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Oticon BrainHearing Technology - Opening up sound for those with hearing loss

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert & Founder

Updated: 18th December 2023
How Oticon's BrainHearing Technology Helps Hearing Loss

Oticon's Brain Hearing Technology

How does this technology support and open up sound for those with hearing loss?

 

Bringing a new perspective to BrainHearing

On 20th August 2020, Oticon published new evidence from their research on how to successfully open up sound for those with hearing loss, which not only delivers clear sound but also supports the brain's natural hearing function.

On their research journey, they carried out many studies using various testing methods, which ultimately showed that our brains perform more efficiently if it has the means to access all sounds from our surrounding soundscape. 

These studies challenged the traditional way in which historical hearing technologies tackle the support of hearing loss - which Oticon's innovative BrainHearing philosophy fully embodies.

 

Oticon's BrainHearing technology welcomed a new processed sound

Oticon has admitted that before now they have been unable to clarify what happens in the auditory cortex, which is the brain's prominent hearing area.  It has been labelled 'the unknown' for quite some time by audiologists worldwide. 

However, various studies from other sources, Oticon's research team, and collaborations with top universities have led to the unravelling of the brain's basic function of how it processes sound.  A hurdle that introduced a breakthrough in hearing research insight and developed their BrainHearing technology even further.

Oticon's research team concluded a number of studies that looked into how our brains process the sounds we hear.  This was done by using various methods of testing that indicated the brain has two subsystems.  For clarity, these two systems work together to provide us with a complete soundscape that enables the brain to work to its full potential.

Oticon's BrainHearing Technology

Oticon's BrainHearing Technology Supports Your Brain Naturally

 

 Why is this partnership important?

Well, the brain can only begin to correctly interpret a more in-depth meaning and evaluation of sound when sounds are in focus.  Clarity and focus pave the way for a better speech understanding.  This is what Oticon's research showed - for a person to focus correctly, they need to have access to a complete perspective of their soundscape. 

'Orient' hearing is the most important subsystem and comes first, so it can process sound for the brain to then determine what to focus on or listen to - we now know this to be 'Focus' hearing.

 

Neural codes

Oticon believes that good neural codes are the key to unlocking the sounds we hear and making sense of them.  Let me explain, when sounds are picked up in the inner ear they are switched to signals that are sent to our brains - which are the neural codes that are transmitted through the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex. 

These codes are important to both the 'Orient' and 'Focus' subsystems translating the process of sound meaning, perception and giving us our full soundscape.

 

 Oticon's technologies

Oticon has successfully designed and created advanced hearing technologies over the years that are proven to assist the brain in basically making sense of sound.  An innovative paradigm shift was introduced when they launched their open sound hearing aid - Oticon Opn

A hearing aid model came in at a time when other manufacturers focused on designing technologies that tackled directionality, feedback, gain reduction, and conventional compression - which affects the depth of sounds we hear and limits our accessibility.  This already successful hearing aid range was then made even better with the introduction of the OpnS family also included Oticon's famous BrainHearing technology.

Not being open-minded about how we address hearing loss and restricting our approach in how we tackle it, reduces our natural soundscape.  Increasing listening efforts significantly and forcing extra mental load onto the brain. 

In simple terms, because of this, the brain receives a sketchy impression of our soundscape and has to work harder to guesstimate - or 'fill in the gaps' as Oticon would say.  This additional stress the brain is put through to make sense of sound can lead to an increased risk of cognitive decline and an increase in brain volume reduction.   

 

In conclusion

By not sending a complete sound to the brain can cause a switch in priority and our perception of sound can change as our brains choose to focus on the visual instead.  Further solidifying that if you have hearing loss that is untreated your brain starts to go weak, like any other unused muscle in the body. If you stop using a part of it or signals can no longer reach it - it will send it elsewhere.  

Well-founded evidence also backs this and states that undiagnosed hearing loss leads to depression, anxiety, social isolation, dementia and you are more at risk of having serious falls.  Oticon's BrainHearing technology supports the brain by offering a complete soundscape without limitations - offering a new perspective to the way we hear.

 

Latest Oticon hearing aids with BrainHearing technology:

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Want to know how Oticon's BrainHearing technology can help you and your hearing loss?

Call us free on 0800 567 7621 to discuss this advanced feature further and to see what Oticon hearing aids would fit in with your hearing loss and life.

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This article was written by Kimberley Bradshaw

Meet Kimberley Bradshaw , Head of Customer Content Experience

By working closely with the Hearing Aid UK audiologists, experts and advisers, she develops the online content, so that the customer's experience is the best it can be. 

Kimberley's medical representation has allowed her to focus on the importance of hearing healthcare and explore the many ways in which hearing loss and its awareness can be improved.

She has collaborated and written about hearing healthcare for several online publications.

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Common FAQs about hearing aids and hearing loss

Is this the best model for me?

If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?

In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.

  • Audiologist level of knowledge. The audiologist you have seen will hopefully have a wide knowledge of all available hearing aids, however some will only be familiar with a small number of brands and therefore may not really be in a position to know which model is the best for you. It is OK to challenge their recommendation and ask them to justify why this particular brand is the one for you.
  • Do research. Read about the hearing aid that was recommended. Does it seem like it will suit your lifestyle? Does it have more or less features than you need? 
  • Be aware of sales targets. Many high street retailers have specific tie-ins to a particular manufacturer/brand. The hearing aid they have suggested may still be the correct one for you, but do your research so that you know why they might have recommended it.

If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.

Do I need one hearing aid or two?

If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:

Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.

Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.

Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.

Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.

What are the benefits of rechargeable hearing aids?

For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up. 

For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.

One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.

Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.

Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.

 

Are behind the ear aids better than in the ear aids?

For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.

The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.

However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.

People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.

There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.

Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.

What are channels, and how many do I need?

Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.

The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.

Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.

Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.

As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.

Where can I get the hearing aids covered?

Hearing aids are easily lost, misplaced or damaged and typically are one of the most expensive personal possessions an individual can own. We offer hearing aid warranty cover for £80 per year per aid.  Find out more here

How much does the hearing test cost?

All our audiologists use the very latest technology and provide the full range of tests to accurately measure your hearing for free.  Find out about what we offer all our customers here

Do home visits cost extra?

Hearing Aid UK offers all their customers free home visiting services and home visits for hearing aids - Including hearing tests, fittings, maintenance, check-ups and much more in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience.  Find out more information here

How come you're much cheaper than other places?

Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are dedicated to offering low hearing aid prices. We achieve this by having no head office and low marketing costs.   Our hearing aid prices are amongst the lowest you will find anywhere in the world.

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