What is localization?

According to the Hearing Review:

“Localization is the ability to tell the direction of a sound source in a 3-D space. The ability to localize sounds provides a more natural and comfortable listening experience. It is also important for safety reasons such as to avoid oncoming traffic, an approaching cyclist on a running path, or a falling object. Being able to localize also allows the listener to turn toward the sound source and use the additional visual cues to enhance communication in adverse listening conditions.”

Localization helps your spatial awareness. For those with hearing loss, this can often be a problem. That’s where hearing aids come in, and why an audiologist will always recommend two aids instead of one.

Localization Technology

The science behind localization is pretty complex, and hearing aids will generally have different approaches to how they handle processing sound in a noisy environment. But they all strive towards similar ends: helping your brain hear by improving your sense of place and orientation.

One big advancement was the creation of a wireless communication technology called ear-to-ear.

From Healthy Hearing:

“Traditional hearing aids process sound independently, according to the hearing loss in each ear. This can cause the wearer difficulty in pinpointing the sources of sound because the timing and level differences are often lost. Wireless hearing aids address this problem by working together to compare timing and level differences for sounds received at the microphone of each device, thus preserving the natural localization cues our ears provide.”

Oticon’s website addresses the benefits of wireless technology:

“As an extension to digital sound processing, Oticon’s latest quad-core signal processing platform, Inium Sense, delivers the unique combination of exceptional performance, incredibly small size and low power consumption. This is how Oticon raises the bar in speech understanding, sound quality, wireless connectivity and listening effort, and opens a wide range of personalisation opportunities.

This brain-like behaviour provides a more authentic listening perspective. In addition to pushing the limits of how hearing instruments process sounds, Inium Sense allows people to connect to a number of Bluetooth enabled electronic devices such as mobile phones, MP3 players etc.”

Localization is determined by how the hearing aids communicate with each other. The programming of the right ear is determined by the programming of the left (and vice versa). Because of wireless technology, the hearing aid responses are optimized for speech intelligibility, preserving the timing and level differences that are necessary for localization.

Ear-to-ear wireless technology is available in premium or advanced hearing aids.

In Summary

Localization is a big part of hearing, and though the differences from low end to high end can be night and day, anything from a pair of traditional aids to the latest aids with wireless technology will help your sense of space in noise.