A person with a cochlear implant having a conversation in an transit station (a complex listening environment) (Image credit : blog.google)
EARLIER This year, Google, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), Macquarie University, the Shepherd Centre, and NextSense announced a partnership with Cochlear, the maker of cochlear implants. The goal is to develop novel hearing-assistance technology and to enhance currently available ones, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids.
More people are realizing how crucial it is to safeguard their hearing. But there is a hearing loss issue on the planet. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide, including 430 million with debilitating hearing loss, currently live with hearing loss, but the World Health Organization projects that by 2050, those numbers will increase to 2.5 billion and 700 million, respectively.
This alliance aspires to achieve significant advancements in hearing technologies over the following few years by bringing together knowledge and resources from several fields of hearing research, technology, academia, government, and health care.
Despite the fact that every person with hearing loss is different, the majority of hearing aids follow a one-size-fits-all philosophy. A more individualized strategy has long been advocated for by experts and those who suffer from hearing loss. Google intends to use its expertise in AI and machine learning.
“The idea is to be able to customize the experience for each person, and for the environment they are currently in,” explains Sam Sepah, lead accessibility research product manager at Google.
Most people who use hearing aids or cochlear implants find it difficult to hear in noisy settings. Hearing aids boost the sounds that wearers wish to hear, but they also boost unwanted background noises. It can be challenging to distinguish one person’s voice from the din in a crowded restaurant or take part in a group discussion. Only hearing a small portion of what is being said makes it difficult to follow conversations, and noisy surroundings like a car or airplane cabin can be intolerable.
Google intends to tackle this issue using artificial intelligence to more accurately recognize, classify, and separate sound sources. Simply said, this should make speech and other sounds that the user truly wants to hear considerably clearer and allow hearing aids and implants to reduce background noise.
The customization and fitting of hearing implants and aids is another crucial component. According to Jan Janssen, chief technical officer of Cochlear, there is a wide range in how well persons with comparable levels of hearing loss can hear while utilizing the same device. There is room for better personalization to guarantee that people get the most out of hearing aid technologies if we can better understand why routes originating in the ear and continuing through to the brain differ so much from person to person.
Cochlear’s New Living Guidelines
International living guidelines have been started to be developed to determine who needs to be evaluated and referred for a cochlear implant. Currently, there is no set scale or test outcome that causes a referral. In response to studies that suggests that just three out of every 100 Americans who could benefit from cochlear implants actually obtain one, this action has been taken. People with severe hearing loss don’t always seek treatment because counsel varies greatly, and when they do, they can receive incorrect advice.
“Many patients who today would benefit from cochlear implants, that would be paid for by their insurance, don’t have access to the technology,” says Brian Kaplan, chairman of the department of otolaryngology and director of the Cochlear Implant Program at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
Many individuals worry about the cost, and another obstacle is the belief that you must be completely deaf. According to Kaplan, it takes an average of 12 years for someone to qualify for and receive a cochlear implant. A lot of people battle declining hearing. A cochlear implant can enhance speech clarity while hearing aids can increase volume.
The costs of hearing loss to society and its connections to depression, social isolation, and dementia are becoming more evident. According to one study that followed 639 persons for over 12 years, those with mild hearing loss had a doubled chance of dementia, those with moderate loss had a tripled risk, and those with severe hearing loss had a fivefold increased risk.
People may be discouraged by their fears of the surgery, although Kaplan claims that it is not brain surgery. It is an outpatient treatment that typically lasts an hour, can be carried out under local anesthetic, and should cause only minor discomfort. To insert the implant, a 2-inch incision is made behind the ear. The majority of patients report enhanced hearing and speech recognition within three months of implantation, and the success rate is quite high (less than 0.2% of patients reject the implants). There is some risk with any procedure. The hearing improvement provided by cochlear implants varies, they don’t always work for everyone, and complications sometimes call for additional surgery.
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The first step is to see an audiologist to get tested if you believe you or someone you know could benefit. Cochlear can direct you to a hearing implant specialist and provide advise on referrals.
With smaller, more effective hearing aids, better cochlear implants, and greater accessibility options on gadgets like phones and earbuds, hearing technology is advancing quickly. We have tutorials on using your smartphone to manage hearing loss, as well as how to stream audio to cochlear implants and hearing aids. To prevent damage to your hearing, you want to additionally think about the best earplugs.