Awards for hearing inventions
Audiology is a complex field, drawing together knowledge of physics, engineering, applied mathematics, physiology, psychology and anatomy to address hearing and communication issues faced by millions of people around the world.
Now, research from the HEARing CRC has been recognised with two national innovation awards.
‘Soundshield’, a device that protects call centre workers from acoustic shock injury, has won the Commonwealth Co-operative Research Centre Program’s 2012 STAR Award for its successful collaboration with a small to medium business.
And a mathematical formula that gives hearing health professionals the ability to better match a hearing aid’s ability to the listening needs of the wearer has earned the Co-operative Research Centre Association’s Inaugural Collaboration Award.
‘Soundshield’ was developed in collaboration with Polaris Communications, an Australian company that supplies telecommunications products internationally, to protect telephone operators in call centres (many of these serving emergency services), around the world from hearing injury.
HEARing CRC engineers based at the National Acoustic Laboratories worked closely with Polaris to assist the integration of their shriek rejection algorithm into the commercial Soundshield platform, enabling them to manufacture the device locally and supply it to Australian and overseas markets.
“Our sound technical expertise combined with Polaris’ engineering skills enabled the production of the world’s first commercially viable acoustic shock protection device, creating manufacturing jobs in Australia and having export potential,” says CEO of the HEARing CRC, Associate Professor Robert Cowan.
Associate Professor Cowan says acoustic shock injury can result from exposure to loud electronic signals arising in telecommunications equipment. “This can result in painful ears, hearing loss, vertigo, and even anxiety and depression, and is a real occupational health and safety risk for those who spend most of their working days answering telephone calls.”
The device is now used in about 120,000 calls centres around the world.
For those who already have hearing loss, the incorrect fitting of a hearing aid can result in less than favorable listening experiences. Moreover, poorly configured hearing aid prescriptions distort signals and create unacceptably loud sounds – decreasing their communication benefits.
A mathematical formula developed by HEARing CRC with one of its core members the National Acoustics Laboratories is now being included in hearing aid fitting software. The result is enhanced speech intelligibility and improved loudness in a variety of different listening situations.
The formula, known as NAL-NL2, delivers highly effective hearing aid ‘prescriptions’ and has already been incorporated into the majority of the world’s hearing aid fitting software.
“We have seen the NAL-NL2 protocol become one of two international ‘fitting’ standards in audiology clinics since its release in 2010,” says Associate Professor Cowan.
According to a 2005 World Health Organisation study, there are millions of hearing aid users (roughly 28 million people worldwide), each requiring a unique pattern of sound manipulation to be ‘prescribed’ for their hearing loss.