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It’s time for the new perspective in
BrainHearing

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Oticon has always taken the approach of developing hearing aids that support the brain in how it makes sense of sound. At Oticon we walk a certain path—we support the brain in making sense of sound. Rather than only focusing on the ears, we think brain first. It’s a journey of constant discovery—one that we’ve followed for decades—where we explore brain-related territories in audiology. We call this unique thinking BrainHearing.

The latest scientific breakthrough shows the brain can handle access to more information from the full sound scene. We need to give the brain more from its surroundings. This breakthrough defines our next step forward—one that will put our vision at the forefront of hearing care and turn the new perspective in BrainHearing into a reality.



Breakthrough:

New research shows the brain can handle access to more information from the full sound scene







The brain’s hearing center
comprises two subsystems

Two subsystems work together inside the brain to help the brain make sense of sound:
the orient subsystem and the focus subsystem.*

The hearing center in the brain consists of two subsystems

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Orient subsystem

The orient subsystem always comes first. When we hear, it scans all surrounding sounds – no matter their nature or direction – to create a full perspective of the sound scene. It then creates an overview of the sound objects around us.



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Focus subsystem

The focus subsystem helps people select which sounds to listen to. Once we have an overview of the sound objects around us, we use the focus subsystem to identify the sound we want to focus on, listen to or switch attention to, while filtering out irrelevant sounds.
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A good neural code is key to
making sense of sound

When sounds reach the inner ear, they are converted into a signal that is sent to the brain. This is what we call the neural code which is sent via the auditory nerve to the brain’s hearing center—the auditory cortex. There, these neural codes become meaningful sound objects, which the orient and focus subsystems can use.



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Orient subsystem

Needs a good neural code to create an overview of the sound objects and begin separating sounds to determine what is going on in the surroundings. This provides the brain with the best conditions to decide what to focus on and listen to.

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Focus subsystem

Navigates through the full perspective of the sound scene. It identifies the sound it wants to focus on, listen to or switch attention to, and irrelevant sounds are filtered out.




Sound processing by the brain involves a constant interaction between the orient and focus subsystems. It is a continuous process that makes sure our present focus is always prioritized.

While maintaining focus, the brain actually distracts itself on purpose by checking in on the rest of the environment four times every second. This allows our focus hearing to switch attention if something important appears in the sound scene.

When the two subsystems work well together, the rest of the brain can work optimally, which makes it easier to recognize, store and recall sounds, and respond to what is happening.

As depicted in the graphic below, the orient subsystem scans the sound scene and the focus subsystem focuses on sounds of interest.

Continuously and simultaneously


The research behind the subsystems

Watch our Senior Research Audiologist and PhD, Elaine Ng share the insights into the methods behind the recent research.

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A limited sound scene can turn a hearing problem into a brain problem

Downgrading input to the brain and failing to treat the hearing loss in the correct way can have a variety of consequences. Some of these include increased listening effort and mental load, reorganized brain function, and an acceleration of cognitive decline and brain volume shrinkage.

 

 hearing problem can turn into a brain problem

Hearing problems can become brain problems

The brain needs access to the full perspective of the sound scene to work as it should. Not receiving this can lead to brain problems.

Brain problems can become life problems

When access to the right input is limited, a hearing problem can lead to serious problems in life.
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A hearing problem can become


Downgrading sound input to the brain and failing to treat the hearing loss in the correct way can have a variety of consequences.**

Increased listening effort

With less sound information, it’s harder for the brain to recognize sounds. It has to fill in the gaps, which requires more listening effort.

Increased mental load

Having to guess what people are saying and what’s happening increases the mental load on the brain and leaves less mental capacity for remembering and performing.

Reorganized brain functionality

Without enough stimulation in the hearing center, the visual center and other senses start to compensate, which changes the function of the brain.

Accelerated cognitive decline

Increased mental load, lack of stimulation and reorganized brain functionality is linked to accelerated cognitive decline, which affects the ability to remember, learn, concentrate, and make decisions.

Accelerated brain volume shrinkage

All human brains reduce in size with age, but the shrinkage process accelerates when the brain has to work against the natural way it processes sound.

And so, the brain problems


A limited sound scene without access to the right input can lead to serious problems in life.***

Social isolation and depression

People with untreated hearing loss can end up avoiding social gatherings because they’re unable to cope with complex sound environments.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

The risk for dementia increases five-fold for severe-to-profound hearing loss, three-fold for moderate hearing loss and two-fold for mild hearing loss.

Poor balance and fall-related injuries

Untreated hearing loss can affect balance, increasing the risk of fall-related injuries three-fold.

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Risk of
dementia

The risk for dementia with untreated hearing loss is increased five-fold for severe-to-profound hearing loss, three-fold for moderate hearing loss and two-fold for mild hearing loss.





Changing perspective to
change lives

To ensure hearing aids deliver the right input to the brain, they must be able to deliver a good neural code and have access to the full sound scene.
Scroll to see the new perspective.
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Old perspective

Conventional technology suppresses the natural sound input and delivers a poorer quality neural code to the brain

 


 

new-perspective

New perspective

The best way to support the natural hearing system is to provide access to the full sound scene to people with hearing loss





A complete portfolio built on BrainHearing

Oticon has developed an entire portfolio of hearing solutions based on BrainHearing technology.

See more




* O’Sullivan et al. (2019); Puvvada & Simon (2017).
** 1. Pichora-Fuller, M. K., Kramer, S. E., Eckert, M. A., Edwards, B., Hornsby, B. W., Humes, L. E., ... & Naylor, G. (2016). 2. (Rönnberg, J., Lunner, T., Zekveld, A., Sörqvist, P., Danielsson, H., Lyxell, B., ... & Rudner, M. (2013). 3. Sharma, A., & Glick, H. (2016). 4. Uchida, Y., Sugiura, S., Nishita, Y., Saji, N., Sone, M., & Ueda, H. (2019). 5. Lin FR, Ferrucci L, An Y, Goh JO, Doshi J, Metter EJ, et al.
*** 1. Amieva, H., Ouvrard, C., Meillon, C., Rullier, L., & Dartigues, J. F. (2018). 2. Lin, F. R., & Ferrucci, L. (2012). 3. Lin, F. R., Metter, E. J., O’Brien, R. J., Resnick, S. M., Zonderman, A. B., & Ferrucci, L. (2011).









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