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Hearing aid signal not clear? Then switch frequency to FM, finds UCI study

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 25, 2005 -- There's a reason why we listen to music on the FM dial of our radios it just sounds better than it does on AM.

And this reason also holds true for cochlear implants and hearing aids. UC Irvine School of Medicine researchers have found that improving frequency modulation, or FM, reception on cochlear implants and hearing aids may increase the quality of life for the millions of Americans who use these devices.

Dr. Fan-Gang Zeng and his colleagues at UCI and the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing discovered that enhancing the detection of frequency modulation may significantly boost the performance of many hearing aids and automatic speech recognition devices by separating and blocking out background noise and increasing tonal recognition, which is essential to hearing music and certain spoken languages. Study results appear this week in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some 30 million Americans have some form of hearing loss, and some 4 million of these people benefit from using hearing aids or cochlear implants. But limitation on sound quality and overamplification of background sound can hinder their uses.

"Many hearing-aid particularly cochlear-implant users have trouble enjoying music or listening to conversation in a crowded room," said Zeng, research director of the Hearing and Speech Lab at UCI. "But we've found that FM modifications to both existing and future devices may overcome these difficulties."

Known as a leading expert in cochlear-implant research, Zeng and his colleagues looked into the reasons behind these limitations, specifically focusing on the two parameters of sound: amplitude (the height of a sound wave) and the frequency (the number of sound waves per unit of time).

Thirty-four normal-hearing and 18 cochlear-implant subjects participated in the study. They were tested on three speech-perception tasks
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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
25-Jan-2005


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