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How hearing aids help keep the brain fit

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Hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline, however research has shown that those who use hearing aids show less of a decline than those who don’t.

Keeping your brain fit so that you can stay sharp, engage socially and participate in professional or volunteer activities is a concept that appeals to a wide range of age groups, from young adults to baby boomers and beyond.  While many strategies for “healthy aging” exist, the newest evidence points to the important role of hearing health in maintaining quality of life long-term.

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Better hearing starts in the brain. Your brain processes and interprets the sounds your ears receive.  When you have hearing loss, your brain doesn’t receive all the sound information it needs to understand what is being said and spends more energy trying to fill in the blanks. That extra effort can take its toll. A growing body of evidence shows that cognitive decline is significantly accelerated when you have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids.  As conversations become difficult and exhausting, you may start to withdraw and avoid the social connections that are so important to brain health.

Keeping Your Brain Fit

If you are among the 75% of people with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids but are reluctant to take action, the newest research findings may be the powerful motivator you need.  A study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found no difference in the rate of cognitive decline between people with no reported hearing loss and people with hearing loss who used hearing aids. In fact, people with hearing loss who wear hearing aids had the same risk for age-related cognitive decline as people without hearing loss.  When you actively use hearing aids, you are more likely to stay socially engaged, one of the primary ways to stimulate your brain. Like any exercise, the mental give-and-take of social interaction helps to keep your brain fit and slow down accelerated cognitive decline.

A “Brain First” Approach

Today’s advanced hearing aid technology takes into consideration the critical role that the brain plays in hearing. For almost 20 years, Oticon researchers at the world renowned Eriksholm Research Centre have focused on a “brain first” approach that carefully processes the speech signal so it is presented to the brain as clearly and accurately as possible. With better sound information, the brain doesn’t have to work as hard to understand what is being said.

Oticon hearing instruments with BrainHearing™ are an excellent example of this “brain first” approach. By giving the brain a clearer, more accurate sound signal, Oticon hearing aids with BrainHearing™ make it easier to understand conversation – even in noise.  The result is a more natural, effortless listening experience.  This means less demanding mental processing throughout the day so you can engage more actively in everyday life.

Easy on the Brain, Easy Connectivity

Oticon Opn™ is the first hearing aid proven to make it easier on the brain. The small, discreet hearing aid improves your ability to understand speech by up to 30%, so you don’t have to work as hard to understand, leaving more mental energy to remember what you hear – so you can communicate easily and stay socially active. Opn processes sound at extreme speed to remove distracting noise, even between words. You can follow conversation even in environments with multiple people speaking, such as crowded restaurants.

The newest BrainHearing solution also connects directly to compatible mobile phones and other external devices so you can stay connected on the go. With just a tap of your fingertips, you can stream audio directly to your hearing aids. Opn is also the world’s first hearing device that is connected to the Internet via the IFTTT network, a web service that automates other web-based functions to make life easier. You can use Opn hearing aids with a growing number of IFTTT-compatible products and services from wake-up notices and sports reports to practical considerations such as low battery alerts and connections to smart home devices.

Tinnitus & Your Brain

Tinnitus – that ringing, buzzing, whistling or other noises in the ear – can disrupt life and interfere with your enjoyment of everyday activities.  Approximately 80% of people experiencing hearing loss also suffer from tinnitus. Hearing aids have proven helpful for people with hearing loss who also experience tinnitus. The explanation is simple. With better hearing, the brain has other external sounds to listen to, making tinnitus less disturbing. Improved hearing also takes away the strain of listening, especially in difficult listening situations, and may help to reduce the stress associated with tinnitus.

Refocusing the Brain

There are many ways to take control of your tinnitus and reduce its impact on your life. A hearing care professional can help you manage your symptoms through education, counseling and sound therapy. Oticon Opn hearing aids with built-in Tinnitus SoundSupport™ can also help you direct your focus away from tinnitus by playing a wide range of relief sounds like white noise and soothing ocean-like sounds. You can adjust the sounds until they give the relief you need — wherever you find yourself needing it.

Hearing Care is Health Care

When it comes to healthy aging, it makes sense to take care of your hearing health, just as you care about the rest of your health. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 360 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss. Many of them aren’t aware of it or are putting off treatment. If you’re one of them, you owe it to yourself to visit a hearing care professional for a hearing evaluation. Your future as an active, engaged, healthy person could depend on it.

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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