Wearing hearing aid may help protect brain in later life – Neuroscience News

Summary: Wearing a hearing aid for age-related hearing loss may help to protect the brain against dementia, a new study finds. Researchers report those who wore hearing aids maintained better brain function over time than those who did not.

Source: University of Exeter

A new study has concluded that people who wear a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems maintain better brain function over time than those who do not.

It builds on important research in recent years pulled together by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care, through which hearing loss emerged as an important risk factor for dementia. This research suggests that wearing a hearing aid may mitigate that risk.

The research was conducted by the University of Exeter and King’s College London and is presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in LA. In the PROTECT online study of 25,000 people aged 50 or over.

The findings provide early evidence that encouraging people to wear an effective hearing aid may help to protect their brains and reduce their risk of dementia.

Both groups undertook annual cognitive tests over two years. After that time, the group who wore hearing aids performed better in measures assessing working memory and aspects of attention than those who did not. On one attention measure, people who wore hearing aids showed faster reaction times – in everyday terms, this is a reflection of concentration, for example, ‘straining to hear a sound’, ‘peering closely at an object of great interest’, ‘listening intently to someone speaking’.

The findings provide early evidence that encouraging people to wear an effective hearing aid may help to protect their brains and reduce their risk of dementia. The image is in the public domain.

PROTECT lead Dr. Anne Corbett, from the University of Exeter, said: “Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia. Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain. We now need more research and a clinical trial to test this and perhaps feed into policy to help keep people healthy in later life.”

Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We know that we could reduce dementia risk by a third if we all took action from mid-life. This research is part of an essential body of work to find out what really works to keep our brains healthy. This is an early finding and needs more investigation, yet it has exciting potential. The message here is that if you’re advised you need a hearing aid, find one that works for you. At the very least it will improve your hearing and it could help keep your brain sharp too.”

About this neuroscience research article

University of Exeter
Media Contacts:
Louise Vennells – University of Exeter
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: The findings will be presented at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

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Zak Starkey Launches New Reggae Label Trojan Jamaica With Compilation LP ‘Red, Gold, Green & Blue’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Trojan Jamaica is a brand new label co-founded by Zak Starkey and Sharna “Sshh” Liguz whose first release is the compilation album Red, Gold, Green & Blue. That blue is added to the title of the record as Starkey and Liguz worked with reggae legends to record some classic blues numbers in their own style. The end result is a mixed bag of tunes as the island vibe and broken-hearted blues don’t always synch, however when they do, the results are rollicking. 

All efforts have a jam session vibe and the best songs find the impressive house band of Starkey (guitar), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Sly Dunbar (drums), Tony Chin (guitar), Cyril Neville (drums), Michael Rendall (keyboards, organ) and Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace (drums, organ) pairing with the singers expertly, such as on the slinky, sexy interpretation of Screaming Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You” sung by Mykal Rose. Another exuberant jaunt is the players take on “Gunslinger” as Big Youth puts his unique spin on the Bo Diddley tale.  

The tracks which successfully manage to fuse the blues/reggae style such as Freddie McGregor singing the “Come On In My Kitchen” over the Sly and Robbie Beat while a distorted guitar cuts through the smoky haze or the short and super sweet take on Muddy Waters “Don’t Go No Further” by Andrew Tosh are worth seeking out. It is when things stay a bit one note that they aren’t as exciting, such as on the straight ahead “44 Blues” by Rose or the skittering “Baby Please Don’t Go” from Phylead Carley. Lesser efforts like “Temperature” from Big Youth has fine drum hits but stumbles through the chorus of the Little Walter jam, losing the originals appeal and the experimental album-closing “Sun is Shining” tries for too much.

A recording like the adventurous combo of “Wang Dang Doodle-Oh Well” shows the strengths and limits of the compilation as the first half delivers clunky duet between Shakespeare and Liguz, however when the song shifts to “Oh Well” Liguz takes the singing reigns with the outfit behind her lighting up and soaring. Toots Hibbard arrives to sing “Man of the World” and while missing the high notes to start, the track gains ground and sways with his raspy well-traveled voice.  

It sounds as if all involved are having fun on Red, Gold, Green and Blue and by simply having the ability to play and record with such titans of Jamaican music, Starkey and Liguz have roped in a debut release for their label they can be profoundly proud of.  

