During the covid-19 pandemic we have been reaching out to project partners, to ask how their lives and research has been affected. In this post, Marie Currie Fellow Carol Chermaz (University of Edinburgh) shares her current work on listening tests and intelligibility. Carol presented her research as part of our public event Deaf Gain: Exploring Sound, Technology and Hearing Diversity, Points of Listening, UAL, 2019. Documentation from the event can be accessed here.
The lockdown has affected me in different ways. The first thing is that I was forced to stop conducting listening tests. I can run them online, but they are not as ecologically valid as those I could run in the sound booths. In the online scenario everyone listens with their own equipment and I have no way of assessing their hearing profile. I just have to take their word for it. Moreover, the online tests can be done with normal hearing (as per the medical definition) listeners, but I cannot run any tests with hearing aid users. You need specific equipment to do that, and it is necessary to assess their hearing profile. Also, hearing impaired listeners typically belong to “at risk” categories (from a Covid-19 point of view), so it is likely that I will not have access to participants for a very long time. The last part of my project, which is ending this September, was supposed to be based on a series of tests with such participants. This is not happening anymore and I will have to figure out an alternative.
What I am listening for now is not just intelligibility but also the pleasantness of sound. By this I mean that speech has to sound natural and require no effort to be processed. I have recently developed an algorithm that seems to work very well. It enhances intelligibility a lot while making speech sound even better than the original recording, possibly. You can check it out on my website. I have also spent time making a video for ICASSP 2020, which took place online in May. The video was a talk and demo of my algorithm; you can access it (for free, but registration is required) on the virtual conference platform (until June 8th) here.
At least I am stranded in what I consider to be the most beautiful place in the world, Edinburgh. I keep sane by going for long walks and cycling trips each day.
Image by Carol Chermaz