Scotland-based University of Strathclyde and MRC/CSO Institute for Hearing Research (IHR) researchers are developing new insect-inspired microphones and hearing aid structures, in a bid to tackle the problem of locating sounds and eliminate background noise.

The researchers will test a new design using a miniature directional microphone, which is similar to the ear of an insect.

University of 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.

"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."

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

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has provided a £430,000 grant for the research.

MRC/CSO IHR scientist Dr Bill Whitmer said: "These recent breakthroughs in microphones could revolutionize hearing-aid design, and could result in real advances in the quality of support offered to those affected by hearing loss."