More than 3.6 million Australians are suffering from some form of hearing loss, but many will wait months or even years before seeking professional help. To try and shorten the time it takes for people to take action, Cochlear has launched a content series featuring new audio tool, Hearprint, to raise awareness of the impact and prevalence of hearing impairment in Australia.
We chat to Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Sydney Jennie Brand-Miller who took the concept of the Glycaemic Index to the world after living with progressive hearing loss for more than 20 years.
Hi Jennie, thanks for chatting to us! Jennie, you said that being fitted with a Cochlear implant was a pivotal moment in your career. Can you give people who don’t know a little overview of how the Cochlear implant works?
This is my lay person’s understanding. In a normal ear, the little hair cells in the cochlear (a snail-like organ in our ear) covert sound waves into electrical signals that travel up the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that interprets sound and language. Unfortunately, in a deaf ear, the hair cells have lost their functionality. A cochlear implant replicates the job of converting sound waves into electrical signals using an electrode implanted in the cochlear. It also processes sound waves so that language is clear and annoying environmental noise is minimised.
How are Cochlear implants different and arguably better then hearing aids?
Unlike hearing aids, which simply turn up the volume for all sounds around the wearer, Cochlear implants accommodate an individual’s unique hearing needs by recalibrating their ears to the world around them to restore their hearing. They are able to compensate for damaged parts of the inner ear, and work to provide effective, long-term solutions for people with moderate to profound hearing loss.
It’s been said that our hearing is as unique as our fingerprint, with everyone hearing the world differently. Is there an easy way people can discover more about their own hearing?
Cochlear has just launched a content series featuring its new audio tool, Hearprint, to raise awareness of the impact and prevalence of hearing impairment in Australia. The audio tool has been designed in consultation with audiologists and sound engineers and works by adjusting audio frequencies through series of user inputs. It is then able to calibrate all online content to its audience’s unique hearing ability. My story has actually been turned into the world’s first piece of content that can be calibrated using the Hearprint tool. It’s pretty cool, I’d really encourage people to give it a go.
Our audience base are great lovers of music, and I know you are too now you are able to enjoy it to its full.
Absolutely! Music was important to me as a child. I had piano lessons and passed Grade 6 exams. My father took me to symphony concerts at Sydney Town Hall. As a teenager in the 1960s, I loved pop music, especially the Beatles. But as my hearing loss progressed, I gradually lost interest in listening for enjoyment. Music came back to me soon after I had my second implant. I found a very marked difference between having one versus two implanted ears… like chalk and cheese, especially when it came to music. Now I adore listening to all the music that I missed out on – all sorts, from jazz to classical. Spotify is a godsend and my favourite way to relax.
More than 3.6 million Australians are suffering from some form of hearing loss, but many will wait months or even years before seeking professional help. How does Hearprint hope to encourage people to seek professional help?
It’s really important to swallow your ego and see a professional as soon as you notice that you are not hearing as well as you used to. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to make the adjustment. You get used to a quiet world. If the brain is not stimulated, the nerve pathways wither (use it or lose it). Research also shows that our mental performance also declines as a result of not hearing/not understanding what is being said. Hearing loss can lead to social isolation and depression. We don’t hesitate to get glasses when our vision declines. We need to apply the same reasoning to hearing loss.
It is wonderful that Cochlear have made this accessible to everyone, and for free. Where should people go to access this great tool?
Anyone can discover their unique Hearprint and watch my story in full at www.hearprint.com
You are making a huge difference to people lives, I’m sure this will benefit a lot of our readers, thank you so much for chatting to us Jennie!
Discover your unique Hearprint and watch Jennie’s story in full at www.hearprint.com