Natural selection, or On how to hear

  • Aug 17, 2017

At the beginning of this century, one of top managers of an American company was giving a speech at an IT summit and said: “You should be proud! There are three things uniting the world: music, sport, and IT”. At the time these words inspired and made us proud – we were taking part in connecting the world speaking different languages, connecting the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak… Now, many years on, after so many changes, when mobile devices have replaced personal computers, all of us, even the ones not working in IT companies, are changing the world. How? Here’s an example. Almost all of us, owners of mobile devices, use programs and applications, thus acting as testers and “screeners” of new ideas and formats appearing in application stores and inside mobile devices. Through our hands the world brings downloads to successful applications and throws inconvenient and unnecessary ones away. This is why it is especially pleasant today to tell you about the solutions that were downloaded and thus voted for by over half a million of people worldwide.

Hearing aid?

As in the beginning of the century, everyone in the world can kick the ball and listen to music… Or not? According to World Health Organization’s data as of 2013, there are about 360 mln people worldwide with moderate or severe hearing difficulties and their number will have increased by 30% by 2020. Sounds scary. Many people do not use special devices (hearing aid) either on medical indications or because they are ashamed to. This makes their lives really difficult, prevents from normal communication and living one’s life to the full. Some people, mostly young ones, are ashamed to use hearing aids, while seniors, who mostly often suffer from hearing problems, sometimes just cannot afford them – modern devices are quite expensive. A lot of old or disabled people (having hearing disorders) find it difficult to talk on the phone if they cannot hear their interlocutor well enough. How can the application help? It’s simple: today a smartphone is a powerful computer with enough calculating resources to process an audio signal. Sound is air vibration of certain frequency. When a sound signal is transmitted within electronic devices, it is converted into electric vibration, which can be processed using software. These are the technologies of sound processing that IT4YOU, Russia and Belarus-based company, is successfully working on. One of the company’s solutions replacing hearing aid for a mobile device user was designed using the algorithms of audio signal transformation in accordance with individual characteristics of user’s hearing. The solution is called «Petralex Hearing Aid». Hearing aids are usually designed as special devices with the only function – hearing disorder correction. Such devices need to be maintained and adjusted. Different algorithms in the form of a fixed set of settings selected with account of individual characteristics of user’s hearing are used to process the sound. Also, hearing aids cost a lot. The application we are talking about will automatically adjust individual parameters of amplification, compression and filtration with account of certain conditions of acoustic environment using the built-in hearing testing system. What’s more, it’s free!

What can Petralex Hearing Aid do:

  • Petralex user has no psychological discomfort due to using a hearing aid – a smartphone with a headset attracts no unnecessary attention.
  • The application allows creating acoustic profiles for any sound environment (subway, concert, office, etc.).
  • The application for hearing correction is fully based on scientific methods and calculating principles of hearing loss compensation.

Characterized by

  • low algorithmic delay of signal processing (< 6 msec);
  • binaural frequency-dependent amplification in accordance with existing specifications (gain prescription formulas) NAL, Berger, POGO;
  • use of patented technology Petralex hearing improvement;
  • recruitment correction (recruitment, volume rise);
  • suppression of acoustic feedback effect;
  • built-in noise suppression algorithm;
  • extended hearing test to form the audiometry including not only hearing thresholds in silence but measurement of equal loudness contour for loud sounds;
  • possibility to be used together with Ambient noise suppression technology (reducing the effect of noise masking through frequency-dependent amplification of useful signal in communications channel. The technology allows to have a communication session being in complicated noise environment).

Some technological facts:

  • High sound quality with discretization frequency of 44,1 kHz.
  • Analysis, filtration and amplification algorithms are optimized so that the application can function in the background.
  • Full acoustic enhancement up to 30 dB with a standard headset.
  • Calculated minimal delay of signal processing: 6,3–15,7 msec depending on the device model;
  • Minimum demand of phone battery power: over 24 hours without charging with the application in the background.

About other useful applications:

It is not the only product by IT4YOU, but first of all we should mention Petralex because a team of mathematicians, developers, speech specialists and experts creates a great and necessary solution and is engaged in the full development cycle – from scientific research to software implementation. Sound and speech processing technologies created in this company allow to design completely new products used in various areas – from the main product of this article, Petralex, to super-karaoke, using which anyone can sound like a star. Amazing designs of this small and not very well-known team will probably become famous in the future. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ve found out that a lot of my friends had already downloaded Petralex from an application store for themselves or their parents. They had already voted and taken part in natural selection.

IT-Expert № 06/2017