The post Zak Starkey Launches New Reggae Label Trojan Jamaica With Compilation LP ‘Red, Gold, Green & Blue’ (ALBUM REVIEW) appeared first on Glide Magazine.

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Mom Comes Up With a Brilliant Way To Give Confidence To Kids With Hearing Aids

In 2011, baby Freddie was born prematurely. Freddie Congenital CMV, a virus that left him deaf in one year and moderately to severely deaf in his other ear. The baby was just two months old when doctors gave him a single hearing aid.

Three years later, the UK mom Sarah Ivermee got funding for a cochlear implant for Freddie’s profoundly deaf ear. Freddie loved his hearing aid, but other kids didn’t like it as much as he did.

Sarah became aware of the fact that most kids don’t like their hearing aid, adding that they felt ugly. She even did a research to change the appearance of the hearing aid, but there was no way to do so. Freddie’s mom knew that she had to do something.

The mom contacted a friend whose 9-year-old daughter didn’t like the device. Sarah decided to decorate it and make it look pretty. The little girl loved it a lot. We all love fancy designs, right?

An idea was born

Sarah decided to help every kid with hearing loss. She decided to restore their self-confidence.  In 2014, she founded Lugs, a company that makes custom-made kits that can be used to decorate hearing devices and cochlear implants.

There were a lot of flowers, butterflies, superheroes and cartoon characters. Kids loved these!

Sarah was happy to learn that kids from every corner of the world wanted to wear her designs. She was making these in her living room. What’s better than making a kid proud or happy?

Today, Sarah uses her website and social media to share photos sent by parents.

First, parents choose the kid’s device so Sarah can make stickers with the right size, and then they make the order. Sarah loves accommodating special requests, because she is so happy to help people who struggle every day.

Do you know that Sarah makes Halloween kits, too? It’s not just Halloween. There are so many holiday-themed stickers.

Lugs may be a one-woman company, but Sarah’s business is growing every day. One of her customers said that the kit relieved her stress, because let’s be honest, no parent likes to see their kid struggling to hear a word.

We learn how to tolerate differences and disabilities, but there are millions of people who struggle to be accepted. Most of them can’t even look their face in the mirror. Wearing “extra stuff” may be uncomfortable, and that’s what helped Sarah turn her idea into reality.


The post Mom Comes Up With a Brilliant Way To Give Confidence To Kids With Hearing Aids appeared first on Healthy Food House.

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Second Starkey fraud defendant sentenced to 18 months in prison – StarTribune.com

Sentencing hearings continued Thursday in the Starkey Laboratories fraud and embezzlement case, with the former president of one of the Eden Prairie-based hearing aid makers’ suppliers received an 18-month prison sentence in federal court in Minneapolis.

W. Jeff Taylor, former president of Sonion, was convicted in March of one count of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud for hiding his ownership position in sham companies that wrongly received commissions, fees and discounts at the cost of Starkey and Sonion.

Jerry Ruzicka, fired president of Starkey, received a seven-year sentence on Wednesday for his part in the sham companies as well as stealing $15.5 million of restricted stock from Starkey subsidiary Northland Hearing and $1.9 million in fraudulent bonuses for himself and others.

U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim reduced the amount of money connected to the three charges to more than $338,000 and also ordered two years of probation for Taylor.

The U.S. attorney’s office had asked for a sentence of seven to nine years for Taylor, and prosecutors told the court Thursday he showed no remorse and has not apologized to Sonion or its employees.

Taylor’s attorney, Bill Mauzy, asked for extreme leniency and said his client had accepted responsibility for his actions.

Taylor, at times teary-eyed, told the court he “sincerely regrets” his behavior.

“I’ve lost nearly everything, and I will pay for that for the rest of my life,” said Taylor, who had no family at the sentencing hearing.

He told the judge he went through a divorce while the case was winding through the courts and was concerned about his three daughters and elderly parents.

He asked to be imprisoned at the Duluth Prison Camp so he could be near his family. Tunheim said while the Bureau of Prisons will make the assignments he will not contest that preference, which was the same as Ruzicka’s. Both men are to report to prison on March 11.

Ruzicka, as well as former business associate Larry Hagen, who was acquitted in March of charges related to the sham companies, were at the sentencing hearing to support Taylor.

