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Why Identifying Unrecognized Hearing Loss Is So Important

Over 48 million Americans have hearing loss, with estimates of global numbers set to reach in the hundreds of millions in just a few short decades. Though hearing loss is an extremely prevalent condition, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Despite the high prevalence of age-related hearing loss, many adults still have hearing loss that never gets recognized, or they choose to forgo treatment options altogether. Older populations may miss the subtle changes in their hearing as they age because the onset is often gradual and slow, or possibly, they do not recognize the subtle changes they are making to compensate for their impaired hearing, such as increasing the volume on television sets or audio devices. To understand how some patients can have hearing loss without even realizing it, a study conducted by Wayne State University observed two groups of adults with and without hearing loss, had given them hearing screenings and had concluded with astounding results.

The Risks of Unrecognized Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can present serious risks for patients who do not seek treatment. Unfortunately, many struggling with hearing loss can wait up to 15 years to finally seek help. Research has shown a clear correlation between hearing loss and serious health complications such as depression, anxiety, a higher risk of suicide, and developing dementia. Communication difficulties are also common, as hearing loss causes higher rates of social isolation and a diminished quality of life. However, a majority of hearing aid users report satisfaction with their device, expressing a better quality of life while protecting their hearing for the long term.
Hearing loss is far more dangerous when unrecognized or undiagnosed. Early identification and intervention are critical for positive long-term outcomes when treating hearing loss. According to a 2012 study by Barbara Hutchinson of North Dakota State University, “In fact, adults who delay treatment until their hearing loss is severe do not respond to interventions as well as those who initiate interventions early in the course of their hearing loss.”

Wayne State University’s Conclusions and Recommendations

Self-defined as aiming “to explore characteristics that differentiate adults with unrecognized hearing loss from those with recognized hearing loss and adults with normal hearing”, researchers could determine how likely it was that a participant who described themselves as having no hearing issues, actually had unrecognized hearing loss. As part of the study, participants would complete a subjective and objective assessment of their physical health, various measures of cognition, and personality assessment of their traits for positive and negative affectivity (emotionality).
The results had proven researchers worry about unrecognized hearing loss to be true. “Participants who volunteered for the normal hearing group underwent hearing screens using a portable audiometer as part of the research study. Of the 69 adults who volunteered for that group, our hearing screens indicated that only 39 had hearing in the normal range. Unrecognized hearing loss was identified in 30 volunteers who had described themselves as having no hearing difficulty.”
The study’s research team had concluded that there is a sizeable subset of patients “who are likely to deny hearing difficulty upon questioning but have meaningful hearing loss.”, going as far as to recommend that new research should explore the best practices in psychoeducation about hearing screening that targets patients who do not endorse hearing loss.
If you believe you are suffering from signs of hearing loss but are not completely sure, it’s time to speak to a hearing health professional for a hearing evaluation. Unrecognized hearing loss should not go untreated.

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Hearing Loss Could Put You at Risk for Accidental Injury

Hearing loss isn’t as benign or straightforward as we once thought it was. Not just a minor annoyance that you could choose to manage if you wanted to with a hearing aid.
No, hearing loss is a complex condition that can affect every aspect of our life from the way we communicate and our relationships to our total health and well-being. Study after study is finding that treating our hearing loss is no longer an option because untreated hearing loss can have devastating consequences.
New research is finding that it’s not just the cognitive decline and anxiety we should be aware of now, either. It’s something as simple as an increased risk of accidental injury.
Hearing loss and accidental injury
As experts realize the more significant impact of untreated hearing loss, they are digging into existing data as well as compiling new data through various studies to identify patterns related to hearing health. One of the most recent findings is linking hearing loss to an increased risk of accidental injury.
Analyzing data from the National Health Interview Survey gathered between 2007 and 2015, researchers determined that individuals who reported having “a lot of trouble” hearing were twice as likely to have an accidental injury as those who reported no trouble hearing. This fact was true both in work and leisure settings.
While more research is needed into exactly why this is the case, experts believe that the simple effects of sensory impairment may be behind it. This is concerning because accidental injuries are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in America, according to the CDC’s National Health Report.
Reducing your risk for accidental injury could be as easy as scheduling an annual hearing evaluation to determine whether or not you have a hearing loss. This simple step could even help protect you from more than just accidental injury.
The importance of treating hearing loss
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions, affecting an estimated one out of every five Americans and well over 450 million people around the world, yet it often goes untreated. As we learn more about the cost of untreated hearing loss, experts hope that the tide will change and the crucial role that hearing health plays in our lives will be taken more seriously.
While this study found that untreated hearing loss may increase the risk of accidental injury, this isn’t the only often unseen effect of untreated hearing loss. Others include:

Don’t let untreated hearing loss put you, your health and your well-being at risk. Whether it’s an accidental injury, falls, mental health or other concerns, you can take action now to reduce your risk.
Contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation and discuss options to treat hearing loss, such as hearing aids. This could be the most powerful choice you make for your health.

