Oticon’s BrainHearing™ Philosophy reaches new levels with supportive evidence that the brain needs the full sound landscape in order to work in a natural way. This groundbreaking insight into how the brain processes sound will help determine how to best support the brain to reduce hearing loss related health issues which have a significant impact on quality of life.
Oticon is pleased to share new evidence that supports its research into opening up sound for people with hearing loss in order to support the brain’s natural hearing function. Now, a number of studies using different test methods have concluded that the brain works better if it has access to all sound, challenging the conventional way in which many traditional hearing technologies attempt to support hearing loss, and once again putting a spotlight on Oticon’s pioneering BrainHearing™ philosophy.
“To date, we haven’t been clear on what occurs inside the auditory cortex, the brain’s main hearing center” says Thomas Behrens, Chief Audiologist, Oticon. “It has been a black box for all audiologists. A number of independent studies, as well as our own studies in cooperation with universities, have enlightened us on new basic brain function about how the brain processes sound. This is a significant milestone in hearing research and a breakthrough that gives us considerable insight into what is actually happening.”
Oticon’s research centre, Eriksholm, have completed a number of studies into how the brain processes sound. The results were achieved using an EEG testing method, adding weight to independent studies which used MEG and Deep Electrodes to prove that the brain’s hearing system consists of two subsystems, labelled Orient hearing and Focus hearing for simplicity , which continuously and simultaneously work together to deliver the full sound picture so that the brain can work optimally. While ’orient hearing’ picks up all surrounding sounds no matter their nature and direction, ‘focus hearing’ enables people to listen to specific points of interest filtering out irrelevant sounds. Our hearing ability depends entirely on how these two subsystems work together, as it is only the sounds that are in focus that the brain can start interpreting for deeper meaning, as needed when understanding speech. The tests go on to show that in order for a person to focus appropriately, they must first receive the full perspective of the soundscape. Orient hearing always comes first when processing sound so that the brain has the best conditions to decide what to focus on and listen to.
Oticon has long innovated hearing technologies that specifically and effectively help the brain to make sense of sound. Oticon created a paradigm shift in hearing when it introduced the open sound experience with Oticon Opn™, while alternative, conventional technologies continue to approach hearing loss with directionality, gain reduction to prevent feedback, speech prioritization and traditional compression, all of which restrict people’s access to the full soundscape. The various hearing studies collectively demonstrate that by suppressing the natural sound environment, the brain receives incomplete information, and reveals that the limiting approach to addressing hearing loss by conventional hearing aids means that the brain has to work even harder to fill in the gaps. The increased effort the brain has to undergo in order to make sense of sound when there is a hearing loss has a variety of consequences including accelerated cognitive decline and accelerated brain volume shrinkage. Failing to deliver the brain full sound input can even cause the brain to reorganize its functionalities as it switches priority to visual stimulations. It’s time for a new perspective.
“Addressing hearing loss completely is fundamental to avoid hearing loss related health problems,” says Thomas Behrens. “If the brain isn’t fully supported to perform in a natural way, it compensates and changes, not to mention it experiences unnecessary stress. There is clear evidence that unaddressed hearing loss and the consequences for the brain leads to social isolation and depression, significantly increased risk of dementia, and more incidences of fall-related injuries . The new breakthrough hearing science provided by a series of recent research sends a clear signal that hearing loss should be addressed by helping the brain to get the full sound scene and not limit the sound it receives. We are really proud to be leading the charge with our BrainHearing™ research and will continue to innovate hearing technologies that support the brain and ultimately remove the limitations that hearing loss imposes for people with hearing loss”
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500 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss. The majority are over the age of 50 while eight percent are under the age of 18. Oticon's vision is to create a world where people are no longer limited by hearing loss. A world where hearing aids fit seamlessly into life and help people realise their full potential, while avoiding the health consequences of hearing loss. Oticon develops and manufactures hearing aids for both adults and children and supports every kind of hearing loss from mild to profound and we pride ourselves on developing some of the most innovative hearing aids in the market. Headquartered in Denmark, we are a global company and part of Demant with more than 15,000 employees and revenues of over DKK 14 billion. Changing technology. Changing conventions. Changing lives. Oticon – Life-changing hearing technology. www.oticon.global
1See detailed explanation in O’Sullivan et al 2019, where they place these into the context of the auditory cortex, the main hearing centre in the brain.
iEEG, Alickovic et al, 2020 – Effects of Hearing Aid Noise Reduction on Early and Late Cortical Representations of Competing Talkers in Noise
iiMEG, Puuvada & Simon, 2017 – Cortical Representations of Speech in a Multitalker Auditory Scene
iiiDeep Electrodes, O’Sullivan et al, 2019 – Hierarchical Encoding of Attended Auditory Objects in Multi-talker Speech Perception
ivMahmoudi et al, 2019 – Can Hearing Aids Delay Time to Diagnosis of Dementia, Depression, or Falls in Older Adults?