20.6 million adults struggle to understand speech in noisy environments – new tech offers a solution without hearing aids.
Nuance Hearing, a leading global provider of focused listening technology, has launched a new device that provides powerful relief from auditory distraction and background noise.
The Voice Selector Converse helps overcome challenging hearing situations for those who struggle to hear in busy environments, known as the ‘cocktail party problem’ offering a tech solution to understand conversations in a crowded room, without the need for hearing aids.
Using cutting-edge beamforming technology, eight built-in microphones track the source of sounds, reducing the level of background noise and enabling the user to focus on the dominant voice. The result is a world-leading directivity index (the relative reduction of overall noise in relation to the target sound) of 15dB in real-time performance, which compares to an industry-standard of 4-5dB. This improvement helps the listener to focus, effortlessly tuning out the sounds that do not matter and tuning into the ones that do.
In audiology testing, users were able to understand speech on average three times better than without the product.
Ori Goren, CEO of Nuance Hearing, said: “Since 2015, we have been delivering powerful and advanced hearing solutions that deliver optimum performance. We know that many people in the UK are suffering in silence, unable to feel comfortable or enjoy conversing in busy environments, and are proud to have launched an innovative tech solution to help combat this. Through innovative technological solutions, we are passionate about improving the quality of life for a diverse group of people, making every environment more accessible and helping ensure personal success and empowerment.”
The ‘Cocktail Party Problem’
New research suggests that 41 per cent of all UK adults (around 20.6 million people) admit to having the ‘cocktail party problem’ where they struggle to understand speech in a noisy environment. Over a third (36 per cent) said noisy environments caused them stress and anxiety and 60 per cent of those with hearing problems said they would be open to trying out tech to help them hear in a busy environment.
The Voice Selector Converse has unique auto-steering technology which picks up the dominant speaker, even when they are moving about. Alternatively the user can manually switch between speakers when conversing a group.
It also captures, processes, and plays audio at a record speed of six milliseconds (0.006 seconds). It’s a multifunctional device and can be used as a table microphone or remote microphone – ideal for most scenarios where background noise can be an issue.
Hearing loss currently affects 12 million people in the UK. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 5 people worldwide live with hearing loss, expected to rise to 1 in 4 by 2050. Unaddressed hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, study and earn a living. It can also impact on people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships and has recently been associated with a faster degree of cognitive decline. On average, people wait ten years before getting help for hearing loss. The ‘cocktail party problem’ where people have difficulty understanding speech in noisy situations can often be the first sign of a hearing loss.
Franki Oliver, audiology specialist, RNID, said: “While it might not seem obvious at first, having difficulty understanding speech in background noise is usually one of the early signs of hearing loss. The ‘cocktail party problem’ is the name used to describe the brain’s inability to filter out background noise and tune into what someone is saying in a busy environment. Most people with hearing loss experience difficulty in these situations.”