Two other sentencing hearings are set for Thursday. Scott A. Nelson, fired chief financial officer of Starkey, and Jeff Longtain, former president of Starkey subsidiary Northland Hearing, pleaded guilty to counts earlier this year.

Taylor was originally charged with 16 counts of fraud, but the jury only convicted him of three.

This content was originally published here.

Intelligent agents for automation | Phonak Audiology Blog – Phonak Pro – life is on

Don’t we all prefer things to be automated these days? Intelligent driving with cruise control, distance regulation and lane centering, automatic climate control in the car and at home, quick-sync connection of all our paired devices, voice commands, and so forth…. “Time is money” and “Convenience is king” go the sayings, and these days we seem to pack so much into our daily programs and technology is expected to keep pace.

This is no less relevant when it comes to hearing and participating in life. For some years now, hearing devices have been classifying sound in the various environments frequented by wearers in order to automatically adjust the settings to provide the most optimal listening experience. In fact, Phonak technology has been doing this since 1999 with the first iteration of sound classification, AutoSelect, in the Claro platform. Over the years, auto-classification has developed to include more sound scenes into the system training for added robustness and accuracy.

Marvel-ous automation

Recently, Phonak released Audéo™ Marvel, a multifunctional hearing aid delivering a ‘Love at first sound’ experience. Marvel has been enhanced for spontaneous first fit acceptance, meaning that new wearers experience exceptional sound quality1 from the first very first moment. Streamed media inputs are now included in the auto-classification system, AutoSense OS 3.0, in the same way in which acoustic inputs are. This means that media signals are assessed for the presence of music vs ‘non-music’ (or speech), and settings are automatically adjusted accordingly for top-rated streamed sound quality2. Dual path compression is available and activated where required (i.e. for speech in noise and media streaming), in order to maintain the natural modulations of speech. Vent loss gain compensation, providing low frequency gain of up to 35dB, is also applied during streaming of audio signals, for a full and rich sound, without compromising inputs received directly by the hearing aid microphones.3

The Phonak signature Binaural Voice Stream Technology™ makes its comeback in Marvel, allowing for the full audio bandwidth to be streamed binaurally and in real time, improving speech understanding and reducing listening effort in challenging listening situations.4 The Binaural Voice Stream Technology allows functionality such as Phonak StereoZoom – binaural directional microphone technology. AutoSense OS 3.0 automatically switches into StereoZoom to create a narrow beam in especially challenging listening situations, and recent studies have shown that this results in reduced listening and memory effort,5 leading to increased participation of wearers in conversations in noise.6 That’s quite a package!

Connecting humans and intelligent agents

Language and communication technologies play a key role in enabling humans to interact with intelligent agents in a natural and intuitive way. The sophistication of logic and reasoning technology within Phonak Marvel allows it to function as a wearer’s personal intelligent agent. The training phase in the development of AutoSense OS 3.0 is comprehensive including numerous ITTT (If This, Then That) algorithms, allowing the system to learn the most appropriate settings in a broad range of acoustical environments.

It is able to blend different settings, tailored to the wearer’s listening needs at any time. Providing confidence that devices will function optimally and automatically is key to enabling wearer’s to participate fully in life, without limitations.

We invite you to read Tania’s previous blog post on how hearing care professionals rated Phonak Marvel at EUHA 2018.

1 Jansen, S. & Woodward, J. (2018). Love at first sound: The new Phonak precalculation. Phonak Insight. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence.

2 Legarth, S.V., Latzel, M. & Rodrigues, T. (2018). Media streaming: The sound quality preferred by hearing aid users. Field Study News. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence.

3 Woodward, J., Pislak, S. & Kühnel, V. (2018). New dual-path processing of vent loss compensation enables a clear and rich sound quality when streaming. Phonak Insight. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence.

4 Winneke, A., De Vos, M., Wagener, K., Latzel, M., Derleth, P., Appell, J., & Wallhoff, F. (2016). Reduction of listening effort with binaural algorithms in hearing aids: an EEG study. In Conference of the American Auditory Society. Arizona. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence.

5 Winneke, A., Latzel, M., & Appleton-Huber, J. (2018). Less listening – and memory effort in noisy situations with StereoZoom. Field Study News. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence.

6 Schulte, M., Meis, M., Krüger, M., Latzel, M. & Appleton-Huber, J. (2018). Significant increase in the amount of social interaction when using StereoZoom. Field Study News. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence.

