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Larissa Taylor, B.Eng. '14, M.A.Sc. '17

(Electrical & Biomedical Engineering), (Electrical Engineering) | Big Ideas: Pump up the Volume

Clarinet in hand, electrical engineering PhD student Larissa Taylor is working on making music sound sweeter to people wearing hearing aids.

For Larissa Taylor, engineering and music go hand in hand.

The second-year PhD student – who has been playing clarinet since elementary school – is passionate about finding ways to engineer hearing aids so that listening to music is as effortless as listening to someone talking.

“I’ve worn hearing aids myself for a really long time, and I’m used to them – but for music, they’re definitely a challenge because they’re set up to deal with speech,” she says. “The dynamic range of music is much wider than the range of speech, so the louds can be too loud and the softs can be too soft.”

Compressing that wide dynamic range within a hearing aid also leads to signal distortion, which can cause music to sound out of tune or otherwise unpleasant. And for Taylor, who plays with the Burlington-based Top Hats Marching Orchestra, balancing the volume of the band with hearing the conductor can be difficult.

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