Q: I have a new hearing aid, and I love it. It's digital, has background noise suppression and a directional mike. I can join in an animated conversation with several friends in a busy restaurant. But last week I almost missed a flight because I didn't hear an announcement about a gate change. I couldn't understand anything coming over the public address system. Can't they clean up their end of the noise problem?
CLAIR B., SEATTLE
A: We fly a lot, and we know exactly what you're talking about.
Fortunately, an international team of researchers is addressing that specific problem using something called synthetic speech. They've created a computer program that can enhance the parts of speech that are most easily heard and understood, especially in noisy situations. And the software manipulates the sounds so that they can be more easily deciphered even at lower decibels. The whole environment becomes quieter and yet everyone can hear what's being said more clearly.
That's a lot like what happens with the new technology in your hearing aid. The old hearing aids simply amplified sound. Now the sound is digitally processed and the hearing aid can block out background noise. You might say synthetic speech creates a hearing aid for the general public. And synthetic speech applications range far beyond PA announcements in airports, train stations and sporting venues; they include smartphone conversations and advanced military communications.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.