Unlocking the brain processing secret

Hear this: Research suggests strong connections between hearing health and brain health. Photo: Shutterstock
Hear this: Research suggests strong connections between hearing health and brain health. Photo: Shutterstock

New research is changing the way we think about hearing aids by unlocking the secret to how our brains process sound and paving the way for improved treatments and technologies.

Jonathan Constantine, the Brisbane-based national audiology manager of hearing device company Oticon, said research from the United States challenges the established approach for hearing aids, which is to provide access to only one voice while minimising background noise.

"The new studies suggest people with hearing loss need access to all sounds for their brains to make sense of their environment," Mr Constantine said.

"Ideally, hearing aids should support the natural hearing process that occurs in the brain, because our brain is the world's most sophisticated sound processor.

"Once our brain forms a complete picture of the soundscape, it can choose what it wants to focus on.

"This is the foundation for what is known as 'selective attention' which allows us to hear what we want, while filtering out what is not important.

"If a hearing aid provides limited access to sounds, the brain has to work harder to make sense of the sound. This can then diminish the overall quality of hearing."

Mr Constantine said the new research confirmed Oticon's fundamental BrainHearing philosophy which is that while the ears collect sound, it's the brain that makes sense of it.

"We have always believed that the key to treating hearing loss lies in understanding how the brain processes and makes sense of sound," he said.

This is a philosophy Redlands-based Absolute Hearing Solution endorses with Oticon being one of the brands its audiometrists recommend.

"We work very close with Oticon who provide training to ensure we keep up with the very latest in technology and advancements," said principal audiometrist Mona Sunde.

"Clients have been happy with the way this technology deals with background noise. It's a great Australian product."

SHARE