The first digital hearing aid

What attracted me to this area of research was that at my school there was a deaf girl who had old analog hearing aids. When I asked her about the hearing loss, she told me what a burden it was for her. I already knew then and there that I wanted to make a difference for people with this type of disability.

I began to study engineering, so that one day I would be able to make a digital hearing aid. I studied at Linköping University and fortunately I met Professor Stig Arlinger there, as well as a study colleague of mine, Johan Hellgren. Together we developed the first digital hearing aid, DigiFocus.

Cognitive hearing science

I have been involved in the construction of the new research field of cognitive hearing science in collaboration with researchers from Linköping University and Toronto University. I am currently a part-time Professor of Cognitive Hearing Science in Linköping. In an early project, I showed a strong link between working memory and speech in noise for the hearing impaired. A result that many scientists now have replicated.

Lately, I have worked to develop cognitive assessment methods for signal processing hearing aids. We have for example shown that a reduction of disturbing noise can improve memory accessibility, and in collaboration within the EU-funded project LISTEN, with VUmc Amsterdam, we have verified pupillometry, as an objective way to document the effort when listening, and that hearing aids may reduce the effort.

Future hearing aids

In another major EU-funded project called COCOHA (COgnitively COntrolled Hearing Aid), cognitive control of a hearing aid. In this project, we use electroencephalography–electrodes  (EEG) directly onto the instrument to measure brain waves. The brain waves may be used to control the hearing aid signal processing of the user's own will.

The project aims to produce a hearing aid that only amplifies the sound that the user wants to hear. For example, the direction that you are facing can help to determine what it sonically should focus on and what should be filtered out. I hope that our research in the future will contribute to a more lifelike experience for many hearing aid users in the world and that we will be able to give them the opportunity to hear, like the rest of us.

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