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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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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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