EarMachine logoThis month saw the release of a brand new mobile app which enhances your listening – both for music and the sounds of the world around you. EarMachine applies state-of-the-art signal processing to the sound picked up by your iPhone’s microphone to add clarity and help you hear only what you’re interested in listening to.

Here at Easy Ear Training we believe in upgrading your ears through ear training, but apps like this can be a very effective way to help you start exploring the different aspects of sound and music, and help you to understand what you should be listening for. Plus they can be invaluable when a noisy environment proves challenging to even the best-trained ears!

EarMachine is an NIH-funded project created in Chicago by a team of hearing scientists. The free app makes it easy for anybody to adjust their listening experience, for example to better hear a conversation in a noisy environment, or to hear music more clearly when listening on the move.

After spending some time with the app we had to find out more! We caught up with Andrew Sabin of the Ear Machine team to learn more about this fascinating and powerful new app…

What was the inspiration behind EarMachine? Why an app?

Andrew Sabin of Ear MachineSmartphones provide a unique opportunity to help people hear better without requiring them to spend money on additional hardware.

If you think of a device like a hearing aid (or related hardware), it has 3 basic components:

  1. A microphone to pick up the sounds
  2. A processor to enhance the sounds, and
  3. A speaker to deliver the sounds.

A smartphone has all three components.

Our expertise is really in figuring out how to best enhance the sounds. A smartphone app is simply the quickest and cheapest way to get our technology in the hands of users.

Is EarMachine useful only for people with hearing loss?

We think EarMachine will work for a wide range of potential users — especially in challenging listening environments like a loud restaurant or bar where everybody has trouble.

What kind of processing does EarMachine use to clarify sound? Does it relate to audio frequencies and audio effects?

At its core, EarMachine does 9-band multichannel dynamic range processing. There is:

  1. Compression: to make sure only quiet sounds are amplified
  2. Limiting: to make sure loud sounds aren’t too loud, and
  3. Expansion: to reduce the level of annoying very quiet sounds (like refrigerator hum).

We carefully selected the parameter values to be appropriate for the widest range of users.

The EarMachine app lets you enhance the sound you hear

Could EarMachine be a useful experimental tool for a musician training their ears for critical listening and audio production skills?

Sure! These users can see how various dynamic range settings make different sound sources “pop out” of a complex environment.

Is this the audio equivalent of Google Glass? Will we all be enhancing our ears with technology in the future?

Hah! There has been a lot of talk about ‘enhanced reality’ over the past few years where our mobile devices are constantly providing enriching information to our senses. I’d be shocked if that didn’t have a substantial auditory component.

What’s coming next for this app and the EarMachine team?

We are constantly updating the app to better serve our users (please send us feedback!). We are also working on a series of wireless hardware accessories that would enhance the user’s experience. Stay tuned!

Thanks, Andrew, for joining us here on the site to share some more about this fantastic new app. We’re excited to see what comes next!

Download the free app for your iOS device: