Soundly Interfering

Hearing aids addressing sound interference

(RxWiki News) Loud conversations amid background noise are difficult even for people with normal hearing to take. This is especially true for people with hearing aids, as most of these aids aren't customized to each patient's hearing thresholds.

Patients with hearing may find social situations extremely difficult because the current hearing aids cannot prioritize sounds, they only amplify all sounds.

"New hearing aids aspire to encourage patients with hearing loss a fuller life."

Lead researcher Professor Ray Meddis, of the University of Essex Department of Psychology, reports that curren hearing aids don't assist in separating sounds.  Everything seems quite noisy for the wearers in situations like parties, discos, and restaurants.

These social situations make it difficult for people with hearing aids to carry on a conversation with someone as they are unable to "select" which noise to hear. This can make the person with hearing aids avoid social situations altogether and withdraw.

Meddis explains that in the same way a tailor's dummy is used to measure and fit a garment for a particular person, his new software dummy is used to individually tailor a patient's hearing requirements to suit their needs. This happens right when the hearing aids are fitted without requiring any new calibration of the device.

This work shows when it comes to hearing impairment, no two people are alike observes Meddis. It explains why two patients with very similar hearing thresholds can react quite differently to the same hearing aids.

In closing, Meddis comments that current hearing aids available focus on symptoms, not the causes and his new study's goal has been to break through the limitations of current hearing aids to ultimately to encourage people with hearing loss to live a much fuller life.

Three key advances leading to developing a new hearing aid were made in this research:

  • The development of "Hearing dummies",  which are actually a unique computer model which can use information about an individual patient with hearing loss and, based on this data, can simulate exact details regarding the patients hearing loss. Via mathematical algorithms, the hearing dummy can adjust until perfectly matching the hearing capabilities of the individual patient. This pinpoints the possible cause of the patient's hearing impairment.
  • Meddis and his team also have designed a new hearing test to replace current tests which design hearing aids based only upon threshold testing.
  • In collaboration with hearing aid manufacturer Phonak, the team is also in the early stages of developing a new kind of hearing aid that simulates how normal hearing occurs. This new hearing aid will possibly restore some aspects of hearing that are not addressed with currently available hearing aids. The hearing aid is currently being tested on patients.
Review Date: 
June 13, 2011