Today's hearing aids are one of the most sophisticated technologies commercially available to the individual. Not only do they allow people to hear what is around them, but they help with a sense of location, direction, and balance. Still when it comes to hearing, there is much scientist can learn from insects.
Hearing aids have advanced remarkably in the last few decades. They have the ability to filter unwanted sounds, learn a user's preference, and analyze the sounds in a room to adjust to individual preference. And yet for all of these advances there is still room for improvement. Current hearing aids allow users to quickly determine if the source of a sound is in front or behind them, but unlike our natural hearing there is still a lag when it comes to sounds that are above or below. Determining the direction of these sounds may not seem like such a big deal, but it allows those with hearing loss to better orient themselves. That's where the scientist at the Hearing Research (IHR) -- Scottish Section at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary come into play.
According to an article on Science Daily researchers in Glasgow are exploring the way certain insects hear in order to create a microphone capable of picking up sounds in any direction. Not only would this technology advance the ability of people with hearing loss to tell where a sound is coming from, but it has the potential of making hearing aids lighter.
Today's directional microphones require greater power that tends to make them heavier. But the technology being researched could decrease that size. Researchers are investigating how something as small as a Ormia ochracea fly can hear a cricket some distance away. According to researchers, "We will be able to evaluate the problems caused by the distance from which a sound emanates, for example how to separate a sound from a loud source far away, like a train or plane, from a quiet sound from nearby, like a human voice.
"The project will also investigate 3D printing techniques to optimise the hearing aid design so that it works best acoustically in conjunction with the new microphone."
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University of Strathclyde. "Insects inspire next generation of hearing aids." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150420084749.htm (accessed June 9, 2015).