Mason Bretan

Technology, Art, and Science
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Music For the Deaf
Communicating Abstract Sound Through Cochlear Implants

 Research at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2)
This is an excerpt from an article written for the University of California Newsroom concerning my research.
Here is the link to the entire article

Communicating abstract sound
Photo of Peter Mason Bretan
(Peter) Mason Bretan Project: Communicating Abstract Sound Through Cochlear Implants

Mason Bretan researched the interpretation of sound through cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a prosthetic substitute for hearing. It is a surgically- implanted electronic device that can provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing, (it is not effective in all cases).

Bretan, an ICAM major, focused on how music and other abstract sounds are received by cochlear implant users, working with his advisor, David Borgo, an associate professor of music.

"Unfortunately what I found is that sound analysis and interpretation are not very good through these devices," Bretan said "So, I experimented with ways to improve upon them and provide a better experience for the user."

For the bulk of the summer project, he experimented with Fourier analysis and multiple types of filters to break down a sound sample into smaller components in order to isolate the bad noise and remove it. His hypothesis was that having multiple signals of a sound source with each signal spanning a specific frequency range would prove to be more effective than a single channel in finding and removing unwanted noise.

"Even if I did not discover a way for the deaf to hear music cleanly through cochlear implants and in the way in which naturally hearing persons are accustomed," Bretan summed up, "I still learned a great deal and made vast improvements in my research and programming skills."

Expressing the feelings of most of the 30 Summer Scholars, Bretan said "Overall, my summer experience was quite enjoyable and I would consider it a success. It was definitely a good experience and I liked the fact that I got to make specific research goals on my own and work towards these goals by myself, but always with the guidance of an advisor and Calit2."


This image summarizes some of the theories and processing techniques I researched at Calit2