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How Clean is Too Clean? Cotton Swabs Can Be Harmful To Your Ears

Most would agree that good hygiene is an important aspect of your health, but how clean is too clean? When it comes to your ears, cleaning them with cotton swabs can actually damage your hearing and your eardrum. Despite their common usage in movies or at your local pharmacy, Q-Tips can be more harmful than helpful, leading the Scottish Parliament to ban plastic cotton buds this year in an effort to combat excessive litter and reduce their usage for inadvisable ear cleaning. Though it is admirable to try and maintain a healthy body, there is a wide consensus against cotton swabs for cleaning your ears. If you are experiencing a blockage, it is best to receive help from a medical professional, but when it comes to your day to day hygiene, let your ears handle it on their own. Your hearing will thank you.

How Can Cotton Swabs Damage My Ear?

Though they seem like the perfect length and shape to clean your ears, there is a consensus against cotton swabs for a reason. Puncturing your eardrum with a cotton swab due to going too far into the ear canal is more common than you might think, especially in children. This accidental puncture can not only damage your hearing but may also result in painful ear infections and an accumulation of fluid and bacteria. Not so hygienic, right?
Depending on the material your Q-Tip is made out of, it may also be abrasive to the sensitive skin within your ear. Some cotton swabs utilize a paper or plastic stick, which can scratch or puncture fragile areas of the ear resulting in infection, vertigo, and even permanent deafness.

Cleaning Your Ear Can Actually Be Counterproductive

Instead of removing ear wax, cotton swabs may actually push it deeper into the ear, compacting it and making your wax harder to remove. This misplaced wax can cause a whole host of problems, including ear fullness, hearing loss, and you guessed it: infection. If a blockage is created by your cotton swab, you may need to seek treatment from a doctor for removal, causing many more problems than they solve.

Your Ear Is Designed To Clean Itself

Earwax, also known as Cerumen, is an important part of your ear’s environment. Cerumen coats the inner ear protecting fragile cells and trapping dust and debris. Without this defense,  debris can travel to your inner ear and damage structures that we require to hear. Removing this natural part of the ear’s ecosystem can not only cause damage to your hearing but will actually make your ear less hygienic. Your body is designed to move earwax out of your ear through natural movements such as chewing, yawning, or skin cell growth inside the ear. Without this process, dust and debris may build up within the ear and cause infection, leading doctors to give simple advice when it comes to cleaning your ears: Don’t!
If you are experiencing ear pain, fullness, hearing loss, or suspect you may have an unnatural amount of earwax, it is best to consult a hearing health professional. You may be suffering from an infection that requires antibiotics or may need something as simple as proper cleaning.

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Treating Hearing Loss With Inner Ear Drug Delivery

Hearing loss has a tremendous impact on our quality of life. The ability to hear is a vital part of our overall sensory experience and our connection to the world around us. The impact of hearing loss may be profound, with consequences for the social, functional, and psychological well-being of the person. A hearing impairment limits our engagement and affects our self-identity. Because many people with hearing loss neglect treatment due to the options available, a pharmaceutical approach to treatment may be the answer. New research is focusing on the inner ear for effective drug delivery.

Medications

Although there are 466 million people worldwide who have hearing loss, there are no FDA-approved drugs available for preventing and treating inner ear disorders. A lack of clinical experience involving the inner ear creates challenges for the pharmaceutical companies that are developing inner ear medications. With indications such as ototoxicity and Meniere’s disease, these companies are developing therapies such as otoprotection, hair cell regeneration, and gene therapy. Selecting the most appropriate delivery method that will transport the medication is of vital importance.

