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Understanding the Difference Between Hearing Loss and Hearing Noise Loss: The Role of Roger Technology

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In our increasingly noisy world, protecting and maintaining our hearing is more crucial than ever. Two commonly misunderstood terms in audiology are “hearing loss” and “hearing-in-noise loss.” While they might sound similar, they refer to distinct auditory challenges. Understanding these differences can significantly impact how we approach hearing health, set realistic expectations of the loss and its remediation and technology, technology limitations.

Hearing Loss: The Basics

Hearing loss refers to the partial or total inability to hear sounds in one or both ears depending on the frequency as plotted by a hearing professional on an audiogram using beeps and tones. It can be caused by various factors, including aging, exposure to loud noises, infections, genetic conditions, and certain medications. Hearing loss can be categorized into three main types:

1. Conductive Hearing Loss: This occurs when sound waves cannot efficiently pass through the outer ear, eardrum, or middle ear. Common causes include ear infections, earwax buildup, or fluid in the middle ear.

2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This type results from damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. It is often permanent and can be caused by aging (presbycusis), prolonged exposure to loud noises, or certain illnesses.

3. Mixed Hearing Loss: A combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, indicating issues in both the outer/middle ear and the inner ear or auditory nerve.

Hearing Noise Loss: An Emerging Concern

Hearing-in-noise loss is a more nuanced auditory condition. It describes difficulty in hearing or understanding speech in noisy environments whether having normal hearing sensitivity or a hearing loss. This has been referred to as a ‘hidden hearing loss’ as well in the case of otherwise normal hearing sensitivity. This condition is typically linked to damage in the auditory nerve fibers that connect the inner ear to the brain and/or auditory centres in the brain, making it challenging to filter out background noise and understand speech clearly. Speech is heard, because it is loud enough by virtue o normal hearing sensitivity or amplification with hearing aids in the event of a hearing loss, but just not clearly understood.

People with hearing noise loss often find themselves struggling in environments such as restaurants, social gatherings, or busy streets, where distinguishing speech from ambient noise is essential. Unlike traditional hearing loss, this condition may not show up on standard hearing tests, making it harder to diagnose and treat. There are, however, clinical tests that you should ask for including the QuickSIN, ACT or LiSN-S that can quantify the hearing-in-noise ability and help set the technology up properly for you whether it is a hearing aid, or as I introduce below, Roger technology that can be used with or without the presence of a hearing loss.

Roger Technology

Roger technology, developed by Phonak, a Swiss hearing aid manufacturer, offers a groundbreaking solution for those struggling with hearing noise loss. It works by improving speech understanding in challenging listening situations, particularly where background noise is prevalent.

How Roger Technology Works

– Microphone: Roger microphones capture the speaker’s voice and transmit it directly to the listener’s hearing aids or cochlear implants, ensuring clarity and reducing background noise interference.

– Adaptive Features: Roger technology automatically adjusts the microphone settings to adapt to the noise levels and distance from the speaker, providing optimal speech clarity.

– Compatibility: Roger devices are designed to work seamlessly with various hearing aids and cochlear implants, making them a versatile tool for enhancing auditory experiences.

The Benefits of Roger Technology

1. Enhanced Speech Understanding: By directly transmitting speech to the hearing device, Roger technology significantly improves the clarity of conversations in noisy environments.

2. Reduced Listening Effort: Users report feeling less fatigued after social interactions, as the technology minimizes the effort needed to distinguish speech from noise.

3. Increased Participation: With better hearing capability in noisy settings, individuals can engage more fully in social, educational, and professional activities, improving their quality of life.

Understanding the distinction between hearing loss and hearing noise loss is crucial for addressing the unique challenges they present. While traditional hearing aids are effective for general hearing loss, Roger technology provides a sophisticated solution for those dealing with the complexities of hearing noise loss. By enhancing speech clarity in noisy environments, Roger technology helps individuals stay connected and engaged, underscoring the importance of innovative solutions in hearing healthcare.

Whether you or a loved one is experiencing hearing difficulties, consulting with an audiologist to explore the benefits of Roger technology could be a pivotal step toward improved auditory health and a better quality of life.