Hearing aids could reduce the impact that sound has on a person’s stress levels, research shows
Oticon, a global specialist in hearing aids, has bridged the gap between lab and real-world hearing aid research and established a link between how changes in sound affect heart rate and the potential for well-fitted hearing aids to reduce stress from noise.
The hearing aid manufacturer, together with its research centre Eriksholm, has unveiled new research revealing that hearing aids could reduce the impact that sound, and more specifically noise, has on a person’s stress levels.
Providing a glimpse into the future of data-driven hearing aid innovation, the new data collected could one day see well-fitted hearing aids being used to help reduce raised heart rate, Oticon underlines.
As part of its ongoing BrainHearing research programme, which looks at reducing the listening effort of a person with hearing loss, Oticon is working on new ways to determine how changes in sound influence health. Its new hearing research includes a study of heart health.
Eriksholm measured pupil dilation to determine stress caused by sounds and the effort of listening, as well as studied heart rate both in the lab and the real world, the results of which demonstrate the importance of effective hearing aid technology and correct fitting.
The lab study discovered that periods of noise, especially when listening to speech, increase stress and demonstrates that noise reduction from Oticon Opn hearing aids delivers quality sound which helps reduce a person’s stress reaction.
Oticon has now broken out of the lab in order to study how real-life sound can impact health.
With access to the logged acoustic data of its internet-connected hearing aids via the Oticon ON app and continuous mean heart rate in five-minute intervals from the users’ own wearables, Oticon is able to see how real-world sound exposure affects heart rate and how often a person’s heart rate is increased by sound changes.
Oticon’s novel observations to date include that the sound people live in contributes to approximately four percent of the fluctuation in mean heart rate throughout the day. Most prominently, periods with loud sound increase mean heart rate while access to a better sound quality (i.e., a higher signal-to-noise ratio) reduces this stress reaction and lowers mean heart rate, even when the sound is loud.
Based on this data, Oticon says that if hearing technology was used to help reduce the impact of unwanted noisy sound and instead enhance the relevant sounds around people, it would contribute towards maintaining heart health every day.
Oticon More hearing aids feature advanced noise reduction working in unison with a deep neural network allowing users to hear all relevant sounds. This is a new way to support hearing loss, the manufacturer states, breaking with the tradition of directionality technology which fundamentally limits what a hearing aid user can hear at any one time.
In addition, Oticon More enables a user to hear more naturally and also ensures sound is ‘comfortable’ to listen to, creating the perfect conditions to help reduce listening effort and stress, which, as per Oticon’s real-world study, would help with heart health in the noisy environments that users face on a daily basis.
“Noise, which essentially is unwanted sound, can be terribly unhealthy”, says Jeppe Høy Christensen, Researcher at the Eriksholm Research Centre. “Creating a link between lab studies and user-provided research, we can confidently say that by effectively making noise less burdensome by enhancing relevant sounds, through hearing technology we will be able to help improve not only the brain but also the heart health of our hearing aid users.
“Our research strives to constantly inspire improved hearing aid technology and we are particularly proud to have uncovered such a significant revelation. The consequence could even see manufacturers of other hearing products, such as headphones, employing new technology to benefit their users’ health.”