What happens at "Sprachversteher"?

Speech Understander - What is it?

Together with the ENT Clinic at Heidelberg University Hospital and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), we are researching an innovative system to improve speech comprehension for people with age-related hearing loss.

Around 450 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss - in Germany alone, this affects around 15 million people. A large proportion of these are affected by so-called age-related hearing loss. In these cases, more than half of patients are unfortunately unable to achieve the desired hearing improvement, and in particular the improvement in hearing comprehension, with hearing aids alone according to the current state of the art. Hearing loss severely impairs these people in their everyday lives and robs them of their quality of life.

Research has shown that half of all hearing losses are due to a loss of functional nerve connections between the inner ear and the brain, in addition to the loss of function of the inner ear, which can be compensated for by highly accurate hearing aids. This leads to inadequate processing of speech signals, which cannot currently be improved as desired by hearing aids.

This is where we come in: with the Aristech speech technology, which we are developing as part of the project, the speech signal is to be adapted and redesigned. The individually adapted redesign of the speech signal by analyzing signal parameters should then also make the speech signals processable for people with impaired hearing comprehension.

The aim of the project is to create a treatment alternative for these patients which, by reshaping the speech signal, also enables cognitive processing of the information for patients with impaired hearing comprehension. The aim is to develop real-time capable, platform-independent software that can be integrated into any hearing aids and smartphones with headphones.

What's going on in the Speech Understander project?

Since the beginning of the year, test measurements have been carried out at the speech intelligibility threshold in the ENT clinic of the University Hospital and changes have been tested with test subjects in the hearing booth on site. Our demo tool will also be tested in this context. With this "Speech Understanding Toolkit", we can generate speech samples as implemented in the project.

At our last project meeting (25.07.2023), we had the chance to experience the tests that are normally carried out with the test subjects in the university clinic first-hand. During these tests, you can really see the advanced measurement technology and the developed technology, which we can otherwise only listen to in the Speech Understanding Toolkit, in action. This was particularly interesting for us to see and experience, as we at Aristech are primarily concerned with the technical implementation and otherwise have little contact with the clinical part of the study and the tests on test subjects.

We are delighted to have gained this insight, which clearly shows how the technology being developed as part of the Sprachversteher project can really help people in the future.

What will happen in the future in the Sprachversteher project?

There is now in fact already a demo app that will be used in future studies. The upcoming studies will then test which settings of the modification options the test subjects choose for themselves in order to achieve the greatest benefit for speech intelligibility.

We are looking forward to the next round of idea development in creative collaboration in the form of a face-to-face meeting.

For more information on the research project project page

Our project manager and developer in the listening booth, where she was able to experience testing at the speech intelligibility threshold for herself.

The project team after the short bike ride from the Aristech office buildings to the clinic.

Published on 8/10/2023

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