15 years with CAHR

mandag 05 nov 18
af Eva Helena Andersen
“It is indeed a very special day where we can celebrate CAHR’s 15th birthday,”Kristian Stubkjær, Head of Department of Electrical Engineering, initiated the many guests that had shown up to participate in the special Presentation Day of this year, on October 12.  

From a small unit to an internationally leading hearing research group
“CAHR is now a teenager that has grown at a tremendous rate - from very few employees 15 years ago to more than 45 today. It is not only the size that impresses it is also the quality of the work. CAHR and Hearing Systems get the label “world leading”. As I mentioned at the 10 years anniversary, it is like a fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen. But you can pinch yourself in the arm yes, you are awake and it is a real story. I can, however, not stop speculating if HC Andersen had lived today, what a fairytale he could write about a modern hearing aid: A magic device that allows the owner to hear everything people say and to hear the wind in the trees and the croaks from the frogs. And what if there was a hearing aid that could tell where the user has his or her attention and can interface with the user’s cognition. That is not pure fantasy but actually what is being worked on today. Now, because modern hearing aids are no longer simple electronics but something that also interfaces with processes in the brain and involves a more detailed clinical understanding, our teenager CAHR will have to move “from home” to DTU’s new department of Health Technology in about two months. We are proud of what you have achieved the first 15 years. We will follow you closely and we hope you will grow into an even more impressive organization and will get acknowledgement for what you are doing in the future,” Kristian Stubkjær said.

New research fields and laboratories
Torsten Dau, Head of Hearing Systems, welcomed and thanked everyone for the great interest and support. He then gave an overview of how the research group has grown fast from three employees in CAHR as part of the Acoustic Technology group to another group at Electrical Engineering. Presently, the group consists of nearly 50 members, including six teachers, 20 PhD students, 14 postdocs and senior researchers, several guest researchers and research assistants, an audiologist, a coordinator, a project controller, a journalist, two technicians and a lab manager. Torsten Dau in particular mentioned 2013 as a very essential year:
“Hearing Systems got funding from the Oticon Foundation. The Oticon Centre of Excellence for Hearing and Speech Sciences (CHeSS) was established with focus on fundamental research. In the same year, we could continue with another CAHR Consortium which became a more applied consortium with focus on hearing technologies in close collaboration with our colleagues from the Danish hearing aid industry,” Torsten Dau explained. The group then became a partner of several networks, based on this, then two years later part of the COCOHA project (Cognitive Control of a Hearing Aid) which is about how to steer your hearing aid through attention. The group also became a partner of a large scale project, BEAR, in which the reseachers deal with clinical audiology; and in 2015 a collaboration between DTU and Region Hovedstaden was formed. Since 2013, the group doubled in size. Research on cochlear implants (CI) has become a new area of research, more postdocs are employed and Interacoustics Research Unit, which also supports several projects, has an office in the same building.

Audio-visual immersion lab
With the new audio-visual immersion lab, the
researchers are able to work on improving communication in noisy environments. Establishing virtual, yet realistic, acoustic environments allows researchers to better probe and understand the mechanisms in the brain, and subsequently design more robust hearing aids.
“The evaluations are crucial for the university and last year we got positive feedback which was nice,“ Torsten Dau said and continued:

“What will come in the future we don’t know yet. We will move to a new department “Health Technology”. We are really proud because we have educated 35 PhDs in the last ten years. They’re all employed and most within the hearing industry and some at universities and hospitals. There are several postdocs and senior researchers and of course these people are crucial for our success. It is
great to follow how the talents grow and turn into some new strong professional profiles, including the personalities. It is a pleasure to see that they are ready for such important tasks in in the industry and at universities and see what they give back. When they finish their PhD studies, they represent not only themselves and their research but also us as a group in the world,” he concluded.

"It has been exciting to follow the development from the beginning until today, where Hearing Systems has reached the forefront of international research"
Torben Poulsen

After the presentations and talks, there was a chance to experience a real cocktail party in the new Agora Building, where the guests were invited for dinner with live music (from the group) and further celebration.

1) Head of Department Electrical Engineering Kristian Stubkjær compares the story of Torsten Dau with a fairy tale.

2) Søren Westermann has been involved in CAHR since the very beginning and gave a historical overview about how it all began when CAHR started out as a small group of three people and has grown to a world leading hearing research group today.

3) Morten Løve Jepsen, Senior Manager in Global Research & Development at Widex and Sarah Verhulst, Professor at Ghent University, both got their PhDs several years ago: “It’s so fun to be back. Everybody still meets, both professionally and at social events. It is indeed a very nice community! Sarah Verhulst said.

4) Postdoc Jens Bo Nielsen, one of the first PhD graduates, with the Clinical Manager at the Copenhagen Area Hospitals Mads Klokker: It is quite impressive how much research and solutions this group has come up with, not only engineer related work but also biological. There is a huge potential for a clinical collaboration between DTU and Rigshospitalet,” Mads Klokker said.

5) Torben Poulsen, former head of the Acoustic Technology group and part of Hearing Systems, with PhD Johannes Käsbach (leftmost) and Cheol-Ho Jeong, Professor at the Acoustic Technology group: It has been exciting to follow the development from the beginning until today, where Hearing Systems has reached the forefront of international research for this area and twice has been evaluated as number one of the external Research Evaluation Committee. So impressive!” Torben Poulsen said.

6,7,8) From poster sessions: Nine talks and 19 posters were presented. Between the talks and presentations there were opportunities to discuss the topics and network.

About CAHR

1986-90, the three Danish Hearing aid manufacturers Oticon, Danawox/GN Hearing and Widex started together with the Danish Technical Research Counsel and the Technical University of Denmark ODIN project in order to educate engineers with a background in acoustic communication, audiology, signal processing, speech processing and perception and neural modeling and to investigate the opportunities for improving the intelligibility of speech in background noise, the so-called cocktail party problem.The idea of establishing Centre for Applied Hearing Research was to provide such a background and to inspire research in the multidisciplinary field of hearing science.
Read more about the historical background here.