When most people think of hearing, they think of the ear. However, the ear is just one part of the body that helps us hear. The brain also plays an important role in the hearing process, and hearing aid technology is changing to focus on the brain rather than the ear.
The Hearing Process
The hearing process begins with noises traveling from the outer ear, through the middle ear and into the inner ear where the noises cause thousands of tiny hair cells to vibrate. These hair cells send electrical signals to the auditory nerve that connects to the brain. After the signal travels through the nerve, it is sent to the brain where it is processed and translated into sounds that people can recognize and understand.
When these hair cells are damaged, people experience hearing loss. Research shows untreated hearing loss can reduce the brain’s ability to remain strong and healthy. This may result in cognitive decline among other outcomes such as social withdrawal and depression. However, hearing aids have shown to decrease this cognitive decline.
Brain Hearing Technology
Traditional hearing aids take the noise coming into the ear and amplify it to a level the remaining hair cells can collect. In “Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: 25-Year Study,” findings point toward improved communication as the cause for reduced cognitive decline.
“Improved communication made possible by hearing aids resulted in improved mood, social interaction and cognitively stimulating abilities and is the most likely underlying reason for the decreased cognitive decline reported in the study,” Thomas Behrens, MSc, who is the head of Oticon’s Centre for Applied Audiology Research said in an Oticon press release regarding the study.
The newer brain hearing technology takes this idea to the next level by focusing devices on the brain instead of the ear. Researchers have learned that sound processing actually occurs in the brain and not the ear. Brain focused hearing devices work to preserve natural noise quality in speech recognition, spatial recognition, sound filtering and sound focusing.
Traditional hearing device amplification does not always guarantee the brain will recognize the signal and the brain often works harder to compensate for the absent sound. Focusing on the way the brain processes sound signals prevents the brain from fatigue and being overwhelmed by unnecessary amplification resulting in improved user satisfaction. Oticon reports user satisfaction for brain focused hearing devices at a 17 percent increase from traditional hearing devices.
Though traditional devices have proven they can positively impact a person’s quality of life, brain focused aids appear to provide users with a better hearing experience.
Call Medical Hearing Clinic at (801) 399-5014 for more information or to schedule an appointment.