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Friday, August 18, 2017

Phonak (https://www.phonak.com/us/en.html) is set to release its new Bluetooth hearing aid Audéo B-Direct, which connects directly to any Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, including Androids, iPhones, and classic cell phones, offering users true hands-free calling and excellent TV sound quality when used with the TV Connector, another new product. Audéo B-Direct users can answer or reject a phone call by pressing the push button on the hearing aid. They will hear the ringing of the phone directly through the hearing aid, and once the call is accepted, the conversation is instantly streamed. All this is done without the hearing aid wearer ever having to physically touch his or her phone. When used in conjunction with the TV Connector, the Audéo B-Direct hearing aid can function as wireless TV headphones. The TV Connector is capable of connecting to multiple Audéo B-Direct hearing aids simultaneously, ideal for watching TV together.

Both the Audéo B-Direct and the TV Connector will be available in the United States at the end of August and in Europe and other countries worldwide from September onwards.​

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Friday, August 11, 2017

​Two national hearing heath center networks, Hearing Health USA and Belsono Hearing Centers, are partnering for the #FlauntYourHearingAids campaign to encourage an open dialogue about hearing loss and hearing aid use by showing that anyone can be affected but not limited by hearing loss. The campaign will feature a combination of visual materials and informational articles highlighting people doing amazing things while wearing their hearing aids. From now until the end of September, hearing aid users are invited to submit photos of themselves or their loved ones flaunting their hearing aids for a chance to be featured on the two companies' website and social media pages. Those interested in participating can submit their photos on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the hashtag #FlauntYourHearingAids, or upload them to the websites of Hearing Health USA and Belsono (http://bit.ly/2vW4nok; http://bit.ly/2vVElRW). 

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Monday, August 7, 2017

An end-to-end system that monitors the brain activity of hearing-impaired individuals to enhance speech intelligibility has been developed at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, bringing cognitive hearing aids one step closer to reality (J Neural Eng. 2017). The system, which combines the latest single-channel automatic speech-separation algorithms into the auditory attention-decoding platform, automatically separates the individual speakers in the mixture it receives, and determines which speaker is being listened to using the listener's neural signals. It then amplifies the attended speaker's voice to assist the listener. The process is completed in less than 10 seconds.

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This approach removes the limitations of existing methods for producing clean sound sources and sound amplification. The system alleviates the spatial separation requirements of multi-channel methods, and can be used in tandem with beamforming methods for optimal source separation. The researchers said "this work will move the field toward realistic hearing aid devices that can automatically and dynamically track a user's direction of attention, and amplify an attended speaker." 


Friday, July 28, 2017

Researchers have found that prolonged or recent noise exposure is not consistently associated with an increased risk of hearing loss among those aged 12-19 based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1988 to 2010 (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 [Epub ahead of print]). They analyzed the audiometric measurements of 7,036 survey participants in this study; and while there was an overall rise in exposure to loud noise or music through headphones 24 hours prior to audiometric testing, they discovered that the prevalence of hearing loss has dropped to 15.2 percent in 2009-2010, compared with 17 and 22.5 percent in the 1988-1994 and 2007-2008 surveys respectively. The authors concluded that there was no association between noise-induced threshold shift and noise exposures and that their findings call into question previous conclusions that increasing noise exposure is responsible for increasing levels of pediatric hearing loss.

​One of the authors, Dylan Chan, MD, PhD, spoke to the New York Times about the study and attributed the decrease in prevalence to behavioral changes such as avoiding noise and wearing volume-limiting headphones designed for children. "I hope people don't take this as an excuse to say noise-induced hearing loss is not a problem, so we can go back to listening to headphones at full volume," he said. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Researchers found that hearing loss, hospitalizations, and decreases in verbal fluency are associated with cognitive decline. These findings were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in London earlier this month.

A University of Wisconsin study that included 783 middle-aged adults in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP)—a registry of adults with a maternal history of Alzheimer's disease—found that 9.2 percent of the participants reported having hearing loss at baseline. These participants performed worse on cognitive tests four years after baseline assessment than those who did not report any hearing loss. They also had more than doubled risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in five years. Based on this prospective cohort study, researchers concluded that hearing loss may not only be a risk factor for MCI, but its identification and treatment may also help detect and manage MCI earlier, thereby reducing future cases of Alzheimer's.

The study, entitled "Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Cognitive Performance, and Risk of MCI: Findings from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention," was presented last July 17.

In another University of Wisconsin study, researchers found that changes in speech such as increases in the use of non-specific language (more pronouns), hesitations, and fillers were associated with early onset of MCI. In this study, researchers analyzed two speech samples taken two years apart from 264 middle-aged adults enrolled in the WRAP. Those who had early MCI were found to have reduced verbal fluency that declined faster based on the samples collected.

Other risk factors of cognitive impairment were also discussed at AAIC, including those posed by unplanned visits to emergency units. Bryan James, PhD, of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center explained that emergency or urgent hospital visits, as opposed to planned visits, are associated with significant acceleration (about 60 percent) of mental decline in older adults.

Author information: Noah Glenn