I'm hearing more and more about the relationship between the brain and hearing/hearing loss. How does Oticon’s audiological focus tap into this concept of "brain hearing"?
BrainHearing is a natural evolution of Oticon’s long-standing commitment to putting the needs of People First. This comes back to our research from our Eriksholm research facility, where we have understood that treating hearing loss is much more than presenting sound through amplification. We have known for some years that the brain has a unique ability to process sound if it receives a robust signal that is full of detail. Then, the brain can separate and interpret sound. As you know, it is the brain, and not the ear, where sound is finally processed. The dinner table is fantastic illustration of our ability to look at one person, pretend we are listening, but eavesdrop on someone sitting three chairs away. To accomplish that our brain requires a signal full of fine details. It is the incredibly small fingerprints, if you will, of the speech signal that are critical for the brain to understand and interpret sound.
Approximately five to 10 years ago, it became fundamental in our product development at Oticon to maintain a signal that is as natural and intact as possible, to enable the brain to do its job. There are a lot of processing schemes that manipulate the signal, such as applied compression. Compression is great for making soft sounds audible, and for keeping loud sounds from being too loud. However, it squeezes out a lot of details of the sound signals. We can close our eyes and we can pinpoint in a split second where a sound is coming from. That ability has, in conventional processing schemes, been lost.
At Oticon, our signal processing is designed to restore these details and to bring them forward.
BrainHearing focuses on the four key functions the brain uses to make sense of the sound it receives from the ears. The brain constantly uses both ears to orient itself and know what’s happening in the environment. It separates relevant sounds from competing noise. It has to know where to focus in noisy environments and finally, it has to recognize sound to make sense of it.
Our Inium chip is the latest generation of processing architecture based on the brain first mindset. With our Spatial Sound technology, we enable both ears to work together with the brain in real time. Speech Guard preserves the natural characteristics of speech and Free Focus supports the brain’s ability to focus while continuing to orient and separate sounds. YouMatic allows us to personalize these technologies to each individual’s unique hearing needs and sound preferences.
This Ask the Expert was taken from an interview with Soren Nielsen - click here to read the interview in its entirety.