Scientists have successfully measured brain waves with an ear implant for the first time, a breakthrough that could improve smart hearing aids.
Researchers at KU Leuven, a Belgian university, used an experimental cochlear implant to record neural signals that arise in response to sounds. These signals could be used to measure and monitor the quality of hearing.
“In the future, it should even be possible for the hearing implant to adjust autonomously based on the recorded brain waves,” said study co-author Tom Francart.
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Instead of making sounds louder like a conventional hearing aid, cochlear implants use electrical signals to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
The devices are usually adjusted by an audiologist based on user feedback, a lengthy process that can be difficult for children and people with communication disabilities.
In addition, fittings only occur during irregular sessions in a clinic. This means that the settings cannot take into account the varying factors that affect the user’s hearing, such as different listening environments and physiological changes.
One solution is to adjust the implant via brain waves. However, this usually requires expensive and bulky equipment placed around the head.
A cochlear implant that records neural signals on its own might be a more useful alternative. Francart said the approach has several advantages:
First, we get an objective measure that does not depend on user input. In addition, you can measure a person’s hearing in everyday life and monitor them better. Thus, in the long term, the user would no longer have to undergo tests in the hospital. An audiologist could view the data remotely and adjust the implant if necessary.
The researchers now want manufacturers to use the study results to further develop smart hearing aids.
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Published March 31, 2021 – 17:57 UTC