Ten Advances in Cochlear Implant Technology and Services

By: Jace Wolfe, PhD

Over the past several years, there have been numerous advances in cochlear implant technology and services. As recent as a decade ago, there were little to no technological solutions available to assist a cochlear implant candidate/recipient, who presented with severe to profound hearing loss, with speech recognition in difficult listening situations—understanding speech in noisy and reverberant settings, over the telephone or television, and when spoken from a distance. Today, cochlear implant manufacturers offer a wide variety of solutions to meet the needs of patients with hearing aids or cochlear implant processors who struggle to communicate. This article identifies ten ways in which cochlear implant technology and services have evolved and improved in the past few years.

10. Automatic scene classification: Hearing aids have featured acoustic scene classifiers for almost a decade. Through these systems, hearing aids classify an environment as one that possesses background noise, speech in quiet or in noise, music, wind, and so forth. Once the listening situation is classified into one of these environments, the hearing aid selects the appropriate form of signal processing that will theoretically optimize performance in the given environment. This technology can be quite valuable as many users are unlikely to manually switch to programs designed for specific, challenging situations. Furthermore, this system will likely be well-received by cochlear implant users as it makes its way to implant sound processors.

9. The development of new speech recognition materials that provide a more realistic assessment of how hearing aid and implant users perform in real-life listening situations: Cochlear implant technology has improved so much that many users score near 100% correct on sentence recognition tests in a quiet environment with a single talker who is male and speaks at a slow to moderate rate. Additionally, many hearing aid users who struggle substantially in realistic situations also often score too well on these tests to meet the indications for cochlear implant candidacy. This fact makes it difficult to distinguish between excellent implant and hearing aid users and good users who may benefit from additional services.

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Follow the Signs- Protect Your Hearing

Do you have difficulty hearing and following conversations in noisy restaurants and crowded rooms? Are male voices easier to understand than female voices? Do you experience ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you may have a hearing loss and need to visit an audiologist. Audiologists are healthcare professionals that specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, treating and managing hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children.

Untreated hearing loss affects your ability to understand speech, negatively impacting you socially and emotionally. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages; not just seniors. Over 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss. The statistics are shocking, especially knowing that over half of those 36 million Americans are younger than age 65.

Protect Your Hearing12 million Americans have hearing loss as a result of noise exposures. Over 5 million of those people are under the age of 18. Noise induced hearing loss is a permanent and preventable disability that can affect your quality of life. Follow these easy steps to protect your hearing:

  • Walk away from the noise
  • Turn down the volume
  • Wear proper ear protection

Hearing loss is an increasing preventable health concern in this nation. Taking time to see an audiologist for regular hearing screenings and knowing the signs of hearing loss can protect your hearing. This October is both Audiology Awareness Month and Protect Your Hearing Month! Follow the guide below to avoid extended exposure to loud noises and celebrate by preventing hearing damage; or go to the American Academy of Audiology’s website to see what you can do to spread awareness this month.

Noise Levels Poster

Guest Post by Tom Rokins: How To Look After Your Hearing

Foreword:

Hearing loss can occur at any age for any number of reasons. It most typically occurs between the ages of 49 to 55. It may, or may not, surprise you to learn that people often do not realize they have developed a hearing loss, as it can be a subtle and gradual change. Our guest post this week, by Tom Rokins with Boots Hearingcare, details several easy methods of care and prevention.

-Plural Team

 

HOW TO LOOK AFTER YOUR HEARING

As you know, your ears are pretty important to living a high quality life – they are the things which hear everything going on around you, help you keep balance and help you get around in life.

ear

Think about what things would be like if you suddenly lost your hearing tomorrow; it wouldn’t be a very enjoyable experience.

That’s why you should want to take as much care of those precious aural organs as possible. Thankfully, they’re not too difficult to look after – a bit of TLC and common sense should work wonders to keep your ears working better and for longer.

Keep Loud Music to a Minimum

Everyone’s hearing can be affected negatively by loud music, but some people are more sensitive to this damage than others. Think back to the last gig you went to, or the last time you spent all night clubbing – when you got home, you almost definitely experienced a ringing in your ears, a bit like tinnitus.

That is temporary hearing damage. Sadly, the more you expose yourself to these noisy environments, the more the hearing damage increases. This degeneration is usually slow and subtle – you don’t notice it until it’s too late.

60/60 rule

It’s worth keeping in mind the “60/60” rule – if you listen to an MP3 player at 60% volume, keep it limited to 60 minutes a day or less. Noise-cancelling headphones can be of use; because they eliminate pesky background noise, you can hear better at a lower volume.

If you’re in the club or at a gig, make sure to keep a reasonable distance from the speakers and regularly step outside for a break. If your ears are hurting or ringing, or you have to shout to be heard by someone two meters (~7 ft.) away, the music is too loud.

Drugs That Can Harm Your Hearing

Some drugs can, believe it or not, damage your ears; these are called ototoxic drugs, and they can cause tinnitus and balance problems as well as hearing loss.

Some of these can actually cause permanent deafness, but it is incredibly unlikely that you will be prescribed one of those unless it is completely necessary, a life or death situation. Others will have a temporary effect, and should clear up once the drugs are out of your system.

Some cancer drugs can cause permanent hearing loss, such as Cisplatin. If you’re on a smaller dosage you should be fine, but higher ones could lead to deafness. Aminoglycoside antibiotics, used in treating potentially fatal diseases, can also cause hearing loss, but are becoming less common.

Aspirin and other salicylates can cause tinnitus, loss of hearing and even vertigo when taken in large doses, but these effects are reversible once you stop taking the drug. Quinine, the anti-malarial drug, can have similar results.

Ear Wax and Its Effects on the Ear

Maybe you think of ear wax as a nuisance. You’d be wrong – it protects the inside of your ears, trapping particles of dust, sweat, dirt and the like to prevent infections. It slowly works its way out, taking the rubbish with it.

Too much ear wax can cause itchiness, discomfort, or even slightly diminished hearing. Do not, under any circumstances, start rooting around in there with a cotton bud – this can push the wax further in or even do damage to your ear drum.

Instead, go and get an appointment with your doctor. Once it’s been cleared out, if you are still experiencing problems hearing, you should visit a trained audiologist.

About the author:

Boots HearingcareTom Rokins wrote this article on behalf of Boots Hearingcare, the hearing aid specialists in the UK. If you need any advice on looking after your hearing or even want a free hearing test- get in touch.