Next time you shiver when you see a spider at Heller Nature Center, take comfort in the fact that they may one day make your hearing aids stronger.
Spider Silk for Hearing Aids?
Studies have shown that spider silk may be an ideal material to create better directional microphones in hearing aids. This could improve your ability to hear speech in places with a lot of background noise, such as:
- Work meetings or conferences
- Busy restaurants
- Large parties or family gatherings
Solving Hearing Aids “Cocktail-Party-Problem”
Spiders are not the only bug scientists are studying to enhance our hearing. Researchers at the University of Toronto are studying the unique hearing ability of a small fly known as Ormia ochracea in the hopes of solving what is known as the “cocktail-party-problem.”
This refers to the fact that hearing aid users sometimes struggle to understand speech in places with background noise. This can be especially true if you have to locate where a specific voice is coming from in a crowded environment.
Ormia have extremely accurate directional hearing due to the unique design of their ears. Unlike most animals, their eardrums are connected to each other. This allows them to quickly figure out which direction sound is coming from.
The hope is that engineers would be able to create sensor technology that could mimic the fly’s eardrum and improve the ability of hearing aids to locate sound.
Get Help Now if You Have Signs of Hearing Loss
While these new discoveries are undoubtedly exciting and could one day improve hearing aid technology, they are years away from being available. Make sure to prioritize your hearing health now by keeping an eye out for early signs of hearing loss, which include:
- Asking others to repeat themselves often
- Difficulty following group conversations
- Having a hard time hearing in places with background noise
- Struggling to hear higher-pitched voices, particularly children
- Having others comment that you have the TV or radio volume up too loud
If any of these signs sound familiar, schedule an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing test.
They can quickly determine the degree of your hearing loss and come up with a treatment plan. This will likely include customized hearing aids to meet your needs.
While they may not use spider silk, modern hearing aids offer many features to enhance your listening experience, including:
- Bluetooth™ compatibility
- Apps that let you adjust your device using your smartphone
- Rechargeable batteries
Most importantly, they help keep you connected to your loved ones and the world around you.
For additional information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab today.