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Think about your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. You probably know someone with hearing loss—an elderly grandparent or a veteran who served our country—and you probably know how hearing loss can impact one’s ability to communicate. According to the Committee on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults,1 there are 30 million Americans over 12 that have hearing loss, and hearing loss worsens as we age. Many with hearing loss do not seek or receive hearing health care because of cost, availability of services, stigma, lack of realization that they have hearing loss, and belief that nothing can help them.
While some hearable technologies (i.e. hearing aids and assistive listening devices) can enhance hearing for many individuals, there are situations where these technologies do not perform optimally. One particularly challenging situation for people with hearing impairment is understanding conversation in a noisy environment such as a restaurant. Inability to hear clearly because of background noise and intermittent peaks in noise makes following a conversation difficult. Amplification of speech sounds will also amplify the background noise.
The National Science Foundation seeks to alert research communities that this problem is an opportunity. The goal of this challenge is to develop algorithms or methods that could improve hearing in a noisy setting.