This content was originally published here.

Middle Tennessee mom turns to Facebook to raise money for son’s hearing aids


A Pleasant View mom took to Facebook to raise money for her son’s hearing aids, something experts say is happening all too often in the current insurance market.

Aaron Farmer is a normal third grader at Coopertown Elementary, who loves playing video games, reading, and hanging out with his friends at recess. Lately one difference has become more and more apparent both in and out of school.

“I’m always asking the teacher what she says, and then she says ‘you should already have heard it,'” Aaron said. “I’m like, ‘I didn’t hear, I can’t hear.'”

Two weeks ago, Aaron’s mom took him to a Vanderbilt audiologist, who told them he has moderate hearing loss. It’s a hereditary condition his mom Stephanie has too.

“He did a lot of lip reading,” Stephanie Barzee said. “If he wasn’t really looking at you, he couldn’t hear you.”

The cost of each hearing aid is $1775 out of pocket. Barzee’s insurance does not cover it. The deductible is $5,000, which is money Stephanie doesn’t have.

As a mom willing to do anything for her child, she started a Facebook fundraising page.

“It broke my heart,” Barzee said. “It made me feel like less of a person, less of a mother. I felt like part of me should have just been able to write a check.”

Tennessee Justice Center Director Michelle Johnson said stories like this are becoming all too common, with sky-high deductibles and insurers not covering basic needs. She said lawmakers need to stabilize the marketplace.

“Who would have ever imagined that you’d have a child with boundless potential not be able to hear because my healthcare system is broken,” Johnson said. “Children’s futures should not depend on GoFundMe pages.”

This content was originally published here.

Signia Nx hearing aid separates user’s own voice from the background

Many headsets today flaunt features like active noise cancellation or even sophisticated audio technologies that let the world’s sounds through while you listen to your music. Such things might be “nice to have” features for audiophiles, but technologies like these are essential to people with less than perfect hearing. Sivantos, the hearing aid company spun off from Siemens, is putting that technology at the service of such people. Its new Signia Nx, for example, boasts of the ability to replicate nature by allowing separating the user’s own voice from ambient sound.

Even the most sophisticated noise cancellation technologies often treat sound equally. Sure, they do some processing to separate music from background noise but, when it comes to voice, even the user’s own voice, sound is just sound. That produces an unnatural feeling of “flat” and homogeneous sounds that are quite different from how we normally hear ourselves.

The Signia Nx line of hearing aids features the company’s new OVP or Own Voice Processing technology that treats and processes the sound of the user’s own voice separately from all other sounds. This is made possible by Sivantos’ new Ultra HDe2e binaural link. It uses beamforming to detect and analyze the path of the user’s own voice to distinguish it from the rest.

The Signia Nx hearing aid lines come in three forms, each with their own special characteristic. The Pure 312 Nx represents the highest ideal, with the Ultra HDe2e technology enabling that Own Voice Processing feature. The Pure 13 Nx delivers superb battery life with a 13-size pack. Last but not the least, the Motion 13 Nx is geared for users with greater connectivity demands.

SOURCE: Signia Nx

This content was originally published here.

How Wearing Hearing Aids Positively Affects Your Mental Health

How Wearing Hearing Aids Positively Affects Your Mental Health

If you already wear hearing aids, you know the kinds of benefits they give you. Hearing aids have most likely made it easier to have conversations with your friends and family—especially when you’re out at restaurants or in a group.

But hearing aids do much more than enrich your social life. They may actually have a profound impact on your brain by keeping you mentally sharp, lowering your risk of depression, and improving your balance.

If you already wear hearing aids all the time, pat yourself on the back; you may already be improving your brain function! If you only wear them occasionally (or rarely), here are four facts—backed by medical studies—that may encourage you to wear them more often.

1) Hearing Aids May Lower Your Risk of Age-related Cognitive Decline

In this 25-year study, scientists measured mental decline in people with hearing loss and people with normal hearing. The study found that people who had hearing loss—and chose not to wear hearing aids—showed significant mental decline compared to people with normal hearing. However, people with hearing loss who wore hearing aids performed the same on cognitive tests as people without any hearing loss! Want to stay sharp as you age? Keep wearing those hearing aids.

