Connecting people with impaired hearing
People with hearing problems are a lot closer to full participation in today’s communication society due to the efforts of an ongoing European research project.
The project team is developing new methods and techniques for situations in which acoustic interferences make it difficult to hear and to communicate. Their work is aimed not just at the hearing impaired but also the general public.
Launched in 2004 and scheduled to run until early 2009, HearCom has brought together a 30-strong partner consortium from 12 European countries, including universities, clinics, research institutes, user organisations and manufacturers in the fields of speech and hearing, telecommunications and the internet.
The partners have brought together resources to resolve the limitations of sound and speech communication caused by both hearing loss and poor environmental acoustic conditions, such as background noise and reverberation.
Testing and evaluation procedures
The researchers set out to identify and characterise the range of factors that make it difficult to hear and understand in everyday situations. From that research they developed standardised testing and evaluation procedures for use in several European languages.
Based on these diagnostic tests, they developed new rehabilitation and signal-enhancement techniques. The techniques compensate both for personal hearing disabilities and for general adverse background acoustical conditions that reduce the ability to hear.
These new techniques were used in the software and hardware that HearCom developed and include the use of wireless and fixed communications networks.
The internet plays a central role in the task of providing a common European platform for hearing professionals in the major European languages. The HearCom website provides information on hearing problems, and also demonstrates and promotes new procedures and methods for professionals.
The website structures knowledge and new developments in audiology and communication acoustics. The information is made available in separate sections, one designed for the general public, the other for professionals.
Novel body area network
One of the novel technologies that the project developed is the Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN). The WBAN includes a wireless personal communication link integrated into devices, which can be a hearing aid to a headphone, for example. A personal communication system (PCS) acts as a bridge to the outside world by phone, internet or to a public address system.
The concept of a PCS also includes the integration of a personal hearing system (PHS) into a normal mobile handset (PDA) to provide advanced audio signal processing. This concept will be used initially for hearing research to evaluate new signal processing. When the power of handheld devices is increased, the PHS can be introduced to provide clear and easy-to-understand speech for anyone.
The HearCom team is also developing an internet portal providing screening and hearing rehabilitation services for the general public and for hearing professionals. The portal will be launched as the project proceeds.
Test your own hearing
The internet services for the public include general information about hearing, hearing impairment, hearing devices, support on getting the best out of hearing devices, advice on listening strategies and information for family members of people with hearing problems.
The service also allows people to test their hearing in the privacy of their own homes. On the basis of the test, they can decide if they need to see a specialist for help.
Tools and information for professionals are available for diagnostic methods, rehabilitation procedures, developing algorithms for signal processing, website design, room acoustics and telecommunications.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
See other projects for this call
Funding SchemeIP - Integrated Project
15125 Maroussi - Athens
KT15 2 UF Addlestone
EC1Y 8SL London