Hallucinations and hearing aids

It’s been way too long since the last post. Thought I would share a couple of interesting applications of 3D audio

A scientific article I stumbled upon scanned subject’s brains using fMRI whilst they listened to voices being played over headphones. The voices were either played in stereo (inside the head) or using 3D audio (outside the head). The aim was to find the neural substrate for the perception of voices outside the head (in what we might call external auditory space) in an effort to better understand auditory hallucinations of that type. You can find the article for free here . Very interesting.

One other large emerging application of 3D audio that you might not be aware of is for hearing aids. People who require hearing aids at the moment have sounds simply amplified and they are unable to know the direction of where the sounds came from. This makes situations such as a dinner party almost impossible. Normal listeners at a dinner party are able to follow one conversation and ignore the other voices due largely to the fact that the brain knows where the sounds are coming from (this is the so-called Cocktail Phenomenon ). Once this ability is lost, as with a hearing aid, all the voices are mashed together and it is impossible to follow a conversation. A hearing aid with 3D audio amplifies the sounds around the listener and at the same time provides a sense of where the sounds are coming from.

Have a listen to this demo (USING HEADPHONES ONLY) to see what it is like have a hearing aid with and without 3D audio. The demo starts without 3D audio and then 30 seconds in it switches to 3D audio, you will hear it don’t worry (think of what it’s like to have hallucinations of people talking while you listen). Focus on trying to understand the different talkers. Again, you must use headphones:

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