Another promising development in research into restoring hearing.
The key to restoring lost hearing is finding a way to re-grow hair cells in the cochlea. We’re born with about 30,000 of these tiny sound detectors and because of exposure to noise, age and some types of antibiotics they die off.
The good news: researchers around the world are working to develop techniques to regenerate hairs cells. Now comes word that a team at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear have discovered a combination of drugs that does just that. At least it works in mice.
“There have been a couple patients with hearing improvement, so we are definitely encouraged.” – Dr. Lawrence Lustig
There is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss, the type that most of us with aging ears suffer from. At least not yet. But as I’ve written about in earlier posts, a pioneering treatment may be on the way. It’s called CGF166. It’s the only gene therapy for hearing loss now undergoing human trials in the U.S. and early reports are promising. Here’s a progress report. Continue reading “CGF166 – The Latest News”
I generally don’t recommend online hearing tests since they can’t replace a proper test by a qualified audiologist. But this one is simple to do, and it offers a rough idea of the state of your hearing. It was posted by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance board.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clarke
There is no good time to suffer from hearing loss but there’s no better time than now for being able to cope and compensate. The technology of today’s hearing aids truly does seem like magic.
If you want proof put on a pair of Starkey‘s Halo2s. First, their bluetooth connectivity is remarkable. That should come as no surprise.
Back in 2005 Starkey introduced ELI, the world’s first bluetooth enabled hearing aid. (That was two years before the iPhone was unveiled.) So they have a lot of experience to build on.
As you can see on the left, ELI was an ungainly looking device. Note the dangling black cube which was the bluetooth radio.
Their latest model the Halo2 is, by comparison, light and sleek. Thanks to 12 years of miniaturization, the bluetooth radios are tucked inside out of sight along with a set of powerful microprocessor chips. It’s a smart hearing aid designed for smart phones.
Smartphone apps have changed the way we cope with hearing loss. What’s next?
This is an auspicious day for those of us with hearing loss. Steve Jobs likely wasn’t thinking much about hearing aids when he stood on stage ten years ago and held up that very first iPhone.
As he touted its revolutionary features he made a passing reference to its bluetooth capability. At the time bluetooth was used primarily to connect mobile phones with car systems and earpieces.
A decade, and one billion iPhones later, bluetooth now puts the power to connect, control and adjust hearing aids in the palm of your hand. Every major hearing aid maker now offers bluetooth apps for both iPhones and Android devices.
What’s going on between your ears when you’re losing your hearing? Emerging research is beginning to give us some revealing, and disturbing answers about brain function and hearing loss. But it also offers some hope.
First the bad news: Take a look at this picture.
On the left, is the brain of a person with normal hearing and the areas that process sound are lit up as they should be. But on the right is the brain of a person with mild hearing loss. As you can see there’s less activity and what there is has shifted to other areas. Continue reading “Mind Reading Hearing Aids?”
Will your next hearing aids have cameras? New research on lip reading by artificial intelligence suggests that, and more is on the way.
“Read my lips.” That’s a lot easier said than done. It’s a difficult skill to master in part because only about 30% of speech is considered “visible”. Even the best lip readers can only understand somewhere between 40% and 60%, and those figures are open to question.
Put another way, it means that about half the time they are wrong. A point illustrated by an episode of “Seinfeld” where Jerry is dating a deaf woman who relies on lip reading. He asks her out, and offers to pick her up, “How about six?”. She looks angry, offended and then leaves. Jerry discovers later that she thought he had said “sex” instead of “six”.
Now comes news that the University of Oxford in partnership with Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence program has come up with a system that may help clear up the confusion.
Their AI system was taught to lip read using some 5,000 hours of BBC television clips. The system scanned people’s lips learning to read them, and it got better and better at it. In fact, the AI correctly “read” about 47% of what was being said without making a mistake. By comparison human lip readers barely managed to get 12% right.
You can try it yourself. Here is one of the silent BBC clips.
The AI scanned inside the red square and produced these captions.
It’s a breakthrough that opens up some intriguing possibilities according to another team of researchers at Oxford who are working on a similar system called LipNet.
‘Machine lip readers have enormous practical potential, with applications in improved hearing aids, silent dictation in public spaces, covert conversations, speech recognition in noisy environments, biometric identification, and silent-movie processing.’ -LipNet Research Report
By parsing that statement you can imagine a few scenarios: One day you may be able to look at your phone and mouth a command to Siri without speaking. Or you might point your phone’s camera at someone in a noisy room, and have what they are saying dictated directly into your hearing aids via bluetooth.
More ominously it may offer new secret surveillance tools that can “listen” in on distant conversations. Combine that with facial recognition software and you have a great plot twist in a spy thriller.
In the meantime, a few tips on lip reading. Actually, the correct term these days is “speech reading” because it involves reading not just lips but facial expressions and gestures.
Anyone with hearing loss is already something of a speech reader since your brain is constantly searching for clues about what is being said. Your may notice how much easier it is to understand someone if they are facing you directly and in a well lit space.
So to a large extent it’s intuitive but it’s also a skill that can be improved. For online training, try Lipreading.org.