ABACus: Accessible Broadcast Audio Customisation

What is ABACus (in under three minutes)?

This talk was given as part of the University of Salford’s 3 Minute Thesis Competition (SPARC 2017)

Project Description

Object-based broadcasting presents a big leap forward in broadcast technology, giving the end-user the ability to customise their broadcast experience. One way in which this experience can be customised is through the ability to adjust the volume of different broadcast elements, like dialogue, sound effects or music, in their own home. For hard of hearing listeners, this ability to alter the sound levels based on personal hearing requirements has the potential to significantly improve the clarity and accessibility of broadcast audio. However, to ensure end-users receive full benefit from this technology development of effective and easy to use tools, based on an understanding of user needs, is essential. This project is working to develop such tools. 

The project has a particular focus on investigating how sounds relevant to the narrative of the broadcast content, like foreground sound effects, affect how easily dialogue is understood. The project has shown that relevant sound effects can almost double normal hearing listeners’ ability to understand dialogue, when there is competing noise. This is not the case for all hard of hearing listeners. It been shown that how much the sound effect aids, or masks, speech understanding can be predicted by the listener’s hearing levels in their better ear (for dialogue, sound effects and noise from a single loudspeaker).

More information about the project, results and how to get involved can be found below.


Conference Proceedings 

Invited Talks


University of Salford Media – 26/07/2017

Quays News – 14/12/2017

Other coverage


Copyright Giselle Haber Photography

ABACus is Lauren Ward’s doctoral research project.
Lauren Ward is a Postgraduate Researcher at the Acoustics Research Centre, University of Salford, UK. She is a General Sir John Monash Scholar and holds a B.Eng (Hons) and B.Phil from the University of Tasmania. She has previously worked with Cochlear Ltd, the ABC and most recently with the CSIRO developing speech recognition technology for the assessment of speech disorders in children. Her research interests also include science education and outreach.

A full list of her publications can be found on Researchgate

You can contact Lauren via: 


Want to get involved?

As part of this project we will be inviting both hard of hearing and normal hearing listeners to participate in listening experiments online and in person, as well as contributing their opinions and experiences.

Currently you can contribute by sharing your experiences and opinions in our television experience survey below.