One of hearing loss’s most perplexing mysteries may have been solved by scientists from the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the future design of hearing aids may get an overhaul in line with their findings.
Findings from an MIT study debunked the idea that neural processing is what lets us single out voices. According to the study, it may actually be a biochemical filter that allows us to tune in to specific sound levels.
How Background Noise Impacts Our Ability to Hear
While millions of individuals battle hearing loss, only a fraction of them attempt to deal with that hearing loss with the use of hearing aids.
Though a major boost in one’s ability to hear can be the result of using a hearing aid, settings with a lot of background noise have typically been a problem for people who use a hearing improvement device. For instance, the steady buzz associated with settings like restaurants and parties can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to discriminate a voice.
Having a conversation with someone in a crowded room can be stressful and frustrating and people who deal with hearing loss know this all too well.
Scientists have been meticulously investigating hearing loss for decades. The way that sound waves move through the ear and how those waves are distinguished, due to this body of research, was believed to be well understood.
Scientists Discover The Tectorial Membrane
But the tectorial membrane wasn’t discovered by scientists until 2007. You won’t find this microscopic membrane made of a gel-like substance in any other parts of the body. The deciphering and delineation of sound is achieved by a mechanical filtering performed by this membrane and that might be the most intriguing thing.
When vibration enters 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 among the middle frequencies.
It’s that development that leads some scientists to believe MIT’s groundbreaking breakthrough could be the conduit to more effective hearing aids that ultimately enable better single-voice identification.
Hearing Aid Design of The Future
The fundamental concepts 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 elements of hearing aids which, besides a few technology tweaks, have remained unchanged. This is, unfortunately, where the shortcoming of this design becomes obvious.
All frequencies are boosted with an amplification device including background noise. Tectorial membrane research could, according to another MIT researcher, result in new, state-of-the-art hearing aid designs which would offer better speech recognition.
The user of these new hearing aids could, in theory, tune in to an individual voice as the hearing aid would be able to tune specific frequencies. Only the chosen frequencies would be boosted with these hearing aids and everything else would be left alone.
Need Some Hearing Loss Help?
If you’re experiencing some level of hearing loss, call us. Getting you the information you need about hearing loss and the advantages of using hearing aids is our mission.