Straining to hear in noise is stressful for everyone but especially for people with hearing loss. Leading hearing aid manufacturer Oticon is the first to apply proven “pupillometry” science – a measurement of pupil dilation – to the development of revolutionary hearing aid technology that both reduces listening effort and conserves energy so that people recall more of what they’ve heard.
In a just-released study, researchers at Eriksholm Research Centre and the VU University Medical Center set out to answer key questions such as how hard your brain has to work to understand speech in different environments and how that knowledge could be leveraged for use in new hearing devices. Their findings reinforce much of what is known about the impact of hearing loss and listening effort on cognition.
“When we pay attention to sound, the muscles in the eyes contract and release based on listening effort,” said Thomas Behrens, Head of Audiology and Director for the Centre for Applied Audiology Research at Oticon’s global headquarters in Denmark. “In our research, we showed how pupillometry could be used to measure strain on the brain’s processing power when trying to understand speech. The results of our research allowed Oticon, for the first time, to measure how breakthrough technology in our new Oticon Opn™ hearing aid not only reduces listening effort, it allows people to save energy so they can recall more of the conversation.”
According to Behrens, the more challenging the task, the larger the pupil. In looking into the eyes of Opn wearers as compared to Alta2 Pro hearing aids, the researchers saw 20 percent less listening effort when trying to understand speech while others are speaking. Additionally, they saw an average reduction in peak pupil dilation of 26 percent during the speech-noise reduction task using Opn compared to Alta2 Pro.
“The results for measuring peak pupil dilation were statistically significant (p=0.04), indicating a significant reduction in peak pupil dilation,” said Behrens, “these data demonstrate that Oticon’s Opn is the first hearing aid proven to make it easier for the brain, freeing up the cognitive resources for more recall.”
New Oticon Opn is available through hearing care professionals. Learn more here about Oticon Opn and its features and functionalities such as directly connecting to the internet via the If This Then That service.
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