Meandering Through A Hearing World New Hearing Technology
I visited my audiologist a few weeks ago. After a conversation about how I was doing, and after he made sure my hearing aids were in working order, we talked about what is new in the world of hearing. Our discussion filled me with hope. I believe there will come a day when technology or medical solutions will stamp out the hearing problems of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.
New hearing technology takes into account that hearing is a very complex mechanism. Medical professionals understand how sound travels from the outer ear into the hearing canal and how sound waves become electrical impulses and enter the hearing center of the brain. They do not fully understand how we distinguish one sound from another, nor do they fully understand how people hear in noise. However, researchers have made some great discoveries in these areas.
To help those with hearing problems hear in noisy environments, researchers are developing brain hearing aids. There are several manufacturers of these types of hearing aids. If you scan the websites of the major manufacturers, i.e., Oticon, ReSound, Starkey, Phonak, etc. you will see what is available. My audiologist believes that Oticon has the best technology.
Beyond that, Columbia University is working with A.I. (artificial intelligence) to develop a hearing system that will allow the user to actually read another person’s brain waves. If that doesn’t sound like science fiction, I don’t know what does. It’s fascinating research and linked to the idea that normal hearing individuals can hear what another individual says even in the midst of the din. The folks at Columbia are developing a hearing aid that will help the wearer distinguish a single sound amongst the cacophony of what we hear in the streets and in public places. How many of us have wished for something like this?
There are medical advances as well. Though the study is currently on hold, researchers are working with a drug called CGF166, which might help some people regenerate hair cells. Early participants in the study had mixed results and Novartis (the pharmaceutical company who developed CGF166) is now assessing their results. Hopefully this study will resume in the future.
For those interested in Cochlear Implants there is much new technology. The Cochlear Company has recently come out with a new generation hearing processor that automatically links to a ReSound hearing aid, thus creating a surround sound hearing system. The company is also working on ways to internalize the implant, thus freeing all C.I. users of having to wear external hardware.
I’m sure there are many other studies and other technology out there. If you are interested in keeping up, some good sources are your audiologist, Hearing Review, Hearing Loss Association of America, and ALDA. All have websites indicating what is available and what is coming.
Never give up on your hearing has become my moto. As I meander through the hearing world, I’ve come to believe that one day we might find just the right solution for all that suffer from hearing loss.