​Benefits of a Smartphone as a Remote Microphone System

Dr. Linda Thibodeau, thib@utdallas.edu

The University of Texas at Dallas

Dr. Issa Panahi

Popular version of paper 4pPPa6
Presented Thursday afternoon, December 5, 2019
178th ASA Meeting, San Diego, CA

A common problem reported by persons with hearing loss is reduced ability to hear speech in noisy environments. Despite sophisticated microphone and noise reduction technology in personal amplification devices to address this challenge, speech perception remains compromised by factors such as distance from the talker and reverberation. Remote microphone (RM) systems have been shown to reduce the challenges hearing aid users face with communicating in noisy environments. The RMs worn by the speaker can stream their voice wirelessly to the users’ hearing aids which results in a significant improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio and make it easier to hear and understand speech.

Given that the additional cost of a RM may not be feasible for some individuals, the possible use of applications on a smartphone has been explored. In the past five years, it has become increasingly common for hearing aids to connect wireless to smartphones. In fact, one desirable feature of the connection to the Apple iPhone has been an application called ‘Live Listen’ (LL). This application allows the iPhone to be used as an RM with made for iPhone hearing aids.

The Statistical Signal Processing Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Dallas has developed an application for the iPhone that is also designed to be used as an RM. The application, called SHARP, has been tested with persons with normal and impaired hearing and with several types of hearing aids in the Hearing Health Laboratory at the University of Texas at Dallas. A study was conducted to compare the benefit of LL and the SHARP application for participants with and without hearing loss on sentence recognition tasks in noise when listening through hearing aids connected to an iPhone. A video summary of the testing protocol is show in the following short video clip.

Both the LL feature and the SHARP app provide a range of benefits in speech recognition in noise from no benefit to 30% depending on the degree of hearing loss and type of aid. The results suggest that persons can improve speech recognition in noise and perhaps increase overall quality of life through the use of applications such as SHARP on the smartphone in conjunction with wirelessly connected hearing aids.

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