Better hearing aid, quieter MRI and more acoustic innovations

This week's meeting of the Acoustical Society of America provides a sneak peek at some sound-related innovations that could have implications for the public.
Written by Christina Hernandez Sherwood, Contributing Writer

Today marks the start of the 159th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which is convening along with Noise-Con 2010. While the conference is meant for society members to share their work, it also provides a sneak peek at some sound-related innovations that could have implications for the broader public.

We can't all make it to the five-day event in Baltimore, but dozens of "lay-language" papers -- selected from the 1,340 to be presented at the meeting -- are available online. Here are a few worth noting:

Building a better hearing aid

"Most hearing aids are designed to amplify weak sounds, so as to make them audible, while not amplifying strong sounds. We have used the 'Cambridge' loudness model to develop methods for the initial fitting of hearing aids, in other words to develop prescription formulae. The methods have been evaluated in a series of clinical trials, and have been shown to give good results, requiring only a small amount of fine tuning after the initial fitting."

Quieting MRI scanners

"The generated high sound pressure levels [of an MRI scanner] can be annoying and potentially unsafe to patients and healthcare workers, especially during lengthy procedures. Active noise control offers an alternative solution to this problem by introducing an anti-phase acoustic wave to create a zone of destructive interference at a particular area in space. The result shows that an overall reduction of almost 20 dB [decibels] can be achieved."

Producing "synthetic speech" from facial movements

"New approaches suggest the possibility of artificially producing speech based on measuring facial movements with either attached facial probes or ultrasound... In noisy places, their facial motions could be measured, and the corresponding artificial speech could be played on noise-canceling headphones or on speakers in a different, quieter location. In places where a person does not want to be heard, these techniques could allow "silent" speech where words are only mouthed."

The online list of lay-language papers will be available throughout the week.

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