Sennheiser and Fraunhofer present hearing support via mobile applications for cultural events
Oldenburg/Hamburg. Attending a public event, such as a theater performance, movie show, or oral presentation, can be severely compromised if an individual has difficulties in understanding speech. »MobileConnect« and »CinemaConnect« are two apps made by Sennheiser which allow attendees to enjoy the live sound of a public event over WLAN streaming using their smartphones. The two apps now feature a new function, named »Personal Hearing«, which allows users not only to change the volume level of the audio signal they receive, but also to optimize speech intelligibility and sound quality according to their individual hearing requirements. The signal processing technology was developed by the Oldenburg-based Project Group for Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology of Fraunhofer IDMT.
Both »MobileConnect« and »CinemaConnect« are intended to be used mainly by hearing impaired people who do not wear a hearing aid. The number of affected people is vast: According to studies, one out of every six people in Germany is hard-of-hearing. Of these, not even 25 percent use a hearing aid.
For users to adjust the audio signal themselves and without making a hearing test, the Fraunhofer IDMT researchers have developed an intuitive user interface. Settings can be changed easily by sliding a finger across the touch screen until the desired sound quality is reached. Readjusting the settings during the event is no problem.
To develop the hearing support technology, the Fraunhofer IDMT experts have reduced complex signal processing strategies as commonly used by hearing aid devices to a limited number of characteristic default settings. Using these default settings, a large number of widely known hearing impairments according to ISO 7029 (statistical distribution of hearing thresholds related to age and gender) can be compensated.
»In cooperation with Hörzentrum Oldenburg, we conducted comprehensive usability tests on our signal processing strategies for hearing support. The tests revealed that subjects suffering from a slight or medium hearing loss perceived a substantial improvement in speech intelligibility and sound quality after the sound had been processed by our technology«, says Dr. Jan Rennies of Fraunhofer IDMT.
Individuals wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants may also use the free of charge Sennheiser apps to connect the live sound of a public event directly to their hearing device via smartphone. Regarding movie shows, »MobileConnect« and »CinemaConnect« can also be used for streaming different language versions onto the user’s smartphone, while visually impaired people may use the apps for taking advantage of the audio description track. The streaming hardware is distributed to movie theater operators and public event managers by Sennheiser Streaming Technologies GmbH, a subsidiary of Sennheiser electronics GmbH & Co. KG. Users can go to the “Culture Inclusive” culture portal (www.culture-inclusive.com) to find out which cinemas and theaters offer the technology.
»In developing further MobileConnect and CinemaConnect, Sennheiser intends to simplify technology used by people with impaired hearing, so that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a cultural event in all its dimensions. Building on this technology, we will develop more streaming technology solutions for specific applications, such as conference settings, for example«, says Jörn Erkau, the managing director of Sennheiser Streaming Technologies.
The Sennheiser Group based in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, was founded in 1945 and has gone on to become a leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Sales in 2013 totaled 590.4 million euros. Sennheiser employs more than 2,500 staff worldwide and operates plants in Germany, Ireland and the USA. The company has a worldwide network of subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark (Nordic), Russia, Hongkong, India, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and the USA. It also has long-established trading partners in other countries. Georg Neumann GmbH, Berlin, a maker of studio microphones and monitor speakers, and Sennheiser Communications A/S, a joint venture making headsets for PCs, offices and call centers, are also part of the Sennheiser Group.
About the Project Group Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology of the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT
The goal of the Project Group for Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology of the Fraunhofer IDMT is to implement scientific findings on auditory perception of normal and impaired hearing in technological applications. Scientists carry out applied research and development on behalf of industrial companies and public institutions in the fields of telecommunications, multimedia, health and care services, building technology, transport, industrial production and security. The project group was established in Oldenburg in 2008 as a branch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT. Through scientific cooperations, it has close links with the hearing research facilities in Oldenburg and is also partner in the cluster of excellence »Hearing4all«. www.idmt.fraunhofer.de/hsa