Delivery Method

Inner ear drug delivery involves three routes of administration: intratympanic, intracochlear, and systemic. Intratympanic uses a syringe injection to the tympanic membrane to deliver a drug across the middle ear and into the cochlea. This route is beneficial for administering drug solutions, drug suspensions, and injectable gels. Intracochlear is the transfer of the drug into the cochlea. Although this method is precise, it is also high-risk. An injection, a perfusion system, or a cochlear implant device are the delivery methods for this route. Systemic delivery is the favored route for future delivery as it poses a low risk for complications and is more comfortable for patients. Research is focusing on finding new systemic administration methods for ear therapy.

Advancements

There is progress in the improvement of inner ear drug delivery systems. Drug targeting, gene and stem cell therapy, and hair cell regeneration are making effective inner ear drug delivery a reality. Collaboration is vital for translating lab bench results into viable treatment options. Researchers feel confident that partnership will overcome the challenges of administering therapy directly to the inner ear.

Challenges

There are obstacles to be cleared in the development of efficient inner ear drug delivery systems. The main problem is not knowing the exact drug formulation for the intended drug delivery system. Another issue is the conversion of clinical findings that utilized animal models to applications for humans. What works in a rat may not be successful in a human. For systemic drug delivery, achieving a therapeutic dose in the inner ear after crossing the blood-labyrinth barrier without side-effects is the goal.

The Future

Inner ear therapies will encourage patients to seek care for their hearing loss. As an alternative to a hearing device, drugs provide a long-lasting, convenient, and efficient treatment option. The research team hopes that inner ear drug delivery systems will lay the groundwork for effective prevention and treatment with medications.

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Caption This: Closed Captioning Is Popular, Let’s Expand It

Whether you’re a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community or just want to make sure you never miss important dialogue in your favorite flick, closed captioning is incredibly popular with many. In fact, a recent survey by 3PlayMedia found that 98% of recipients watched movies with closed captioning turned on! By giving those with normal and damaged hearing alike the ability to read and experience sound and participate in healthy social interactions, it’s clear why closed captioning is such a hit. Thanks to laws such as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, official state and federal government videos, along with network TV programs, must have “accurate, synchronous, complete, and properly placed” captions, but what about online video? With new-age audiovisual media such as streaming services like Netflix, laws have yet to regulate captioning on the web. Ensuring access to closed captioning across all platforms is critical to avoiding barriers to auditory information, raising our quality of life, and decreasing social and emotional consequences.

The Numbers Are In, Closed Captions Are Used For More Than Hearing Loss

After discovering its popularity, 3PlayMedia’ survey dove even further into demographics, discovering who uses closed captions and why. What they found had further compounded the importance of universal access to these services. Captions were used by virtually everyone for a wide array of reasons, ranging from hearing loss to keeping focus. After crunching the numbers, 25% of respondents utilized captions for hearing loss purposes, while 75% of respondents used captions for other reasons unrelated to hearing damage, showing that captions do not only aid our hard of hearing community but the general public.

How Lack of Access Can Do Harm

For those suffering from hearing loss, there are social and emotional consequences that arise with a lack of access to auditory information. Participation in social interactions can plummet due to difficulty following along with conversations or fear of “being a bother” to friends and family, leading to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Just like a conversation, watching movies or TV shows can be a social experience often done with friends and family. Without closed captioning, audiovisual information is withheld from those with hearing loss, excluding them from the social experience.
How does one participate in an equal society if they are excluded from social experiences? That’s what the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) argued after filing a lawsuit against streaming giant Netflix in 2011. Due to Netflix’s lack of closed captioning, the NAD argued they were not only violating the ADA, but treating the deaf community unequally. Thankfully, the district judge had ruled in favor of closed captioning marking serious progress for required captions, though many platforms such as Facebook and YouTube remain unregulated. With entertainment becoming increasingly digital, it is simply not enough to mandate captions for government programming or news alerts. Information will remain lost in translation until access to closed captioning is expanded to everyone, regardless of their hearing capabilities.

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It Is Time To Get That Annual Hearing Evaluation

We schedule yearly physical exams and dental exams, so why not schedule annual hearing testing? Hearing loss is gradual, and it affects not only your ability to hear but your physical and mental health too. Yearly hearing evaluations should be a part of your regular healthcare routine. If you are putting off a hearing evaluation, please consider some great reasons why you should schedule that test today!

