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The ‘cocktail party effect‘ describes the ability of normal-hearing people to focus on a particular speaker and suppress other sounds. Many people with hearing impairments lack this ability, or it is no longer working adequately. Modern hearing aids are good at separating useful sounds from background noise. However, in cocktail party situations they don’t know which is the useful sound because information is missing about which speaker the hearing aid should follow. A project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), ‘mEEGaHStim - a mobile EEG-based brain stimulation for improving hearing‘, is working on a remedy.

The aim of the project, which started on 1st April, is to develop a system which improves speech comprehension in complex situations for hearing impaired individuals and automatically picks out the signal of the source which the user is attending to. This will be achieved using a combination of electroencephalography (EEG), audio signal processing and electrical stimulation of the hearing centre in the brain. The entire system is a hearing aid that feeds back information from the EEG signal to the system using a brain computer interface, enabling modifications to the hearing process. In doing so, there is direct interaction with the user. Hearing is significantly improved for the hearing aid wearer or cochlear implant patient and enables better social participation and rehabilitation.

By measuring neurophysiological signals and stimulating the auditory cortex simultaneously, in real time, an interactive brain-computer interface with neurofeedback loop is developed, providing an innovative solution for the ‘cocktail party effect‘, a long-time issue in hearing research.

Funding

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Project partners

  • neuroConn GmbH, Ilmenau (Verbundkoordinator)
  • Advanced Bionics GmbH, Hannover
  • Universität Oldenburg
  • HörTech gGmbH, Oldenburg
  • Universität Siegen
  • Fraunhofer IDMT, Oldenburg

Project duration

April 2017 bis April 2020