Drs. Oz and Roizen: App may help some hear despite background noise

MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D. clear up some facts about hearing and distorted noise. Also, the doctors discuss the affects of gain weight due to diabetes and aging.
BY MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D. Published: December 3, 2013
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Q: I have a new hearing aid, and I love it. It's digital, has background noise suppression, and a directional mike. I can join in an animated conversation with several friends in a busy restaurant. But last week I almost missed a flight because I didn't hear an announcement about a gate change. I couldn't understand anything coming over the public address system. Can't they clean up their end of the noise problem?

Clair B., Seattle

A: We fly a lot, and we know exactly what you're talking about. The constant cacophony!

Fortunately, an international team of researchers is addressing that specific problem using something called synthetic speech. They've created a computer program that can enhance the parts of speech that are most easily heard and understood, especially in noisy situations. And the software manipulates the sounds so that they can be more easily deciphered even at lower decibels. The whole environment becomes quieter and yet everyone can hear what being said more clearly. That's a lot like what happens with the new technology in your hearing aid. The old hearing aids simply amplified sound. Now the sound is digitally processed and the hearing aid can block out background noise. You might say synthetic speech creates a hearing aid for the general public. And synthetic speech applications range far beyond PA announcements in airports, train stations and sporting venues; they include smartphone conversations and advanced military communications. But until all airports start using this technology, one way to make sure you and your airline are on the same page is to download their app to your smartphone or tablet. Almost all airlines have 'em, and you can use them to check your flights, gate, seat assignment, frequent flier miles, the whole bit. Then you'll make your flight with no stress — and we hope that your in-flight movie is “Noises Off!”

Q: My mother is 77, and she has put on a lot of weight since she retired. Now she has diabetes, and she's finding it harder to get around. She knows she's in bad shape, but she doesn't think anything helps. What can I do?



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