Hearing Loss Is A Gradual Process

Hearing loss typically occurs at a slow pace over the course of many years. Because of this gradual process, it is difficult to detect when your hearing is not as good as it used to be. People with hearing loss typically wait 7 to 10 years before they address the hearing loss. An annual hearing evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional will detect any hearing loss so you can act before the problem exacerbates. You should monitor your hearing as well to identify hearing loss in your daily life. Indications include the following:

  • Trouble hearing phone
  • Difficulty hearing conversations
  • Ask people to repeat themselves
  • Sounds and voices seem muffled
  • Difficulty pinpointing the direction of a sound

Early Detection Is Critical

Putting off a hearing test for 7 to 10 years is not a good idea. An annual hearing evaluation will allow you the chance to address your hearing loss early before the problem worsens. It is essential to check your hearing annually after age 55, even if you experience no problems because this is the time most people begin to experience age-related hearing loss.

Dementia And Depression

Inquiry from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDC) states that depression is higher among U.S. adults with hearing loss than those without a hearing loss. Although the cause of this relationship is unknown, acting now can reduce your chances of experiencing mental health symptoms that often accompany hearing loss.

Hearing Loss And Happiness

People of all ages experience hearing loss, and the chances that you will experience change in your hearing over time are high. Here are a few statistics to consider:

  • 5% of American children have permanent hearing damage from exposure to loud noise.
  • 14% of American adults between the ages of 45 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss.
  • 30-40% of American adults over the age of 65 have hearing loss.
  • 50% of American adults over the age of 75 have some hearing loss.

It is essential to take hearing loss seriously. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Heart disease, dementia, sleep apnea, and brain shrinkage all have a connection to hearing loss.

Schedule A Hearing Evaluation Today

Hearing loss will interfere with your life much quicker than you might realize. You may find yourself having trouble at work, not hearing your loved ones, or even enjoying the sounds of nature. Do something for your hearing today. Schedule an annual hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional and protect your hearing before it is too late!

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How to Enjoy Swimming Without the Clogged Ears

We all experience water in our ears from time to time. It happens during baths and showers and is very common for swimmers. However, it can lead to inflammation and infection of the ear canal. The most common cause of the infection is bacteria such as streptococcus, pseudomonas, and staphylococcus. Water in the ear is aggravating and can also be harmful to your hearing health. Here is what you can do about water in your ears.

Symptoms

The symptoms of water in the ear begin mild with itching and a slight redness within the infected ear. The problem gradually gets worse with an increase in pain and itching as well as discharge from the ear. Ultimately the pain becomes intense, the canal is completely blocked, and the face and possibly the lymph nodes begin to swell.

Removing Water From Your Ear

If you have water in your ear, here are ways for safely removing the irritating liquid:

  • Jiggle your earlobe. You might be able to shake the water from your ear by gently pulling on the earlobe and shaking.
  • Use gravity. Lie on your side and let the water slowly drain from your ear onto a towel.
  • Create a vacuum. Tilt head sideways and rest ear into cupped palm. Push hand back and forth in rapid motion while covering the ear cupping your palm as you pull away.
  • Hot compress. Applying a compress can release the water trapped in the eustachian tubes.
  • Blow dryer. Set the dryer on the lowermost setting and hold about a foot away from the ear. The heat from the dryer can help to evaporate the water inside the ear canal.
  • Apply a few drops per ear. Alcohol helps to evaporate water. It also helps to eradicate the growth of bacteria, which in turn helps to prevent infections.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. This solution can clear debris and earwax which may be trapping water inside the ear.
  • Olive oil. Warm olive oil and place a few drops in the ear. It can help to prevent infection in the ear as well as repel water out.
  • The movement of the mouth can open the eustachian tubes and let the stuck water come out.
  • Valsalva maneuver. Close mouth and gently squeeze your nostrils shut with fingers while listening for a popping sound which means the Eustachian tubes are open.
  • Warm steam helps to release water from the middle ear through Eustachian tubes.
  • OTC medication. OTC eardrops are alcohol-based and can help to reduce moisture in the outer ear canal. They also kill bacteria and remove debris.

Prevention

Of course, the best way to handle ears clogged with water is through prevention. Here are a few measures to take in the prevention of water and the bacteria it contains, from entering your ears:

  • Avoid swimming in contaminated pools
  • Wear a swim cap
  • Wear earplugs
  • Dry ears thoroughly once out of water

Remember that water in the ear is usually not dangerous, but if left unaddressed, the following problems may occur:

  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Long-term infections
  • Deep tissue infection
  • Bone and cartilage damage
  • Other widespread diseases.

If you have any additional questions about hearing loss or your hearing health, please feel free to contact our office!

