Scientists have created a hearing aid which relies on the user's own brain waves to tune into specific people and things, drowning out background noise.
The device, developed at Columbia University in New York, uses speech-separation algorithms with neural networks, complex mathematical models that imitate the brain's natural abilities.
The system first separates out the voices of individual speakers from a group, then compares the voices of each speaker to the brain waves of the person listening.
Whichever voice pattern most closely matches the listener's brain waves will then be amplified over the rest.
It is still in the early stages of development, but experts say the technology is a huge step for people hard of hearing to better communicate with the people around them.
The device developed at Columbia University in New York attempts to overcome the 'cocktail party problem', when voices mix together and become a mass of noise
'The brain area that processes sound is extraordinarily sensitive and powerful; it can amplify one voice over others, seemingly effortlessly, while today's hearings aids still pale in comparison,' said Nima Mesgarani, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the paper's senior author.
'By creating a device that harnesses the power of the brain itself, we hope our work will lead to technological improvements that enable the hundreds of millions of hearing-impaired people worldwide to communicate just as easily as their friends and family do.'
Modern hearing aids amplify speech and suppress background noise like traffic.
But that's as precise as they get.
They cannot boost the volume of an individual voice over