We’ve seen a lot of advancement in hearing aids in the past 10 to 15 years. From cumbersome, expensive, and ineffective to discreet, affordable, and capable of reproducing the subtleties of natural sound, today’s devices truly break the mold. Modern hearing aids are sleek and nearly invisible – and most importantly, they work. Hearing aid technology is advancing faster than hearing aid reputation, and many people continue to associate hearing aids with the ugly, massive contraptions of the past.
This is a new approach – known as “brain hearing” – shows us the ability to work well is not just the level of technology, but it represents a fundamental change in the overall approach taken in terms of research and design.
So what is brain hearing, exactly?
To understand brain hearing, you have to realize that sound actually occurs in the brain, and not in the ears. 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. The result is not-so-great sound quality that causes the brain to become overwhelmed and fatigued.
By considering the entire hearing process, brain hearing research is leading to the development of some incredible hearing aids. Take heart: Researchers have finally figured out 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.
Consumers love brain-focused hearing aids
Oticon, a global leader in the hearing industry, is one such company that makes brain-focused hearing aids. This company reports that while average hearing instrument user satisfaction is 79%, user satisfaction associated with one of its brain-focused hearing aids is 96%.
Søren Nielsen, President of Oticon says: “Brain Hearing is a natural evolution of Oticon’s long-standing commitment to putting the needs of people first. 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.”
How you can benefit from brain hearing
By now, you may be asking yourself how you can get your hands (and ears) on this new brain hearing technology. While hearing aids are not off-the-shelf products and need to be professionally fitted and programmed, the process is likely to be easier than you think.
The first step is to schedule a hearing test with any board-certified audiologist. Next, your audiologist will precisely measure your hearing loss, using that information in the custom programming of your new state-of-the-art hearing aid. Get out there and enjoy the sweet sounds of life, minus hearing loss thanks to brain hearing.
How do brain-focused hearing aids work?
By preserving 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:
1. Spatial recognition – brain hearing preserves the difference in sound between the two ears, allowing for the ability to accurately locate sounds.
2. Speech recognition – brain hearing preserves the natural characteristics of speech, making it easier to focus on conversations and switch between speakers.
3. Sound filtering – brain hearing preserves the ability to identify and separate relevant information from background noise.
4. Sound focusing – brain hearing preserves the ability to focus on relevant sounds and speech, even in noisy environments with abrupt changes in background noise.
Simply put, brain hearing leads to drastically improved hearing aid performance. 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.