2) Hearing Aids Can Improve Memory and Mental Acuity

A recent study from Texas A&M University tested a group of people with hearing loss on a series of tasks to measure their memory, ability to focus, and the speed at which they process information. Then they gave the participants hearing aids. After only six weeks of wearing hearing aids, participants saw improvements in all areas of cognitive function. They could remember things better, focus better, and showed they were processing information faster than before. Not only can hearing aids keep you mentally sharp, but having better memory and focus as well as faster mental processing actually makes you seem younger to the people you interact with every day!

3) People Who Wear Hearing Aids Report Lower Levels of Depression

The National Council on Aging surveyed over 4,000 people with hearing loss, both with and without hearing aids. Among a myriad of findings, they discovered that people who chose to wear hearing aids reported lower levels of depression and showed fewer outward signs of being depressed. They also found that people with hearing aids showed greater emotional stability and their families reported that they were less likely to become angry or frustrated. Overall, respondents who wore hearing aids felt that they had more control over their lives and a more positive outlook in general. To stay positive and happy, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids.

4) Hearing Aids Improve Balance and May Reduce the Risk of Falling for People Over 65

Although hearing loss has long been associated with an increased risk of falls in older adults, researchers at The Washington University School of Medicine found that, people with hearing loss performed better on balance tests and were less likely to fall when they wore hearing aids. Having better balance with hearing aids means a reduced chance of major injuries and a lower risk of expensive hospitalizations.

Do you want to experience better brain function, lower your risk of depression and mental decline, and be at lower risk of falling? Wearing your hearing aids more often can help. As a side benefit, the families of people who have hearing loss report that those who wear hearing aids participate more in social activities and have better relationships with the people they love as a result—creating a higher quality of life overall.

Because May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, this is the perfect time to increase your awareness of hearing loss issues and the benefits of hearing aids. We encourage you not only to wear your hearing aids more often for your own benefit but to also pass this information on to family and friends who haven’t yet addressed their hearing loss and encourage them to get it checked out.

Let’s help everyone improve their lives and long-term health by treating hearing loss today!

The post How Wearing Hearing Aids Positively Affects Your Mental Health appeared first on TruHearing.

This content was originally published here.

Google and GN Hearing partner to stream audio from Android devices directly to hearing aids – TechCrunch

Denmark’s GN Hearing broke new ground in hearing aid technology five years ago when it inked a deal with Apple to develop a hearing aid that would integrate seamlessly with an iPhone, with no need for an intermediary device. And today it announced a significant, new milestone expansion in that technology: it has partnered with Google to bring the same functionality to Android handsets.

Google has published a specification for audio streaming for hearing aids using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and connection-oriented channels which, in the words of Google, relies on “an elastic buffer of several audio packets to maintain a steady flow of audio, even in the presence of packet loss. This buffer provides audio quality for hearing aid devices at the expense of latency.” GN Hearing will be the first to develop these hearing aids using Google’s specifications, which it helped to write.

“Google is working with GN Hearing to create a new open specification for hearing aid streaming support on future versions of Android devices,” said Seang Chau, Vice President of Engineering at Google, in a statement.

This will mark the first time that Android smartphones will stream audio directly to hearing aids, and, since Android devices account for a majority of smartphones in use today, it is a big step up in helping people who use hearing aids be more integrated with the “smartphone revolution” and the wave of services and applications that come with using mobile devices.

Up to now, because of how hearing aids are designed to amplify sounds, those who used one, and also wanted to use an Android device, would either have to use a supplementary piece of hardware to use the two together, or remove the hearing aid altogether and have a poor quality conversation.

In addition to using the specification to stream audio from calls and phone apps directly to the hearing aid, users will also be able to monitor their hearing aids and modify their volumes using an app on their phones.

Anders Hedegaard, the CEO of GN Hearing, tells TechCrunch that he “cautiously” estimates that the first hearing aids with live Android integrations will hit the market in 2019. And while his company does not have exclusivity on this — and the specification, like others on Android, is open source for anyone else to use — GN Hearing is likely to be the first because it has been working on the specification.

Hearing loss has been on the rise, in part because people are living longer, and in part because of environmental factors (like headphones that people use with loud volumes). The World Health Organization estimates that there are some 466 million people with disabling hearing loss, up from about 360 million in 2013, and that will grow to 900 million by 2050.

