Inventors hope new audio tech can help students with ADHD

The device aims to aid attention and focus in the classroom by cutting through background noise and honing in on the speaker

Nuance Hearing, a provider of focused listening technology, has launched the Voice Selector Study (VSS), a new solution designed to help young people concentrate in noisy and distraction-filled classroom environments.

VSS work by eight built-in microphones automatically tracking the teacher’s voice as they move around the classroom, reducing the level of background noise and enabling the user to focus with less cognitive effort.

Aimed at any pupil who is struggling to concentrate in learning environments, the inventors say the device is useful for those with ADHD and other sensory and auditory processing difficulties.

A small clinical study which tested the efficacy of the VSS in classroom settings for 31 adolescents with ADHD showed improvements in the ability to focus on and listen to the teacher, and in the ability to ignore distractions in the classroom.

In the first study phase, the participants completed questionnaires to rate their typical learning experience. Next, they were asked to use the devices at their school for five consecutive days.

At the end of each day the participants filled out questionnaires and rated their learning experience with the device. Professor Manor then pulled together these findings to assess the impact of VSS.

The results of the study indicated the VSS helped with students’ ability to focus attention on what was happening in lessons and overcome vocal distractions and background noises.

Specifically, students reportedly found it easier to concentrate on the teacher’s instructions.

There was also a marked improvement in behavioural metrics from teachers, suggesting a possible link between attentional abilities and classroom behaviour.

The small study was led by Professor Iris Manor, chair of the Medical Association’s Attention Deficit Disorder Society and senior lecturer at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.

The devices are also currently being used in research projects at Haifa University (led by Sarit Szpiro), Ariel University (led by Riki Taitelbaum), and Madrid University (led by Tomás Mañas León).

Nuance Hearing’s beamforming technology gives a signal-to-noise ratio of 15db, (the relative reduction of overall noise in relation to the target sound), which compares to an industry-standard in real-time applications of 4-5dB.

Tami Harel, director of clinical research at Nuance Hearing, said: “Classrooms nowadays can be very noisy and full of distractions. It is difficult for everyone to tune in on the teacher in a noisy environment, but for some children this task is even harder.

“Some children struggle to concentrate and focus on the teacher, and this effort affects their ability to learn and participate in the classroom.

“We’re proud to launch the Voice Selector Study to help children ignore the unwanted noise and distractions and focus on the teacher. We believe this can facilitate learning and empower students.”

The VSS is a small tabletop device that works with any wired headphones. In addition to automatically tracking the dominant speaker, the user can also manually select up to two dominant speakers to track.

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