New Research Uses Brainwaves To Test Understanding of Speech

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Researchers are aiming to change the way we measure a person's ability to understand speech. Yes, hearing aids help you hear better. But, often speech gets lost in translation. Hearing someone talk (from another room, for example) and understanding what they're saying are two different things. That's because hearing requires more than just your ears. Your brain actually plays a large part, as well. Our blog post on one manufacturer's BrainHearing™ technology discusses this more in depth.

A new technique developed by researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, involves using an EEG brain cap with 64 electrodes to measure a person's brainwaves while they listen to speech. It shows not only whether a person has heard a particular sound, but whether they've understood it.

EEG caps are already used to measure hearing, especially in newborns. But, the current test just measures whether the sound was heard. Instead of just tonal sounds or individual words (such as the ones you repeat during a hearing test), the new test measures brain waves of someone listening to a sentence and how well they actually understood what they heard.

Although it's currently in a demo state, this new test has some beneficial implications as to how well we will be able to measure the hearing and understanding of speech in the future. It could lead to better diagnoses in patients with speech comprehension issues, and more accurate hearing aid fittings. Imagine not only hearing better, but being able to understand everything that is said! Because the patient does not need to be awake or alert for the test, it also could mean better understanding for people in comas or for those who cannot communicate verbally. 

Exciting things are on the horizon in the field of audiology. We'll do our best to keep you up to date with the most recent research, trends and news.