People with hearing problems often face issues understanding what the speaker is saying because of the intrusion of the sounds. It can be impossible to have a conversation with a person in a crowd if one has hearing issues, as your hearing aid will not be able to process the words accurately. Thanks to the advent of technology, next-generation hearing aids will be able to read lips even if the person speaking is wearing a mask. That is so cool, right? This device will reduce the ambient noise that refrains the deaf from processing what the speaker is saying.
A team of engineers and computer scientists have developed a technology that pairs artificial intelligence with radio frequency sensing to identify lip movements. It can reduce the effects of the surrounding sounds that hinder the understanding of specific sounds. The smart hearing aid would pair up conventional audio amplification with a sound device to collect additional data for improved understanding. Previous methods that used cameras to read lips had security issues and did not work if the speaker had a mask on.
Teaching Smart Hearing To Process Speech
The smart hearing aid maintains privacy by collecting only radio frequency data with no video footage. To test this device, researchers gathered male and female volunteers and asked them to call out the vowel sounds (A, E, I, O, U) while wearing a mask and without wearing a mask. As the volunteers called out the vowels, a radar sensor and a Wi-Fi transmitter recorded their faces using radio signals.
Researchers also made sure to scan the faces of the volunteers while their lips were still. The team used the data collected to teach the machine how to recognize lip and mouth movements. Radiofrequency signals were easily able to pass through the masks of the volunteers.
The system proved to correctly process the words from the speaker 95% of the time for an unmasked speaker and 80% of the time for a masked speaker. Around 5% of the world's population has some kind of hearing problem. Hearing aids offer transformative benefits to hearing-impaired people. Another new technology that collects and amplifies sound can be another positive step to improving hearing for people with hearing problems.
Through the research conducted, it was clearly shown that radio frequency signals could be used to process sounds on lips even when their mouths are covered. The results of processing sounds with radar signals are more accurate than the use of Wi-Fi signals. However, the affordability of Wi-Fi technology encourages that this is a more competitive choice for a multi-modal hearing aid.
Professor Muhammad Imran from the University of Glasgow said that this technology is a result of the two research projects funded by QUEST and COG-MHEAR. Both of these projects aimed to introduce new methods to create new generation health care devices. The development of smart hearing aid will play a vast role in supporting this role.