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Thursday, December 15, 2016, 21:41

Low-cost, high-tech hearing aid to hit HK market


A Hong Kong-developed hearing aid, which can distinguish target sound signals from all that are received, will hit the market next year.

The new device is expected to largely improve the quality of life for hearing-impaired people.

The new findings will also be applied to improving the quality of mobile communication, speech recognition, walkie-talkies

As most existing hearing aids are designed to amplify all audio signals, the new technology has successfully separated the target sound signal and background noise, which will enhance the clarity of the sounds received by users, according to Richard So Hau-yue, professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and co-researcher of the project.

He spent four years working with his student Zhang Jiangang on developing the intelligent audio separation system, which embedded a "groundbreaking technology", according to So. The system enables people to separate the sound in the ambience into different channels, and people can make their own choice on which channel they want to listen to, So said.

The new findings will also be applied to improving the quality of mobile communication, speech recognition, walkie-talkies, and so on. The pair is already in contact with relevant partners for future development.

To lower the cost and make the new device more accessible for ordinary people, the pair decided to promote and sell the devices on social media platforms. They said they have noticed the younger generation forms a large group of customers who buy hearing aids for the elders in their family.

On their self-developed app, customers can test the degree of hearing impairment and buy the product, So said. By doing so, the price can be cut by 90 percent so that a pair of the device will cost HK$80, according to So. They hope more people can benefit from this new technology.

Enlightened by a rough idea four years ago, So faced a number of failures in tests until Zhang, an audio-engineering-majored “audiophile”, worked out the prototype two years ago.

The device still needs approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, which will take six to nine months, according to So.

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