Hearing aid research gets federal boost

A four-year, $6.5 million award from the National Institutes of Health to support the biomimetic acoustic sensor research of Professor Ron Miles is expected to lead to a revolution in hearing aid technology within the next four years.

President Lois B. DeFleur noted that the award builds on the University's momentum by bringing new support and attention to a critical area of research expertise.

"This major grant, as well as the recently announced $1.1 federal earmark and developing partnerships with industry, give us a solid foundation for the development of major research initiatives in small-scale systems," DeFleur said.

The University was notified last week of the award, which comes specifically from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The largest single research grant in the University's history, the award will support a project titled "Sensing and Processing for Directional Hearing Aids."

Miles' aim is to dramatically improve the ability of the hearing-impaired to understand speech in noisy environments. The work could help more than 28 million Americans who already suffer from or face imminent hearing loss. That significant demographic is likely to become even larger as aging Baby Boomers move into their senior years.

"Our focus is to improve the technology of acoustic sensing and signal processing so that we can minimize the influence of unwanted sounds," Miles said. "Research shows that hearing in noisy environments remains the number one unsolved problem faced by hearing aid wearers."

Miles is one of many Binghamton University faculty members pursuing small-scale systems research. His work, which is based on discoveries about the directional hearing capabilities of a small parasitoid fly, Ormia ochracea, holds promise in any number of civilian and military applications where microphones and acoustic sensing systems are or could be employed.

Miles, a mechanical engine

Contact: Susan E. Barker, Director of Communications
Binghamton University

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