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Engineers improve TV sound for hard of hearing

Wednesday 4 July 2018

TV technology is increasingly focused on picture quality, but what about sound quality?

Engineers at the University of Salford want to improve the sound of our favourite programmes – particularly for thousands of people with hearing loss.

Even people with slight hearing loss often struggle to understand dialogue when it is drowned out by noises and sound effects, with some contemporary series – notably SS GB and Taboo - criticised over their audio.

Now, people with hearing loss are being invited to Salford University’s world-renowned acoustic laboratories as part of the Festival of Research to help shape the next generation of television audio and share their experiences.

Quietest place on Earth

The volunteers will get a tour of the laboratories, which include the Anechoic Chamber - one of the quietest places on earth  – tryout some new technology and undergo some specially designed listening tests.

PhD researcher Lauren Ward explained: “Every experience of hearing loss is different and making television better is not as simple as just making television sound louder.

“One of the solutions we’ve been working on is personalised audio – a type of system which allows the user to control the sound levels of different elements of a ‘soundtrack’ – speech, music, background sound etc.

“Because there’s such variety, we want to learn about the experiences of as many different people as possible. The data will help us create a better product for individuals with hearing loss.”

More enjoyable 

Volunteer Doug Edworthy said: "When people’s hearing deteriorates– particularly with age – it gets progressively harder to understand speech in the presence of other sounds.

At a previous test at Salford, Doug had to listen to soundtracks where individual words were accompanied by sounds.

“It appears some sounds help prepare the brain to interpret the speech correctly,” he explained. “If the right sounds can be incorporated into soundtracks, then people who are hard of hearing will understand and enjoy the programme better.”

Volunteering takes place on July 13 & 14 and visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the research going on at Salford and receive lunch and travel costs, courtesy of funding from the Institute of Acoustics.

If you’d like to volunteer for the study, sign up here

Find out more

Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

0161 295 6895