The University of Strathclyde, the MRC/CSO Institute for Hearing Research (IHR) and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, have conducted a research to test a new design using a miniature directional microphone, which is similar to the ear of an insect.

An insect-inspired microphone that can tackle the problem of locating sounds and reduce background noise will be used to develop modern-day hearing aid systems.

Strathclyde Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering Dr James Windmilll said: "Our research aims to create a hearing aid system that can reduce or control unwanted noises, focusing the hearing aid on only the sound arriving from in front of the user.

"Currently, users can tell whether a sound source is in front or behind, but struggle to detect sounds from below or above, such as echoes in a large room.

"An insect-inspired microphone that can tackle the problem of locating sounds and reduce background noise will be used to develop modern-day hearing aid systems."

"We aim to solve the problem using a new type of miniature directional microphone, inspired by how some insects hear sounds."

Though hearing aid design and sound analysis have advanced over the years, the microphone technology has remained unchanged.

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Existing directional microphone technology adds cost, weight and power requirements to hearing aids, compromising their design. This collaborative research is set to offer an alternative design approach.

Dr Windmill said: "We will be able to evaluate the problems caused by the distance from which a sound emanates, for example how to separate a sound from a loud source far away, like a train or plane, from a quiet sound from nearby, like a human voice.

"The project will also investigate 3D printing techniques to optimise the hearing aid design so that it works best acoustically in conjunction with the new microphone."

As part of the collaboration, Strathclyde will design, build and test new microphones and hearing aid structures, while IHR will test their operation as hearing aids, including human trials of the new designs.

The research is being funded by a £430,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.