But despite the growth of the issue, both the hearing aid industry and its users have been relatively slow to embrace wireless technology, although things have been changing. Hedegaard said that when his company first announced its partnership with Apple in 2013, the idea of a connected hearing aid was relatively new, and it took until 2016 for any one of its competitors to add the iPhone integration that GN Hearing pioneered. “Today, data connectivity is a core part of hearing aids,” he said, “and 90% of our devices have it.”

Similarly, the amount of hearing aid users actually employing the connected functionality is also going up.

“We have seen the percentage of people using connectivity going up dramatically,” he said. In 2013/14, he estimated that only about 10 percent of people who had connected hearing aids actually used the service with apps and other devices. Now “the majority” download apps and take advantage, he said. It helps that with each year, the gap between the ageing population and those who have spent years using computers and mobile phones and apps is shrinking. “Time is going our way,” he said.

We have reached out to Google for further comment and will update this post as we learn more.

This content was originally published here.

Psst—please be quiet! | Phonak Audiology Blog – Phonak Pro – life is on

Does this scenario sound familiar from your school days? You’re sitting in the back row and somehow you can hear everything—just not the teacher. There is whispering and discussing of meetings for the afternoon… and suddenly a teacher’s loud voice penetrates to the back of the room, asking for your attention. Oh yes, someone else was in the room! It’s pretty exhausting, being in a lesson like this. Although all you have to do is listen, you often feel “strung out”.

But where do these ambient sounds actually come from, when everyone is only talking quietly? There are actually two fronts converging here—so let’s take a look at them.

For optimal understanding and learning—whether in classrooms or meeting rooms—all listeners should be able to understand the voice of the speaker as clearly as possible. Let’s take the example of a classroom, where students spend 75% of the day on activities related to hearing, listening, and understanding.1

The number of students per class is continually increasing, and the number of students with an immigrant background is increasing disproportionately. Understanding well becomes increasingly important and, at the same time, increasingly difficult in big groups. It is not without reason that schools used to have “language laboratories” for teaching foreign languages using headphones, in order to make everything optimally audible. Unfortunately, these did not catch on.

For teachers, increases in class sizes often mean an increase in vocal effort and mental stress due to the elevated classroom noise level of 60 to 77 dB(A)2. Indeed, it is nice to see that classrooms are increasingly being modernized or, in the case of new buildings, being equipped with complete technical and visual facilities: attractive interior design, good light distribution, Internet, interactive digital boards, etc. However, classroom acoustics are often neglected.

Sound-reflecting surfaces and the distance between speaker and listener lead to two challenges: unwanted delayed echoes (reverberation) and an unfavorable volume ratio of speech (teacher) to noise (classroom noise level).

DIN standard 18041 (2016) recommends that classrooms—depending on the use of the room (language, music lessons) and volume—have a reverberation value of max. approx. 0.5 sec. The reality shows that this is implemented in only very few cases: One in three classrooms do not meet the acoustic requirements;3 in some cases, the reverberation time values are over 2 sec., resulting in poor speech comprehension. In America, similar standards are also suggested by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA recommends that the SNR should be at least +15dB at the child’s ear and reverberation times should not exceed 0.6-0.7 seconds.4

Sound-absorbing measures such as ceiling absorbers, but also curtains, etc. can help to significantly reduce the reverberation. However, a reduced reverberation still does not change the fact that speech fades away over the length of a classroom which can be up to 10 m.

Let’s assume that the teacher speaks at 70 dB measured at a distance of 1 m. The speech volume is now reduced by 6 dB each time the distance is doubled and the noise (average ambient noise, 60 dB) remains constant. Even at a distance of 4 m the noise is already predominant (SNR = -2 dB). To achieve effective speech comprehension, an advantage of +15 dB is required—ideally wherever you are in the classroom. How can this be achieved? And how can the vocal strain experienced by teachers—which leads to 1 million hours of lessons being lost without replacement every week in Germany5—be reduced?

The Association of German Engineers (Verein Deutscher Ingenieure, VDI 2058) prescribes a background noise level of no more than 55 dB in rooms where cognitive activities are predominantly carried out (as in any quiet office). In this environment, one should be able to “comprehend”. Similarly, ASHA recommends that unoccupied classroom noise levels do not surpass 35dB(A).

