Today’s hearing aids are technological marvels. Many boast features such as rechargeability, Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone compatibility, telecoils, directional microphones, automatic programming, machine learning and more. But despite all that today’s devices are capable of, they do have some limitations. One group of researchers studying the cochlea hope their findings will lead to hearing aid improvements in the future.
Addressing the Cocktail Party Problem
One of the limitations of today’s hearing aids is that they don’t fully address the cocktail party problem.
The cocktail party problem refers to difficulty people with hearing loss have distinguishing between multiple voices in certain settings like dinner parties at Wild River Grille. Hearing aids that have directional microphones partially fix this problem by amplifying the speaker in front of the wearer, but that’s not always the voice you want to be in focus.
A research team led by Jong-Hoon Nam at the University of Rochester is hopeful their findings will help hearing aids better address the cocktail party problem.
The purpose of the study is to determine the precise moment when sounds are converted into electrical impulses by the hair cells known as stereocilia within the cochlea. The researchers believe this information could provide the basic science needed to design hearing aids capable of compensating for the unique ways hearing loss presents within every ear.
According to Nam, “No two hearing aids should be the same.”
Some key findings of the study so far are summarized below:
- The outer hair cells in the cochlea can both amplify and reduce vibrations in order to enhance cochlear tuning.
- A computer model has been created that can interpret and analyze how the response to one tone can be reduced by the presence of another tone within a healthy cochlea.
- Imbalances of Ca2+, a calcium ion that controls a variety of cellular processes, can contribute to the creation of outer hair cells, particularly those responsible for high-frequency sounds.
- Extended silence could harm rather than help hearing health.
To learn more about today’s hearing technology or to schedule an appointment with a hearing aid expert, call LeMay Hearing & Balance today.