Paving the way through world-first research partnerships

We are excited to announce that NAL will be partnering with Google, Cochlear, Macquarie University Hearing, NextSense and The Shepherd Centre in a world-first collaborative effort to address hearing health care needs. A part of Google’s Digital Future initiative, the alliance seeks to shape the future of hearing research to best impact the lives of those experiencing hearing difficulties. 

What makes this initiative unique? 

Bringing together leaders in the sectors of hearing, science, technology, healthcare, government and academia, the alliance will focus on the development of new solutions for those with hearing loss. The multi-year effort will explore new methods involving neuroscience, machine learning, speech enhancement, cloud computing and AI to produce innovative technologies and strategies addressing unmet needs faced by the industry.  

“For over 75 years, NAL has been a pioneer in hearing technologies that are used around the world. This is an opportunity to combine NAL’s unique innovation program with Google’s capabilities to introduce new hearing products to enhance health and wellbeing.” 

Dr Brent Edwards, Director at NAL

What next? 

The first project will aim to improve the function of hearing aids and other listening devices in complex listening environments such as restaurants, brainstorm sessions and orchestral performances. Typically, these situations are challenging for device users due to the overlapping sounds, which are strenuous and overwhelming to process. The application of AI to categorise and prioritise certain sounds in such environments, reducing the associated strain and stress of listeners, presents a chance to improve the lives of countless people who are faced with these situations every day. 

“Hearing technology helps people around the world connect with people and their surroundings, but there are many more people that could benefit. As part of Google’s Digital Future Initiative, this exciting collaboration will help us explore new ways to design and improve machine learning models that better fit the needs of the individual listener – and develop a more precise and accessible approach to hearing care.” 

Dr Simon Carlile, project lead at Google Research Australia  

Our current innovation-driven research has led to the creation of a portfolio of clinical and client-focused products, including widely used fitting algorithm NAL_NL2, real-time speech transcription app NALscribe, and experiential data collection app NEMA. Experience gained through the development and launch of these tools will help inform our approach to designing and delivering new solutions with the alliance partners. 

With a strong history in pioneering hearing research as a country, we value the opportunity to continue taking the lead alongside other deeply knowledgeable and dedicated organisations. Collaboration is a core part of our research philosophy at NAL, and we aim to continue pushing the boundaries of translational research and expanding our capabilities through the sharing of knowledge and expertise in this initiative. We hope to realise the goal of developing novel solutions in order to knock down barriers to health care access, communication, and inclusivity, outcomes we value highly as an organisation. 

Teams from Cochlear, Macquarie University Hearing,The National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), NextSense, The Shepherd Centre and Google attending a workshop at the Hearing Hub at Macquarie University. 

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