Research shows that only one in four people who experience a hearing loss actually take the time to address their hearing loss, which is a frightening thought when you consider that the industry benchmark for hearing aid users that are satisfied with their hearing devices is 79%.
“That is the reason why many hearing aid devices land up in the drawer, not being used,” says Tally Sherban, a Client Relations Executive at Oticon South Africa, a leading hearing aid manufacturer.
With this in mind, Oticon took the concept of hearing back to the drawing board and shifted its focus. “Sound is one thing, but making sense of sound is everything to someone with a hearing loss,” explains Tally. “That core realisation led us to understand that we can’t merely compensate for damage in the ear, but that we need to help the brain understand the sound it receives from the ears or a hearing device. We call it, BrainHearing, the brainchild of 100 years of experience and innovation. It is a whole new mindset in audiology and hearing care.”
There are four key audiological features that enable the brain to make sense of sound.
- It uses both ears to orient itself in order to know what’s happening in the environment.
- It separates relevant sounds from competing noise.
- It has to know where to focus in noisy sound environments.
- The brain also depends on its ability to recognise a sound in order to make sense of it.
To provide the brain with the input it needs to make sense of sound, BrainHearing technology must fulfil a number of demands. “In order for the brain to make sense of sound, we have to allow both ears to work together, to keep the natural sound level differences occurring at each ear. It’s about preserving the important details of sounds while maintaining as much of the surrounding environment as possible. From there we prioritise speech information over other sounds and allow the hearing device to deliver varying degrees of directionality,” explains Tally.
At the heart of BrainHearing is Oticon’s desire to match an individual’s own experience of sound with what their hearing aid delivers. “By combining and optimising all our different features, I believe we have come up with a way to achieve just that,” says Tally. “Our latest generation quad-core signal processing platform, Inium is the first platform that makes it possible for two hearing instruments to communicate continuously and seamlessly, which allows us to truly support the brain’s entire process of making sense of sound,” she explains.
“It enables the individual to organise sounds and to orient themselves within their surrounding by letting both ears work together with the brain – constantly – and in real time (spatial sound). It also allows them to hear better in challenging environments by preserving as many of the unique characteristics of a sound to work alongside spatial sound to support the brain in separating voices and sounds from each other (speech guard),” Tally says.
“Once you have these two pillars in place, the brain has the freedom to focus by understanding speech over other noises, engaging in conversation and switching focus when necessary (free focus). Finally, Oticon’s YouMatic helps to make sounds more recognisable, allowing the user to enjoy an enhanced, enriched listening experience according to his or her own sound preferences and tastes,” explains Tally.
Oticon hearing instruments with BrainHearing technology are designed for the brain, supporting the hard work it does. By combining Oticon’s spatial sound, speech guard, free focus and YouMatic technologies, BrainHearing was born. “The results speak for themselves,” says Tally. “In our Oticon Alta international satisfaction study that was completed in 2013, our overall satisfaction for both new and experienced hearing instrument users was rated at 96%, which revolutionises everything we know about the hearing industry,” concludes Tally.