Researchers at the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) might have cracked the code on one of hearing’s most bewildering mysteries, and the future design of hearing aids might get an overhaul based on their findings.
Results from an MIT study debunked the belief that neural processing is what lets us pick out voices. Isolating individual sound levels may actually be managed by a biochemical filter according to this study.
How Our Ability to Hear is Impacted by Background Noise
Only a small portion of the millions of individuals who suffer from hearing loss actually use hearing aids to deal with it.
Though a major boost in one’s ability to hear can be the outcome of wearing a hearing aid, those that wear a hearing-improvement device have commonly still had trouble in settings with a lot of background noise. For instance, the continuous buzz surrounding settings like parties and restaurants can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to single out a voice.
Having a discussion with somebody in a crowded room can be stressful and annoying and individuals who deal with hearing loss know this all too well.
Scientists have been meticulously studying hearing loss for decades. Due to those efforts, the way in which sound waves travel throughout the inner ear, and how the ear distinguishes different frequencies of sounds, was thought to be well-understood.
Scientists Identify The Tectorial Membrane
But the tectorial membrane wasn’t identified by scientists until 2007. You won’t see this microscopic membrane made of a gel-like material in any other parts of the body. The deciphering and delineation of sound is achieved by a mechanical filtering carried out by this membrane and that might be the most fascinating thing.
When vibration comes into the ear, the minute tectorial membrane manages how water moves in reaction using small pores as it rests on little hairs in the cochlea. It was noted that the amplification produced by the membrane caused a different reaction to different frequencies of sound.
The frequencies at the highest and lowest end of the spectrum appeared to be less affected by the amplification, but the study revealed strong amplification in the middle frequencies.
It’s that development that leads some to believe MIT’s groundbreaking discovery could be the conduit to more effective hearing aids that ultimately allow for better single-voice recognition.
Hearing Aid Design of The Future
The fundamental principles of hearing aid design haven’t changed much over the years. A microphone to detect sound and a loudspeaker to amplify it are the general components of hearing aids which, besides a few technology tweaks, have remained the same. Regrettably, that’s where one of the design’s shortcomings becomes evident.
All frequencies are boosted with an amplification device and that includes background noise. Another MIT researcher has long believed tectorial membrane exploration could result in new hearing aid designs that offer better speech recognition for users.
Theoretically, these new-and-improved hearing aids could functionally tune to a specific frequency range, which would enable the user to hear isolated sounds like a single voice. Only the desired frequencies would be increased with these hearing aids and everything else would be left alone.
Have Questions About Hearing Loss?
If you’re going through some level of hearing loss, contact us. Getting you the information you need about hearing loss and the advantages of hearing aids is our goal.