We can all recall a time when we have been chatting to someone in a busy room, entirely oblivious to what is going on around us.
But then we have heard our name mentioned from another part of the room and instantly our attention is diverted.
Psychologists call this the “cocktail party effect”. This ability to tune in and out of the
sounds is a result of the way our natural hearing works. We are able to focus on a conversation while still subconsciously monitoring our surroundings. When we hear something more important, like our name being mentioned behind us, we instinctively tune in to it.
This instinctive hearing is invaluable not just for the curious amongst us who are intrigued by what people are saying behind our backs. It is also integral to safety in many situations. Again, we have all experienced noises that we can’t identify and
concentrated on them on them until we have worked out what they are and where they are coming from. Imagine that noise is the number 77 bus and the importance of instinctive hearing becomes even more obvious.
Is loudest most interesting?
Ironically many of the advances in hearing aids that have improved our ability to hear the original conversation in that busy room have also reduced or even removed our ability to hear instinctively. Our hearing aids focus in on the loudest person in front of us
and assume that that is the person we want to hear. They then reduce all noise from the rest of the room so that person’s speech is as clear as possible. That’s a good thing – if that person is the one we want to listen to and we can assume that nothing else of interest is happening in the room. However it is the hearing aid that is making that decision based on criteria which may be different to ours.
Back in charge of your hearing
The good news is that hearing aid technology has moved on again. A new wireless technology called Binaural Fusion claims to restore our instinctive hearing. In simple terms, Binaural Fusion enables a pair of hearing instruments to work together as a single, balanced system. They continually exchange information and adjust to your surroundings. Together they provide our brains with the complete sound picture we need to instinctively focus on what we think is important. As a result, the wearer is able to tune into the people and the sounds they want to hear while maintaining a comfortable and safe 360 degree awareness.
So next time you are in a busy room or a noisy street, you can be confident that you are picking up on all the important sounds around you.
Binaural Fusion is a unique technology available in ReSound Verso 9 and ReSound LiNX 9 hearing instruments. To find out more about instinctive hearing, ask your hearing aid professional or visit gnresound.co.uk
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