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Researchers Develop New Technique to Determine Speech Comprehension

Researchers Develop New Technique to Determine Speech Comprehension

Honiton hearing Devon like to keep on top of news and events world wide to give our clients the best knowledge base available.

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brainhearing_01

Neuroscientists from The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)—a research university in Flanders, Belgium—measured brainwaves to determine whether people understand what they heard, the university announced on its website.

The new technique was developed by Professor Tom Francart and his colleagues from the Department of Neurosciences at KU Leuven in collaboration with the University of Maryland. According to the announcement, the technique will allow for a more accurate diagnosis of patients who cannot actively participate in a speech understanding test because they’re too young, for instance, or because they’re in a coma. In the longer term, the method also holds potential for the development of smart hearing devices.

Tom Francart, KU Leuven Research Group, Experimental Oto-rhino-laryngology.

Tom Francart, KU Leuven Research Group, Experimental Oto-rhino-laryngology.

A common complaint from people with a hearing aid is that they can hear speech but they can’t make out its meaning. Indeed, being able to hear speech and actually understanding what’s being said are two different things.

The tests to determine whether you can hear soft sounds are well established. Just think of the test used by audiologists whereby you have to indicate whether you hear “beep” sounds. An alternative option makes use of EEG, which is often used to test newborns and whereby click sounds are presented through small caps over the ears. Electrodes on the head then measure whether any brainwaves develop in response to these sounds.

The great advantage of EEG is that it is objective and that the person undergoing the test doesn’t have to do anything. “This means that the test works regardless of the listener’s state of mind,” says co-author Jonathan Simon from the University of Maryland. “We don’t want a test that would fail just because someone stopped paying attention.”

Jonathan Simon, Professor ECE, ISR, BIO, University of Maryland, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Jonathan Simon,
ECE, ISR, BIO, Professor, University of Maryland, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

But to test speech understanding, the options are much more limited, explains lead author Tom Francart from KU Leuven: “Today, there’s only one way to test speech understanding. First, you hear a word or sentence. You then have to repeat it so that the audiologist can check whether you have understood it. This test obviously requires the patient’s active cooperation.”

Therefore, scientists set out to find an EEG-based method that can measure hearing as well as speech understanding completely automatically.

“And we’ve succeeded,” said Tom Francart. “Our technique uses 64 electrodes to measure someone’s brainwaves while they listen to a sentence. We combine all these measurements and filter out the irrelevant information. If you move your arm, for instance, that creates brainwaves as well. So we filter out the brainwaves that aren’t linked to the speech sound as much as possible. We compare the remaining signal with the original sentence. That doesn’t just tell us whether you’ve heard something but also whether you have understood it.”

The way this happens is quite similar to comparing two sound files on your computer: when you open the sound files, you sometimes see two figures with sound waves. Tom Francart: “Now, imagine comparing the original sound file of the sentence you’ve just heard and a different sound file derived from your brainwaves. If there is sufficient similarity between these two files, it means that you have properly understood the message.”

This new technique makes it possible to objectively and automatically determine whether someone understands what’s being said. This is particularly useful in the case of patients who cannot respond, including patients in a coma.

The findings can also help to develop ‘smart’ hearing aids and cochlear implants, Francart said: “Existing devices only ensure that you can hear sounds. But with built-in recording electrodes, the device would be able to measure how well you have understood the message and whether it needs to adjust its settings—depending on the amount of background noise, for instance.”

This research was funded by the European Research Council (GA 637424), the Research Foundation–Flanders (FWO), and KU Leuven.

Source: KU Leuven

Images: KU Leuven, University of Maryland

Which hearing aids are best for me?

Which hearing aids are best for me?

Honiton and South Devon is the place to get your hearing test along with your earwax removed.

You’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss and the hearing healthcare professional says you’ll benefit from wearing hearing aids, but which devices are best for you? The decision you make will depend greatly on the severity of your hearing loss as well as your health and the lifestyle you lead. Before you sit down to discuss options with your hearing healthcare provider, here are a few things to consider.

Are you a technology buff?

best hearing aids for me
Your hearing aids should be as individual
as you are!

Hearing aids have changed a lot in the last ten years. Today’s devices are nothing like those your parents or grandparents may have worn, mainly because of advances in technology. While your parents’ hearing aids had to be adjusted with a tiny screwdriver by a hearing care provider, today’s digital devices are programmed via computer. Gone are the days of fiddling around with bulky volume control wheels and buttons. Most of today’s devices can be controlled discreetly by the wearer with smartphone apps as listening environments change. Bluetooth technology allows hearing aids to connect wirelessly to that smartphone you bought the moment it became available, tablets, televisions or car audio.

How much of a techie are you? Chances are, there’s a hearing aid that can keep up with your fascination for cutting edge gadgets. If you’re not a technology lover, don’t despair – the technology in your new hearing aids can also work behind the scenes automatically so you can just focus on hearing your best.

