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Jan. 5, 2010 – It is well known that humans naturally process facial expression along with what is being heard to fully understand what is being communicated. The UBC study is the first to show we also naturally process tactile information to perceive sounds of speech.

Prof. Bryan Gick of UBC’s Dept. of Linguistics, along with PhD student Donald Derrick, found that air puffs directed at skin can bias perception of spoken syllables. “This study suggests we are much better at using tactile information than was previously thought,” says Gick, also a member of Haskins Laboratories, an affiliate of Yale University.

The study, published in Nature November 26, offers findings that may be applied to telecommunications, speech science and hearing aid technology.

English speakers use aspiration — the tiny bursts of breath accompanying speech sounds — to distinguish sounds such as “pa” and “ta” from unaspirated sounds such as “ba” and “da.” Study participants heard eight repetitions of these four syllables while inaudible air puffs — simulating aspiration — were directed at the back of the hand or the neck.

When the subjects — 66 men and women — were asked to distinguish the syllables, it was found that syllables heard simultaneously with air puffs were more likely to be perceived as aspirated, causing the subjects to mishear “ba” as the aspirated “pa” and “da” as the aspirated “ta.” The brain associated the air puffs felt on skin with aspirated syllables, interfering with perception of what was actually heard.

It is unlikely aspirations are felt on the skin, say the researchers. The phenomenon is more likely analogous to lip-reading where the brain’s auditory cortex area activates when the eyes see lips move, signaling speech. From the brain’s point of view, you are “hearing” with your eyes.

“Our study shows we can do the same with our skin, “hearing” a puff of air, regardless of whether it got to our brains through our ears or our skin,” says Gick.

Future research may include studies of how audio, visual and tactile information interact to form the basis of a new multi-sensory speech perception paradigm. Additional studies may examine how many kinds of speech sounds are affected by air flow, offering important information about how people interact with their physical environment.

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Phonak’s iCom Bluetooth device has changed the way in which hearing impaired individuals hear using peripheral devices such as cell phones, TVs, iPods, etc.  With the iCom, hearing aid users with compatible hearing aids can wirelessly pair their hearing aids with virtually any bluetooth device on the market.

Bluetooth Device for your Hearing Aids

Bluetooth Device for your Hearing Aids

The great thing about this is, you hear in stereo!  AND… you can mix the level of environmental sound with the amount of music or tv or telephone conversation to your liking.  In other words, if you like to hear what’s going around you while having music in the background, you can do it!  If you want to completely block out all environmental amplification while only amplifying the voice on the other end of the telephone, you can do it!

Phonak is also distributing the Voiis Stereo Wireless Music Gateway.  Don’t be fooled by the name… this device offers more than just wireless music.  Here is a review by cnet.com

Bluetooth Transmitter for iCom

Bluetooth Transmitter for iCom

“The good: The Voiis Stereo Wireless Music Gateway is a simple way to stream music to and from your home stereo via stereo Bluetooth. You can stream music from the home stereo to a stereo Bluetooth headset, from the PC to the home stereo, and from a cell phone to the home stereo. You can even stream music from your iPod to a stereo Bluetooth headset. Also, setup is easy.  [one person can use it with their hearing aids and another can use it with a bluetooth headset simultaneously!]

The bad: The Voiis Stereo Wireless Music Gateway only has one button for all the functions, plus Bluetooth pairing can be a little tricky when both devices don’t have any displays for confirmation.

The bottom line: The Voiis Stereo Wireless Music Gateway is a great way to transmit music to and from your home stereo without any wires.”

Check it out on our website:
www.hearingaiddocs.com

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Warmest Regards,

The HearingAidDocs.com Team

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