Ms Doyle won the 2017 'Irish Audiologist of the Year. The competition is organised by leading hearing aid battery manufacturer Rayovac, a division of Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc., who this year welcomed a new sponsor, The European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH), on board, joining longstanding partners Audio Infos, and the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA).
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Here at Hidden Hearing, we are constantly on the look out for exciting research about hearing loss and the way our ears work. However, this week, we’re simply fascinated by research suggesting that people without sight can ‘see’ using their hearing. Read on to find out why this research could be game changing, and how it could revolutionise our assumptions about our brains.
For people living with a limiting condition such as hearing loss or sight loss, the world can feel like a challenging place. As technologies develop, however, potential solutions become more widely available. Recent research into the way the brain works offers new hope for people in this situation, exploring the idea that the brain can be re-programmed to compensate for the sense that is compromised.
Using The Ears To See…
The idea that blind people can ‘see’ the objects around them using their hearing sounds, at best, incredible. However, scientists at The Hebrew University have recently conducted a study in which blind participants were able to see using their hearing.
During the study, blind people with ‘normal’ hearing abilities were able to train their brains to decode a new auditory or musical language to ‘see’ objects associated with sounds. The participants were taught to recognise images such as faces and everyday objects, which were converted into specific sounds that could be recognised by the brain and converted into images without the use of vision.
Studies show that sounds can project images, which may be in black and white or in colour, and this is known as ‘eye music’. Instruments can be used to code for certain colours, so that individuals can ‘see’ the colour of the object as well.
This research demonstrates the versatility of the brain and its amazing ability to develop new ways to communicate and learn. The studies we mention here were originated to find out more about the visual word form area of the brain, the VWFA, which is known to be the brain’s centre for reading and letter recognition. It was believed that this area would be undeveloped in blind participants, but in reality, it was demonstrated that the VWFA responded in the same way when blind subjects learned to ‘see’ objects through sound as it did in subjects with normal sight.
This fascinating research adds another dimension to our understanding of the human brain and enables us to imagine a future in which life can become easier for people with hearing or sight loss.
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