Is your world noisy?

Let’s face it — life can be loud! Depending upon what you do for a living and how often you’re socially engaged with people you love spending time with, directional microphone technology can help you make sense of that noise. Dual microphones in the hearing aid work to help you understand speech in challenging listening environments such as noisy conventions, crowded restaurants and bars or a family room filled with chattering children by focusing on the sound directly in front of you and minimizing sound to the sides and back.

Nearly all hearing aids today have some form of noise reduction built in. This technology is best for increasing your comfort in noisy situations, but it’s the directional microphones that have a noticeable impact on your ability to understand conversation in these same situations. Be honest about your lifestyle and talk with your hearing care provider about which features you need.

Are you self-conscious about your hearing loss?

Let’s be clear: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing hearing aids — no matter whether they’re visible to others standing close to you or fit snugly out of sight inside your ear canal. These miracle devices not only help you hear your favorite sounds, they also alert you to emergency warning signals and decrease your risk of falling, developing dementia and feeling depressed. What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, some prefer to be more discreet about their hearing loss. For those individuals, tiny receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) or receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles with ultra-thin tubing and an availability of colors which blend with skin or hair may be desirable. For even more invisibility, invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) or completely-in-the-canal (CIC) styles may be an option.

The discretion of small hearing aids can come with some tradeoffs. Your hearing healthcare professional can help you decide, given the severity of your hearing loss and your personal preferences, which style is best for you.

Do you have dexterity issues?

Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other health conditions can cause numbness in the fingers or a decline in fine motor skills. The smaller the hearing aid, the smaller the features — such as the battery door or volume control. If you struggle with putting on jewelry or activities which require fine motor skills, you will likely benefit from wearing hearing aids that fit behind-the-ear (BTE) or a larger custom style. It’s much better to own devices you can operate confidently and effectively than one which frustrates you so much it spends more time in your nightstand than in your ear.

Summary

It’s important to remember that no two people or their hearing losses are alike, but there are hearing aids to suit most every need. The best hearing aids are the ones that work for you. Instead of waiting to make a decision because you’re afraid you’ll make the wrong one, find a hearing healthcare professional to guide you. Working as a team, the two of you can determine which devices will work for your unique hearing situation. Check out our directory of consumer-reviewed clinics to get started.

Sonic Enchant Line Adds SoundClip-A to Stream Sounds in Stereo from Numerous Devices

Sonic Enchant Line Adds SoundClip-A to Stream Sounds in Stereo from Numerous Devices

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Sonic SoundClip-A.

Sonic SoundClip-A.

Sonic, Somerset, NJ, has expanded the wireless connectivity options of its Enchant hearing aids with the introduction of SoundClip-A. The easy-to-use, lightweight SoundClip-A allows users to stream stereo sound hands-free to both hearing aids from all Bluetooth® 2.1 smartphones and devices. Sonic Enchant already offers a range of premium features including natural sound, the ease and convenience of rechargeable batteries, and direct wireless streaming from an iPhone®.

Now, the small, ergonomically designed clip-on device delivers added benefit as a wireless remote/partner microphone for easier listening when the speaker is at a distance or in noisy environments where listening is difficult. SoundClip-A also enables remote volume control, program changes and call pick-up with just the press of a button.

Joseph Lugera

Joseph Lugera

“SoundClip-A’s wireless transmission of stereo sound from all Bluetooth 2.1 smartphones and devices adds the ‘wow’ of even more wireless convenience to the many ways Enchant makes everyday sounds better,” said Sonic President & COO Joseph A. Lugara in a press statement. “With Enchant, wireless connectivity is simple and stress-free thanks to Enchant’s Dual-Radio System that delivers fast ear-to-ear connection and employs 2.4 GHz technology.”

Simply Streaming. SoundClip-A allows patients to use Enchant hearing aids as a headset for mobile calls. Users stream stereo quality sound to both ears through their Enchant hearing aids from any Bluetooth 2.1 compatible device—including mobile phones, tablets, MP3 players, and more. The built-in microphones pick up the wearer’s voice and sound from the call which is streamed wirelessly to both ears for convenient, hands-free conversations.

When SoundClip-A is used as a wireless remote/partner microphone, the speaker simply clips on the lightweight device or keeps it nearby. The speaker’s voice can be heard more easily through the user’s Enchant hearing aids at a distance of up to 65 feet, according to the company. SoundClip-A also helps users enjoy video calls, webinars, and other audio sources for easy wireless listening in both ears.

For more information on SoundClip-A and the entire Enchant family, including Enchant100, Enchant80 and Enchant60 and popular styles including the miniRITE with ZPower, miniRITE T (with telecoil) and BTE 105, visit www.sonici.com.