Selective hearing given a boost

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A hi-tech hearing aid which can tune in to bird song is being launched in the UK today. The £995 Audeo Mini is said to be the smallest and most advanced hearing aid in the world.

About the size of a jelly bean, it is packed with sophisticated circuitry designed to adapt to changing "soundscapes". The device can selectively focus on specific speech sources to reduce distracting background noise. It also enables the wearer to detect high-frequency sounds such as a bird singing, or soft whispers.

Both kinds of sound are often the first to go when hearing deteriorates. Valentino Chapero, chief executive of Swiss hearing-aid maker Phonak, said: "The Audeo Mini is a landmark development. It is powerful enough to provide the user with crystal-clear sound quality while small enough to sit almost invisibly behind the ear." Around 12 million people in Britain suffer from hearing loss. One person in five has hearing difficulties and this figure is expected to rise to one in three by 2025 as the population ages.