19 March 2009

Hearing Aids May be Set for Different Languages

Different programmes for English or Japanese?

According to Marshall Chasin, a Doctor of Audiology, there is no reason why the vocal output of an English speaker should be any different from that of a Chinese speaker. However, Chinese is a tonal language with linguistically meaningful differences expressed in pitch changes on the lower frequency vowels. Unlike spoken English, a simple change of pitch in Chinese can make a difference as to the meaning of a given word. This means that it is more important for a listener of Chinese to be able to distinguish the tonal differences on the lower frequency vowels than for a listener of English.
Based on this information, Doctor Chasin is exploring possible hearing aid programming adaptations based on the language of the hearing aid user.

For instance, in order for quieter consonants in Japanese to be audible, one could implement a quicker release time for speakers of Japanese as compared to the programming for someone with a similar audiometric loss who is a speaker of English.

Similarly, in languages such as Portuguese, where nasal sounds are linguistically important, more gain should be specified in the Hertz region where nasals have their greatest energy, spectrographically.

Bilingual individuals ideally could have a hearing aid with two programmes with, for example, one set for English and the other for Japanese.

Chasin stressed that much further research is needed and a number of questions remain to be answered in this relatively new area of study.

Source: The Hearing Review

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