The hearing impaired community has seen many pieces of technology emerge in the last several years, most notably to hearing aids. In black and white contrast to their bulky and expensive ancestors, modern hearing aids have the capability to work much better due to technology. They’re also a lot sleeker, and pretty much invisible! The last 10 to 15 years have seen many advancements in this arena. Where hearing aids used to be bulky, expensive, and ineffective, today’s versions are much more discreet, affordable. They can also easily mimic subtleties of natural sound.
A significant change in the overall approach to research and design of hearing aids is now on the horizon. It’s called “brain hearing.” Unfortunately, hearing aid technology is being held by its reputation because many believe hearing aids are still ugly, massive contraptions of the past. Let’s take a look at brain hearing.
Consumers love brain-focused hearing aids
The average hearing instrument user satisfaction rate is at 79%, while the user satisfaction associated with one of its brain-focused hearing aids is 96%. Companies like Oticon, a global leader in the hearing industry, are currently producing brain-focused hearing aids and receiving awesome feedback.
“Brain Hearing is a natural evolution of Oticon’s long-standing commitment to putting the needs of People First,” says Søren Nielsen, President of Oticon. “This comes back to our research from our Eriksholm research facility, where we have understood that treating hearing loss is much more than presenting sound through amplification. We have known for some years that the brain has a unique ability to process sound if it receives a robust signal that is full of detail.”
So what is brain hearing, exactly?
It used to be that terrible sound quality was the name of the game for older models. They took in a wide range of sounds, which overwhelmed the brain. Researchers have found that the processing of sound within the brain, and quality of the signal the brain receives, are just as important as the amplification of sound in the ear. As a result, brain hearing research is leading to the development of some incredible hearing aids. Traditional hearing aids, designed with the ears in mind, tend to amplify any and all sounds, pushing through a mass of noise directly to the brain. Brain hearing begins with the simple acknowledgment that sound actually occurs in the brain, and not in the ears.
How do brain-focused hearing aids work?
Through the preservation of a natural, clear signal that is full of detail, brain-focused hearing aids work with the brain’s four key functions used to make sense of the sound it receives. By modifying only the sounds that the inner ear cannot already hear well, the natural quality of sound is preserved, and the brain is not fatigued and overwhelmed with unnecessary amplification:
1. Sound focusing – brain hearing preserves the ability to focus on relevant sounds and speech, even in noisy environments with abrupt changes in background noise.
2. Spatial recognition – brain hearing preserves the difference in sound between the two ears, allowing for the ability to accurately locate sounds.
3. Speech recognition – brain hearing preserves the natural characteristics of speech, making it easier to focus on conversations and switch between speakers.
4. Sound filtering – brain hearing preserves the ability to identify and separate relevant information from background noise.
How you can benefit from brain hearing
What can you do? Well, you may wonder where you can get access to this new brain hearing technology. Of course, hearing aids are not off-the-shelf products and need to be professionally fitted and programmed. That said, the process is likely to be easier than you think.
You should first undergo a hearing test with any board-certified audiologist, where your doctor will precisely measure your hearing loss, using that information in the custom programming of your new state-of-the-art hearing aid. Good news for you: get out there and soak up all the crisp sounds around you.