Professor Ray Meddis explains BioAid, a revolutionary new type of hearing aid

27 March 2013

Professor Ray Meddis, Department of Psychology, talks about BioAid – a free mobile app that turns an iPhone into a revolutionary new type of biologically-inspired hearing aid.

Watch the video on our Vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/62769788 A transcript of the video is available below:

“We’ve been doing research in hearing for a very long time and we wanted to try and use these ideas to help somebody at the end. BioAid is a hearing aid on a mobile phone or on a music player. We wanted to produce a completely different kind of hearing aid and it was very difficult to do that using an industrial type of hearing aid that you might get from the NHS.

“Well there are two problems that you’ll experience when your hearing goes if it hasn’t already gone and that is that you miss little quiet sounds. So making these critical sounds louder is one of the main functions of a hearing aid. The second issue which is not addressed by most hearing aids is the fact that people with a hearing impairment are often very sensitive to loud sounds and one of the features of BioAid is that it not only makes quiet sounds louder but it also makes very loud sounds quieter so it makes the whole listening experience more comfortable.

“Two kinds of people who are affected by hearing loss. My hearing is going and my wife is affected because she thinks she’s told me something but I’ve heard something quite different but also the individual misses out themselves because they are not hearing everything, they are watching a drama on the TV, they miss some critical thing which has been said. And also if you are sensitive to very loud sounds, you certainly could never go to a disco or children’s’ party or even a noisy restaurant without experiencing a lot of unpleasantness and for that reason people often find it easier just to stay home and that’s very sad.

“A lot of people don’t get on with their hearing aids at all. It doesn’t sound right, doesn’t provide enough benefit, it’s irritating; it’s difficult to change the batteries, so in the end they find it easier just not to wear them.

“The first real advantage to the hearing aid on the phone is it’s completely free. So a lot of people may hesitate about going along to have a hearing test because they know that they may be talked into spending thousands, maybe a number of thousands of pounds.

“There are about twenty different settings. There are six main settings and variations on each one and from our own work in the laboratory we found that these cover most of the different types of hearing impairment. We normally find that people are very quick to find the one that they like.

“There are lots of ways in which BioAid can make a contribution to the future. One of them comes from the fact that a lot of people do not have access to good health care so they will never in their lifetime be able to afford a hearing aid or have access to a hearing test and that would open to the whole world the possibility of having or at least trying out a hearing aid without having to find their way to a major city and have a hearing test or come up with a great deal of money.

“The other thing is that to develop a new hearing aid is a very expensive operation and for that reason it is only attempted by large multi national corporations. But a hearing aid on an Iphone is a much cheaper proposition so in terms of the rapid development of hearing aids in the future, we think the mobile platforms offer a very important avenue.

“It is very important for us to, for as many people as possible to try the app and give us feedback. This is after all a research project and it’s only through feedback from such people that we can produce a better product for the future.”

Find out more about BioAid, and help us develop the technology further, at: http://bioaid.org.uk/

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