of our DNA.

Artificial intelligence recognizes deteriorating photoreceptors
A software based on artificial intelligence (AI), which was developed by researchers at the Eye Clinic of the University Hospital Bonn, Stanford University and University of Utah, enables the precise assessment of the progression of geographic atrophy (GA), a disease of the light sensitive retina caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Classifying galaxies with artificial intelligence
Astronomers have applied artificial intelligence (AI) to ultra-wide field-of-view images of the distant Universe captured by the Subaru Telescope, and have achieved a very high accuracy for finding and classifying spiral galaxies in those images.

Read More: Artificial Intelligence News and Artificial Intelligence Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.