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Fraunhofer Audio Experts offer Relaxed Phone Conversation

Disturbing ambient noise can thoroughly complicate a phone conversation, especially if hearing is impaired. Scientists of the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT have a solution:

They developed "HearingSupport4Telecommunication", a new technology improving not only the speech quality for people without or with little hearing impairment. It also allows the hearing impaired unlimited communication on the phone or the Internet without any hearing aids.

The solution developed by the Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology project group of Fraunhofer IDMT adapts the speech signal to a convenient level, independent from the real phone connection. In addition, a speech support function can be switched on to increase the listening comfort for people with no or little hearing impairment.

User studies indicate that hearing impaired people can talk on the phone without any hearing aid, thus being able to communicate without limitations. This technology is integrated directly into communication paths like phone networks, conference or telephone systems. HearingSupport4Telecommunication works with existing devices, so there is no need to buy new equipment.

Various preset hearing profiles allowing optimal intelligibility can be selected by the user according to individual preferences. This way, every phone call is adapted to the hearing and the perceived quality is clearly improved through a constantly better understandable sound impression.

"With our presets, we can cover up to 85 percent of all typical hearing impairments. The system adapts quickly and easily to the user and improves hearing and speech quality significantly", explains project manager Dr. Thomas Rohdenburg the benefits of the new technology.

For HearingSupport4Telecommunication, the Oldenburg scientists have adapted innovative signal processing strategies that previously have been used in hearing aids only. This way, frequency bands with low sound level are amplified while frequency bands with high sound level are not amplified. Loudness adaption and speech enhancement are carried out by efficient multiband dynamic compression. In addition, psychoacoustic models are used to optimally adjust the level of noise reduction to the current signal.

Fraunhofer IDMT presents HearingSupport4Telecommunication at the International Trade Fair for broadcasting and television, IBC, in Amsterdam from September 9 to 13, 2011. Visit us at the Fraunhofer booth in hall 8, stand B 80.

Stefanie Theiß | Fraunhofer-Institut
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