Why skull vibrations are good

By • Published: July 28th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The secret’s out… Scientists are turning to the Beach Boys for inspiration.

OK, maybe not. But it sure seems like the researchers who developed the Baha hearing device had the song “Good Vibrations” on their minds when they devised this hearing aid. The device diverts sound from a deaf ear to a good ear by turning sound waves into vibrations. Like tiny sound soldiers, the vibrations travel across the skull until they infiltrate the good ear, which processes them back into sound.

The overall effect? The ability to hear in stereo.

Good vibrations, indeed.

The device itself is no new concept. It was developed in 1977. But it wasn’t until 2002 that the U-S Food and Drug Administration approved it for patients who are deaf in one ear.

A new Loyola University study shows that the device is particularly beneficial for folks who have lost hearing in one ear and can’t use traditional hearing aids or a cochlear [COKE-LEE-AR] implant. Using the device helped study participants hear twenty-eight percent better in quiet settings. And their hearing also improved by one third in situations with background noise, which is often a weak spot for people with this type of hearing loss.

The only downside? Grating sounds like fire engines and police sirens got louder too, but those involved in the study say that was only a minor annoyance.

There’s even an upside for the Beach Boys. Better hearing means more listeners may dust off those old records.