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Diving Into the Emotional Side of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is not the simple black and white diagnosis it once seemed to be. Recent research findings, paired with the growing number of personal stories about hearing loss, paint a much more complicated picture that is fueling the conversation about hearing loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
  • About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.
  • About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

These numbers are eye-opening and show just how many people’s lives, not only hearing, are affected.
A better approach
With a growing focus on more holistic approaches to health and hearing loss, some experts are exploring how hearing healthcare professionals can better serve their patients. That is, beyond the mechanics of hearing loss.
As a first step to gather data and identify potential opportunities, researchers studied a possible additional screening component about the emotional aspects of hearing loss. The team surveyed both patients and providers about their experience during these screenings. The results revealed that such a screening by hearing healthcare providers could be a smart strategy for both identifying emotional concerns for further treatment and in better treating an individual’s hearing loss.
The study
For several months during the spring of 2015, those with hearing loss (and parents of children with hearing loss) who attended follow-up appointments for hearing aids and cochlear implants were able to participate in the study. They were asked to fill out a survey form relating to the more emotional aspects of hearing loss, including questions on depression, anxiety and stress and feedback on the appointment itself.
At the same time, ten providers were asked to use the additional screening form relating to emotional concerns relating to hearing loss and then provide feedback at the end of the study.
Researchers walked away at the end of the study with three significant finds:

  • Some of the individuals with hearing loss were dealing with depression, anxiety and/or stress
  • The individuals found the screening of those emotional aspects acceptable
  • Providers were more uncertain about the screening

But how could these findings better support individuals with hearing loss in coping with the emotional side of that diagnosis?
Deeper insights
What the survey results highlighted was that patients seemed to appreciate that their hearing healthcare provider was going beyond the hearing loss to check on their emotional well-being. Researchers believe that this deeper connection with clients could help improve their care and compliance. Routine questions like these could help open up communication between the patient and provider and uncover potential emotional barriers to treating hearing loss.
On the other side, however, the survey results uncovered an opportunity for hearing health care providers to go beyond the mechanics of hearing and dig deeper into their patient’s well-being. Whether this is through enhanced screening during appointments or additional training before they begin practicing in the field, it could make all the difference in treating hearing loss.
While more research is needed, this small study showed promise. It offered insight into ways hearing healthcare providers could help bring the emotional aspects of hearing loss to the forefront early.
If you are someone you know is dealing with anxiety, depression or other difficult emotions as a result of hearing loss contact your provider for recommendations.

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Feel Good Foods for Your Hearing

