How hearing aids could tackle stress and heart problems



Hearing aid technology could help to reduce stress, according to a new report that also suggests it could be modified to reduce raised heart rates.

Danish hearing aid manufacturer Oticon has published research showing hearing aids can potentially reduce the impact of noise on a person’s stress levels.

The study provides a glimpse into the future of data-driven hearing aid innovation and new treatment opportunities, the firm believes.

Specifically, it suggests that well-fitted hearing aids could be used to help reduce raised heart rate, as well as stress.

Oticon, at its research centre Eriksholm, has an ongoing programme delving deeper into the world of sound.

It is working on new ways to determine how changes in sound influence health. In its latest study it measured pupil dilation to determine stress caused by sounds and the effort of listening. It also measured heart rate both in the lab and the outside world.

The lab study discovered that periods of noise, especially when listening to speech, increase stress. It demonstrates that noise reduction from hearing aids (the Oticon Opn) delivers quality sound which helps to reduce a person’s stress reaction.

Beyond the lab, the firm logged the acoustic data of its internet-connected hearing aids from its supporting app, and the users’ continuous mean heart rate in 5-minute intervals via their own wearables.

Oticon’s novel observations to date suggest that the sound we live in contributes to approximately 4 per cent 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, if hearing technology was used to help reduce the impact of unwanted noisy sound and instead enhance the relevant sounds around us, it would contribute towards maintaining heart health every day, Oticon says.

Jeppe Høy Christensen, researcher, Eriksholm Research Centre, part of Oticon, says: “Noise, which essentially is unwanted sound, can be terribly unhealthy.

“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.”



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