AES Section Meeting Reports

Toronto - January 28, 2020

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Tonight's event brought the audience up-to-date on the state of design and application of hearing aid technology.

Anthony welcomed our first speaker Steve Armstrong and gave a bit of his background: Steve obtained his degree in Electrical Engineering from McMaster University. His professional endeavors include chip design and R&D; and today, through his own company, works with both industry and research organizations in the development of Hearing Aids, IEMs, and anything involving 'ear level audio'.

Steve began by discussing the genesis of tonight's event and then, with the aid of slides, gave a detailed and thorough walkthrough of Ear physiology and how it all works. He likened the ear's anatomy to audio engineering terms: the ear drum as the microphone; the outer hair cells as Nature's preamp; and the inner hair cells as Nature's A to D convertor. He went on to discuss test measurements and segued into hearing aid design and construction, again in great and very engaging detail, covering topics such as: wide dynamic range compression, microphone arrays, occlusion energy and noise reduction algorithms.

One fascinating portion of the presentation were the slides of electron microscopes scans of inside the ear; as well as views of IC chips.

In summarizing Steve said: Nature is absolutely amazing. Hearing aids can help but aren't a perfect replacement; the best hearing aid outcomes involve doing Real Ear probe mic measurements.

At this point in the evening there was a break providing an opportunity for networking and socializing.

Before introducing the next speaker, Anthony discussed AES membership and liaisons with recording schools to aid in growing membership.

He then introduced Larrisa Taylor. Larissa is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McMaster University. Her Masters and PhD work have combined a background in Electrical and Biomedical Engineering and a passion for music. Her current projects include developing more realistic techniques for testing the performance of hearing aids for speech perception in a noisy environment, and developing processing and assistive listening system setups to improve hearing aid sound quality for live music performances.

Her presentation was entitled: "Improving Audience Experiences for People with Hearing Aids at Live Music Concerts". Larissa is a motivated researcher, being a musician and wearing hearing aids herself.

With the aid of slides Larissa went over many topics including how hearing aids effect the perception of music. The bulk of her presentation discussed various assistive listening devices, and how they were used in her most recent research project conducted with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in conjunction with McMaster's LIVElab. The experiments were conducted live during the season finale performance of Gustav Mahler's 5th Symphony.

Setup and layout procedures were documented as well test results. A significant portion included detailed user feedback for the various assistive devices employed in the tests. A device called the telecoil loop fared particularly well and will have an increased focus in upcoming research projects along with other assistive listening devices. All data in this and ongoing projects will be used to optimize hearing aid processing.

After Larissa's presentation, Anthony moderated an energetic Q&A session with both Larissa and Steve.

Anthony thanked committee member Raphael Capon for spearheading this event. Larissa and Steve were both given a Toronto Section AES coffee mug (with Certificates of Appreciation to be mailed at a later date)!

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AES - Audio Engineering Society