Places like airports and train stations aren’t known for their tranquility, and that’s largely because of the constant barrage of loud announcements made over their PA systems. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, however, have helped develop a system that may allow those announcements to still be heard, but at a lower volume.

According to the researchers, when people are able to understand spoken messages in noisy environments, they’re not necessarily hearing everything that’s being said. Instead they pick up on the components of speech that are the easiest to hear, and deduce what the words and sentences are, based on those.

With that in mind, the scientists developed a “mathematical computer program” that synthetically enhances those components, allowing them to stand out more from the background noise. When tested, it was found that spoken messages manipulated by the program could be clearly understood at a volume up to five decibels lower than would otherwise be possible.

It has been suggested that the technology could be useful not only for PA systems, but also for devices such as smartphones and navigation systems.

Source: University of Edinburgh