OPEN TO CHANGE
May 21, 2018
Over the past fifteen years, “thin tube” and “receiver-in-the-ear” (RITE) hearing instruments have come to dominate the “behind-the-ear” (BTE) market. These smaller, stylish designs have a more appealing look, are more comfortable to wear, and are easier to adjust than older BTE models. Because they deliver sound to the wearer’s ear via a thin tube or a “receiver-in-the-ear” (RITE) design that does not entirely block the ear, these hearing instruments are valued for their ability to circumvent the “occlusion effect” that makes the wearer’s voice seem hollow or “boomy.” These “open-fit” instruments are generally recommended for mild to moderate high-frequency losses. If necessary, more occlusive “ear tips” are available to accommodate a greater degree of hearing loss.
May 14, 2018
Recent research indicates that listening to something while looking in a different direction slows reaction times, as the brain works to overcome distractions. Whether we are driving or conversing, this finding reinforces the idea that, by casting our gaze in a direction that is different from what we are listening to, we compromise our ability to hear. Researchers found that simply shifting the direction of gaze a few degrees away from a sound source has a significant impact on brain activity. Our brains are wired to expect visual gaze direction to be in alignment with auditory attention. Thus, the whole notion of the validity of multi-tasking must be called into further question.
PREPARE FOR LANDING
May 07, 2018
Jet travelers often encounter the potentially painful problem (medically known as “barotrauma”) of having their ears blocked and in need of “popping.” Most people respond to this annoying sensation by yawning, which helps to open the Eustachian tubes and regulate pressure in the middle ear. It may also help to sip water and swallow to activate the muscles that open the Eustachian tube. If these methods don’t work, the “Valsava maneuver” may be tried, which involves taking a deep breath and pinch the nose shut. Then, keeping the mouth closed, the individuals tries to gently blow air through his or her nose. Another tactic, the Toynbee maneuver, involves pinching the nose closed and closing the mouth, then trying to swallow.
COMING TO YOUR SENSES
April 30, 2018
Our ability to feel, see, hear, taste, and smell is what connects us to other people and the outer world in general. Thus, it comes as rather sobering news that the first study to measure full-spectrum sensory damage reveals that 94% of older (57 to 85 years) adults have at least one sensory deficit, 38% have two, and 28% have three. The study goes on to reveal that nearly two-thirds (64%) of study participants suffered from a significant deficit in at least one sense. Twenty-two percent had major deficits in two or more senses. These findings are important for no other reason than a similar study found that hearing impairment may be associated with an increased risk of death.
GETTING THE RIGHT SIGNAL
April 23, 2018
One of the keys to improving the understanding of speech in a noisy environment involves improving the “signal-to-noise” ratio (SNR). An SNR figure indicates how many decibels louder speech is than the surrounding noise. The higher the SNR, the easier it is for the listener to understand speech. One way to enhance the separation between speech and noise, and thus improve the SNR, is to use a “directional” hearing instrument. Rather than amplify sound from all directions (as omni-directional hearing instruments do), a directional hearing instrument amplifies sound from in front of the listener more than from behind. This helps listeners understand conversation by improving the SNR, and it can also improve the wearer’s ability to localize sounds.