Hearing and Speech Processing (PG)

Module aims

Students will learn about the neurobiology of hearing, from the biomechanics of the ear to the principles of auditory cognition in the brain. Students will learn about the characteristics of speech and principles of its processing, from speech encoding to speech recognition. This is an introductory module with the goal to introduce students to the basic principles of hearing and speech processing, with an emphasis on an intuitive understanding.g.

Learning outcomes

Discuss basic quantities by which complex sound can be characterized Describe the functioning of the outer, middle ear, and inner ear Explain the operation principle of a cochlear implant Describe sound localization through processing in the auditory brainstem To comment on similarities and differences between hearing in vertebrates and in insects and to know the importance of common underlying principles Describe central auditory processing, vocal learning, and central auditory disorders and their origins in the brain Describe how speech is produced and explain how this can be used for effective speech coding Explain how speech can be recognized, how a speaker can be identified, and how a particular language can be detected Demonstrate a critical appreciation of the signal processing at various stages in the auditory system and relate this to the characteristics of complex sound (such as speech) Discuss different diagnostic methods for central auditory disorder Compare and contrast signal processing tools to efficiently encode speech Describe different techniques for speech recognition and speaker identification Apply data-analysis methods to real-world problems Effectively communicate a visual presentation on a scientific topic Describe relationships between biological systems and technological applications and vice versa

Module syllabus

 Introduction: Overview of the course, and the nature of sound; psychoacoustics Part 1: Neurobiology of hearing Introduction to the auditory system Outer, middle and inner ear Mechano-electrical transduction Sound localization Cortical processing (is frequency maps, receptive fields and plasticity, natural sounds) Vocal learning in songbirds and in children Auditory illusions; seeing with the auditory cortex in the blind Auditory specialists: bats and whales Hearing in insects; fundamental principles shared by insect and vertebrate hearing Part 2: Auditory engineering and speech processing Fundamentals of audio processing Speech production Linear predictive coding Pitch models Speech recognition with hidden Markov models Speech recognition with neural networks Auditory models and machine hearing Cochlear implants and brainstem implants


BE1-HMATH1 Mathematics I; BE2-HMATH2 Mathematics II. The course BE2-HSAS Signals and Systems will also be useful but is not required.

Teaching methods

The course consists of two weekly lectures and one weekly journal club. Concepts are introduced in the lectures. Selected applications of these are then explored in depth in the journal club. Students will work in groups to prepare a presentation of a paper assigned to them in advance; one member of the group will then present on the group’s behalf.

Lectures: 18 hours
Study groups: 9 hours


●  Presentation: 20% weighting
    Rubrics: Journal club: Presentation on selected original research articles during journal club sessions, worth 20% (for credit). graded by peer review as well as by the academic.
    No type of previous exam answers or solutions will be available

●  Written exam: 80% weighting
    Rubrics: Written exam: 
    No type of previous exam answers or solutions will be available

Feedback : Oral feedback on the presentations in the Journal Club will be provided after the presentation.

Reading list

Module leaders

Dr Johann Reichenbach