In order to achieve these values and good speech comprehension among students, as well as minimal vocal effort from the teacher, so-called Soundfield systems are increasingly being used. Thousands of these systems have already been installed in the US and Canada, as more and more schools discover the benefits. Numerous studies over the past 20 years have shown that the use of Soundfield boosts exam results and student participation while reducing the incidence of behavioral problems in students and voice problems in teachers.

A Soundfield system consists of a wireless transmitter microphone and one or more speakers that evenly distributes the teacher’s voice throughout the room, making it easy to hear. Thanks to cylindrical sound dispersion, even with just one sound column, modern systems are able to distribute the sound across the room with just a 3-dB distance loss, so that the teacher’s voice is distributed almost equally throughout the room.

A regular mono speaker with omnidirectional characteristics does not do that. So, while it might be great for students in the last row, the sound signal in the front row is far too loud. Another point is the transfer characteristic. Good systems only minimally amplify the speech-specific range and adjust adaptively to the ambient noise, so that “acoustic predominance,” i.e. a positive SNR, is always present everywhere in the room, thus providing optimal listening conditions for the learning success of the students.

Studies show that teachers also benefit greatly from a Soundfield system, which ensures 100% less voice fatigue (the absence of teachers due to vocal strain and fatigue reduced from 15% to an average of 2–3% within one year).6-10

Studies by Professor Marion Herrmann-Röttgen, Professor of Health Sciences, Teacher Educator and Speech Trainer, show the benefits of a Soundfield system in a modern teaching structure:11

If you would like to learn more about acoustics and Soundfield system use in schools, I recommend reading the four studies on the subject of acoustics and learning behavior by Marion Hermann Röttgen and Gero Kerig (2015, ISBN 978-3-95612-102-9).

I also invite you to read our recently published Soundfield Compendium which is a review of classroom soundfield amplification systems. You can find it on the Phonak Evidence page.

1 Dahlquist, L.H. (1998, March). Classroom amplification: Not just for the hearing impaired anymore. Paper presented at the California State University Northridge Center Conference, Los Angeles, CA. / Smaldino, J.J., & Crandell, C.C. (2000). Classroom amplification technology: Theory and practice. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 371-375.

2 Dockrell J, Shield B (2004). Children’s perceptions of their acoustic environment at school and at home. J Acoust Soc Am 115: 2964-2973.

3 „Lärmschutz in Hessen“, Hessisches Landesamt für Umwelt und Geologie, Heft 4, 2007

4American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2002). Appropriate School Facilities for Students With Speech-Language-Hearing Disorders [Technical Report]. Available from www.asha.org/policy

5 Spiegel Online (2012): Unterrichtsausfall. Gymnasiasten verpassen ein ganzes Schuljahr. www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/schule/unterrichtsausfall-gymnasiasten-verpassen-ein-ganzes-schuljahr-a-812028.html

6Das MARRS Projekt: Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study. 2005. http://www.classroomhearing.org/research/marrsStudy.html (letzter Zugriff: 28.11.2016)

7Kirketerp, M and Larsen, N.B. (2006). Soundfield Enhances Sounds and Learning Environments for Teachers and Students. Danish Soundfield Study.

8Mülder, H. (2011). Phonak FSN: Traditional or Dynamic SoundField

9Roy, N., Weinrich, B., Gray,S.D., Tanner, K., Toledo, S.W., Dove, H., Corbin-Lewis, K., Stemple, J.C. (2002). Voice Amplification Versus Vocal Hygiene Instruction for Teachers With Voice Disorders: A Treatment Outcomes Study. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 45, 625-638.

10Sapienza, C.M., Crandell, C.C., Curtis, B. (1999). Effects of Soundfield Frequency Modulation Amplification on Reducing Teacher’s Sound Pressure Level in Classroom. Journal of Voice, 13(3), 375-381

11 Hermann-Röttgen, M., Kerig, G. (2015). Besser hören – besser zuhören – besser lernen: Vier Studien zum Thema Akustik und Lernverhalten. opus magnum.

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A new triboelectric auditory sensor for social robotics and hearing aids

Researchers from Chongqing University, in China, have recently developed a self-powered triboelectric auditory sensor (TAS) that could be used to build electronic auditory systems for external hearing aids in intelligent robotics applications. Their recent study, published in Science Robotics, could inform the creation of a new generation of auditory systems, addressing some of the key challenges in the field of social robotics.

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