ABACus: Accessible Broadcast Audio Customisation

This project is investigating how to improve the broadcast experience of hard of hearing and older listeners. The project has a particular focus on investigating how different parts of the broadcast content, like sound effects, music, background noise, affect how easily broadcast speech is understood.

This project is part of ongoing PhD work being undertaken by Lauren Ward.

The first stage of this project aims to develop understanding of how different broadcast elements affect intelligibility of TV content. The latter stage of this project aims to utilise this understanding, along with Object Based Broadcasting methods, to develop intelligent systems which optimise broadcast audio for individual listeners.

Current work

A study undertaken with normal hearing listeners has shown that speech is recognised with 78% greater accuracy in the presence of relevant sound effects, in complex acoustic scenarios (Read more here).

Current work is investigating whether this effect is also present in hard of hearing listeners, under the same conditions.


IOA Reproduced Sound 2016, Southampton, UK, Nov 2016
‘Turning up the Background Noise; the Effects of Salient Non-Speech Audio Elements on Dialogue Intelligibility in Complex Acoustic Scenes’
Lauren Ward, Ben Shirley and William J Davies

2nd Doctoral Consortium at Interspeech 2016, San Francisco, USA, Sept, 2016
‘Turning up the Background Noise; Optimizing Intelligibility and Comprehension of Broadcast Material for Hard of Hearing Listeners’
Lauren Ward

Media Coverage

  • Expert Commentary in response to complaints about SS-GB dialogue audibility – BBC Radio Manchester – 22/02/2017
  • Quays News – 13/12/2016
  • Guest Researcher for special episode on ‘Background Noise’ – BBC Radio Manchester – 05/12/2016
  • ‘Listeners sought for TV sound experiment’ – University of Salford Media – 28/11/16

More about Lauren Ward