food and hearing health

Forefront in the media is the battle of the bulge, foods that may or may not cause disease, and what’s on the menu at the local fast food joint. We hear about the latest diet fad, the latest YouTube recipes and what the stars are eating. What we don’t often hear about foods that can affect our hearing health.
Sticking to a healthy diet is good for more than just your waistline. By increasing your intake of certain foods, you can increase your chances of healthy hearing well into your golden years. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods is sure to be better for you all around than sugary junk food. Eating a rainbow variety of foods increases the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help your body to heal and stay healthy, including your hearing.
We get much needed naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by eating plants that take in these fuel molecules from within the soil as they grow. We either eat the plants directly or eat meat from animals that consumed the plants. This allows us the ability to meet the daily requirements needed for optimal health. The following list is key in maintaining good auditory health.
Folate
Foods such as asparagus, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, and liver are great sources of folate which provides vitamin B9. Folate, or folic acid, help to minimize the possibility of hearing loss related to the aging process. Other foods such as fortified cereals, baker’s yeast, leafy vegetables, and sunflower seeds are also good sources of folic acid. If those don’t appeal or the food prep is to time consuming, you can take a vitamin supplement such as B9 or B complex.
Magnesium 
For those who live or work in noisy environments, there is help. Magnesium has been proven to protect the sensitive hairs within our inner ears from free radical molecules that are produced by the hazardous effects of long-term loud noise. Without these tiny hairs, our ears are unable to transmit the electrical currents to the brain, which are then identified as sound. This means that we develop hearing loss.
To combat the effects of loud noise, be sure to keep up your magnesium level by eating plenty of artichokes, avocados, beans, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and even whole grains. These foods are easily added to stir fry dishes or grilled. They’ll have a protective effect on the sensitive hairs within the ear and will help to ensure you can hear for many years to come.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For those over 50, decreased hearing becomes an increasing possibility, but it doesn’t have to. By consuming omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, you can delay or even prevent hearing loss related to aging.
Fresh fish are among the food’s rich in these beneficial fatty acids. Anchovies, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon and sardines top this list. If you prefer more of a supplement than actually eating fish, cod liver oil might get you where you need to go. One tablespoon provides your daily recommended dosage of omega 3’s as well as vitamins A and D.
Potassium
For some people, a low potassium level plays a part in decreased hearing. By upping your intake of foods like apricots, bananas, beet greens, lima beans, milk, oranges, potatoes, and raisins, you can help maintain your ability to hear normally.
The electrical impulses that are transmitted to the brain that we comprehend as sounds are affected by the amount of fluid within the inner ear. When supplied with enough potassium, we effectively give ourselves the ability to regulate the fluid within our body which ensures the proper flow of fluids to the ears. These fluid levels tend to drop as we age, and by keeping your potassium levels up, you can help to balance these levels.
Zinc
With a rise in the population for tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, it’s a good idea to keep your zinc levels up. The areas of the inner ear contain the largest amount of zinc in the entire body, and without the proper levels, there’s the likelihood of tinnitus developing over time.
To combat this detrimental decrease, be sure eat plenty of needs, legumes, seeds, and vegetables. Meats like beef, pork, and chicken with dark meat are good options, as well as dark chocolate, split peas, and oysters. With all these options, there should be plenty of opportunities to keep your zinc intake where it needs to be.
The key to meeting your body’s needs is to eat the foods you know you enjoy, then try new things to see if they’re a good fit. Prepare them in different ways to find what your preferences are, and don’t give up just because it’s not something you’d normally eat. With the boom of the internet, recipes abound, and your likely to find a dish to make just about anything palatable.
Hiding spinach in a green smoothie with bananas and peanut butter, or chickpeas and rice in a soup or stew are great ways to help you and your kids to get the variety needed to fulfill your body’s needs. Stir fry or steam some asparagus, artichokes, and black beans to top a dish of rice with slivered almonds.
Making food fun while sharing it, and the skills to prepare it, with friends and family can be the best part of the day. Knowing it’s good for them and helping them learn how and why will ensure that others become aware of the benefits to their auditory system.

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This AI-Powered Hearing Aid Technology Is Changing How You Hear In Crowds

hearing in a noisy environment

Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic. – Arthur C. Clarke (Author)
Our brains are the ultimate computer. They are always working and processing, anticipating and solving problems, running systems in the background while operating on the fly as we move through our lives. When it comes to hearing, the brain is just as crucial as the various parts of the ear.
What the brain can do, with the help of the ear, is to pick one voice out of a crowd and tune in to listen. So, what happens when hearing loss limits this advanced ability? Technology takes over.
The problem
While you may not often think about it, the way we can focus in on and listen to one voice in a larger, noisier crowd is pretty remarkable. Our brain quickly and seamlessly filters out others so we can hear the one. With hearing loss, this isn’t always possible. In fact, the difficulty so many with hearing loss face hearing in crowds or noisy settings is a problem so many hearing healthcare professionals and researchers have been trying to solve for years. With the newest technology, this problem could become a thing of the past.
AI Advancements
While hearing aids have steadily become more powerful with numerous advanced features over the years, isolating voices in crowds has still proved an elusive problem to solve. That’s why recent research of an exciting new piece of hearing aid technology has those in the world of hearing health cautiously optimistic.
Still, in the early stages of development, the new AI-powered hearing aid is powered by the brain. By monitoring brain waves, the device can automatically boost the voice the wearer would like to hear.
“By creating a device that harnesses the power of the brain itself, we hope our work will lead to technological improvements that enable the hundreds of millions of hearing-impaired people worldwide to communicate just as easily as their friends and family do,” said Nima Mesgarani, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the paper’s senior author.
Using a speech-separation algorithm, the hearing aid can identify the voice on which the user wants to tune in. While previous versions were limited to just those voices that it recognized, this latest version, tested on volunteers epilepsy patients, can focus in on any voice in a crowd based on the brain waves and refined algorithm.
Hearing aids and hearing loss
Advances like this in hearing aid technology can mean more natural hearing for the millions of people diagnosed with hearing loss. This, in turn, could prevent millions more cases of associated conditions including depression, anxiety, social isolation and even cognitive decline. The possibilities are endless.
If you believe you or someone you care about have hearing loss, don’t wait for advanced hearing aid technology like this to take action. Contact our office to schedule an evaluation today. It’s vital that hearing loss is treated early to preserve your quality of life.