In a world, where hearing loss is being accepted as an inevitable destiny by millions, irrespective of their age, it’s intriguing, how much technology can do to understand this issue better. This recent technological advancement may not be helpful to erase this disability, but it does help us encounter the problem with a much better approach.
According to Matt Petronzio,
As stated by the World Health Organization, hundreds and millions of individuals are dealing with hearing loss around the world, which is like, more than 5% of the world population.
“Nearly 50 million Americans experience hearing loss, including one in five teens and 47% of adults aged 75 or older. It’s also associated with war: 60% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan return with hearing loss and tinnitus.”
Now that the numbers are becoming increasingly alarming, it’s important to figure out a solution soon. We need to find out the advancements, that technology has made, to take care of this rising cause of worry?
The hearing loss simulators like the Starkey‘s are now readily sold online, there is also one from the Hear the World Foundation.
This technology aims to bring to an individual with normal hearing abilities, the experience of hearing loss. These hearing loss simulators make it possible for us to understand deafness, and hence reach out better to our parents, partners and friends with hearing impairments, as well as, the generally curious public.
The question still lies in the true ability of these devices. How accurate are these simulations, and what goes into creating them? Are they even the best way to communicate hearing loss to those who hear normally?
Dr. Brian Moore, a specialist in the perception of sound, and leader of the Auditory Perception Group at the University of Cambridge, believes these types of simulations are the best we have, at the moment. Moore has researched how the auditory system works, the relationship between sound stimuli and what we actually perceive, and the changes in perception that occur when people have hearing loss.
In 1995, he published Perceptual Consequences of Cochlear Damage with an accompanying audio CD, which included eight demonstrations that simulated the effects of hearing loss. Over the past 19 years, Moore and his colleagues have modified the demonstrations with minor tweaks.
All that we know for now is that, they aren’t the perfect equipment, but this is the best we have. Moore’s team has evaluated its simulations by testing patients who have a hearing impairment in one ear only — the other ear is normal. First, they play a sound through his impaired ear. Then they process that same sound to simulate the hearing loss of his impaired ear and present it to his good ear. That patient then evaluates how similar he finds the sounds.
More often than not, they say it matches pretty well, according to Moore.
But the process isn’t all trial and error. For instance, simulations are based on measurements of two aspects of hearing impairment, that specialists know occur: loudness recruitment, or the ability to detect high levels of sound normally, but not low levels, and reduced frequency selectivity, when the ear can’t perceive different frequencies in complex sounds (such as music or overlapping speech).
First, measuring a person’s sound detection threshold (the lowest sounds he or she can perceive) helps to actually process the simulation, with nearly accurate results.
“Though the simulation doesn’t sound very nice to people with normal hearing, it’s actually not quite as bad as what the hearing-impaired person is experiencing. So, there’s some other dimension that we’re missing in these simulations. We’re getting close, but we’re not quite there,” Moore says.
Moore and others have also worked on simulations of what it’s like to listen through a cochlear implant.
“Cochlear implants are devices usually given only to people with severe or profound hearing loss, who don’t get much benefit from a hearing aid. They are increasingly being used in very young children,” Moore says.
The cochlear implant simulations may be even more surprising to the average person — the sound is staticky, but you can pick up what is said. Today’s cochlear implants, however, still aren’t very good at picking up frequencies in complex sounds, such as music. There’s room for improvement in that space, too.
Hearing Loss Symptoms|Starkey
In addition to giving parents, spouses and friends of hearing-impaired people a lot of insight into what their loved ones are experiencing, Moore also believes these simulations can be useful tools in encouraging teens especially, to take care of their hearing.
These stimulations will surely spread the awareness and also the concern, such that people start taking care of their ears. These hearing loss simulators will make one understand the problems faced by the people with hearing loss.
You can find some of Moore’s latest simulations on the Action on Hearing Loss website, a nonprofit that supports hearing loss research in the UK. The site even lets you check if you have hearing loss, with an easy quiz.
As per Moore this advancement may not be the ultimate achievement in resolving deafness but it does significantly pave its path.