Hearing is hard work
“Big dogs can be dangerous” is just one of 250 sentences from the ‘HINT-Hearing in Noise Test’, and does not seem like a sentence that is hard to understand. And it isn’t, if it is spoken clearly, loudly and distinctly in a completely silent environment. The situation is different if the sentence is spoken against the background noise of daily life: in the morning during a noisy family breakfast, when the children talk all at once whilst the radio is playing and the dishwasher is running in the background. Or when the person speaking mumbles while standing on a platform with the train arriving. Or the sentence is spoken in an open-plan office, where colleagues are on the phone, talking to each other, and typing on the keyboard.
Hearing and understanding speech is a complex task for the brain. Everything we hear has to be constantly evaluated to separate the relevant from the unimportant. When there are more competing sounds and noises, or when the sound quality of the target speech is compromised, the brain has to work even harder to understand. For hard of hearing poeple it is even more strenuous to hear and understand all the time, because hearing loss degrades the ability to perceive speech signals fully and clearly. As a result, the brain has to work extra hard to interpret the incomplete and poor signal in order to extract meaning from it. This increase in cognitive activity is experienced as effortful listening and eventually leads to listening fatigue. By the end of the day, the hearing impaired individual may be so tired simply from trying to hear that they choose to stay home rather than going out to dinner with friends and family.
It isn’t just being able to hear, but hearing effortlessly
By wearing hearing aids, those with hearing impairment would most of all like to be able to hear speech so they can again participate in everyday life. However, Sivantos wants to achieve even more with its new Signia hearing aids: hearing is supposed to be simple, effortless throughout the day – even in challenging hearing situations where there are a lot of background sounds, or reverberations make it harder to understand. Several innovative functions have been developed for this: the “SpeechMaster” orchestrates the highly efficient technologies in the hearing aid to single out the conversation partner’s speech while suppressing all other noise sources, making the former easier to understand, and thereby reducing listening effort of the wearer throughout the day. By contrast, the newly developed “EchoShield” effectively reduces the unpleasant and disruptive sound reflections that occur in rooms that are larger or have many reflective surfaces.
Clinically proven: with the new hearing aids, listening is less of a strain
To be able to assess the efficacy of these technologies, an innovative clinical study was conducted at the University of Northern Colorado1: subjects were asked to repeat sentences in a controlled environment with the respective hearing aid features on and off. While the subjects were performing this listening task, their brain activities were recorded via EEG (electroencephalography) in order to measure listening effort expended by the subject.
In addition to this objective measure of hearing strain, the test subjects also subjectively evaluated how strenuous they found it to understand in the respective hearing situations. The findings showed that the new functions significantly reduced the listening effort required for the wearer to understand speech. The study participants’ subjective assessments corroborate the measurements: when the “SpeechMaster” is activated, the personal assessment of listening effort decreases from “considerable” to “slight”, and with “EchoShield”, subjects stated that the strain decreases from “moderate” to “slight”.
This study shows that SpeechMaster and EchoShield are clinically proven to reduce listening effort. The best thing about SpeechMaster is that it works continuously in the automatic Universal program, so the wearer can enjoy its benefit throughout the day without having to lift a finger. With Signia hearing aids, instead of choosing to stay home because they’re tired from simply trying to hear all day long, they may still have the mental energy left over to go out to dinner with friends and family.
*Study conducted at the University of Northern Colorado, 2015, examined the effectiveness of the new features of primax by collecting and analyzing ongoing EEG data while subjects performed speech testing. For both primax features SpeechMaster and EchoShield, the objective brain behavior measures revealed a significant reduction in listening effort when the feature was activated.