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Baby Talk…It’s Good For Babies!!

babies-rowYou know all those people that we tease behind their backs when they do “baby talk” to babies? How we feel so superior because we talk to babies like they are little adults? How we use our regular voice when addressing those little humans? Because baby talk is….well, for babies? Well, it turns out that not only do babies prefer to hear more baby-sounding voices but it’s actually beneficial to their speech development.

A new study offering insights into early language development and led by McGill University in Canada was published in the journal Developmental Science. The researchers observed and filmed the reactions of infants between the ages of four and six months (who were not yet attempting speech) while the babies listened to baby-like and adult-like sounds from a voice synthesizer. The results of the study suggest that babies prefer to listen to other babies rather than adults as they prepare to make their own speech sounds.

The researchers found that when babies listened to vowel sounds that were more baby-like (for instance, higher pitched), the infants’ attention was held longer than when the sounds had more adult-like vocal properties (for instance, lower pitched). Previous studies have also shown that babies of this age are more attracted to higher-pitched sounds. The team says “the finding is important because being attracted to infant speech sounds may be a key step in babies being able to find their own voice – it may help to kick-start the process of learning how to talk.” These discoveries increase our understanding of the complex link between speech perception and speech production in young infants. It may lead to new ways to help hearing-impaired children who may be struggling to develop language skills.

For the study, the researchers used a voice synthesizer to create vowel sounds that mimicked the voice of a baby and the voice of a woman. The experiment consisted of playing the sounds to the infants and tracking their engagement. They measured the length of time each vowel sound held the infants’ attention. This was determined by observing the the faces and body movements of the babies as they listened to each type of sound. For instance, when hearing the adult-like voices, some babies remained fairly passive and neutral but when they heard the more infant-like sounds they became more animated while moving their mouths and smiling.

This video shows one of the babies, who does not yet babble herself, as she reacts to the sounds. When ever she looks away, one sound is replaced with another. Her reactions clearly show which sounds she prefers.

The researchers say that it is possible that the babies recognize the baby-like sounds because those sounds were more like sound that they could make themselves – despite not having heard them before.

These findings also point to why adults may automatically use baby-talk when interacting with infants; the reactions of the babies is more interactive when using the higher-pitched baby talk.

Babies also spend a lot of time trying to ‘speak’ when they are alone or in places where they cannot make eye contact with others. They spend a lot of time testing their vocal chords and moving their mouths trying to discover the types of sounds they can make. For babies, using their voice is more about exploring than it is about communicating.

So, the next time you start baby-talking to a baby, don’t apologize! You have science to back you up!

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A Lip Reading Hearing Aid?

Read My Lips!

Read My Lips!

Yep…you read that right. Scottish scientists are hoping to be the first to develop a hearing aid that also reads lips. This project is being headed by professor Amir Hussain from the University of Stirlingshire. According to Professor Hussain, deafness affects huge numbers of people in the UK (and all over the world) either with a direct hearing loss or living/working with someone with hearing loss. In fact, research shows that around 10 million people in the UK suffer from hearing impairment. That number is more than double in the US. So, with that many people dealing with the tribulations of hearing impairment and loss, it’s no wonder that scientists are always working on better technology for hearing instruments. So far, all that technology has been geared towards better amplification, better sound analysis, better sound filtration, etc. Until now, no one has thought to add a lip-reading element to hearing instruments. It’s brilliant though. How many times have you been in a noisy situation where it really helps to follow a conversation when you actually watch the mouth of the person speaking? I can think of several as recently as yesterday at an outdoor Mother’s Day concert in the park.

Back to the new tech….a tiny camera would be used to identify the patterns of a the speaker’s lip movements and then cutting-edge software would translate the pattern into speech to be played back directly the ear of the hearing aid wearer. The camera could be anywhere that it would have a clear line of sight to the speaker’s mouth; in the earpiece, on a pair of glasses, or perhaps worn as a piece of jewelry. The technology in the camera and in the hearing aid would switch between lip-reading and hearing modes depending on the acoustic environment.

Professor Hussain is leading the project with support from Sheffield University, several hearing aid manufacturers, and the MRC Institute of Hearing Research at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. With the basic design of the piece already established, there are still a number of things to accomplish to create a successful prototype. The team does anticipate some difficulties with the project, including the design of the system that will process lip movement into speech in real-time.

If this technology develops as planned it could also be used to help anyone in a noisy environment including factories, warehouses, concerts, conventions, etc. It has the potential to help massive numbers of people. I’d use it!

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Hearing Loss and Diminished Sexual Function in Men

Can hearing loss affect sexual function in men?

Can hearing loss affect sexual function in men?

So, there was this recent study conducted by researchers at Dicle University Medical College in Diyarbakir, Turkey and published in the The Journal of Laryngology & Otology that links hearing loss in men with reduced sexual function. The objective of the study was to assess sexual function, particularly erectile dysfunction, in men with hearing loss.

Apparently, they wanted to determine if deafness is one of the factors that leads to a change in sexual function.

To conduct the study, researchers assessed two groups of men. The first group of adult men had acquired, bilateral, sensorineural hearing loss (I’m assuming they are talking about men who became hearing-challenged versus men who were born deaf or hearing-challenged). The second group of adult men were married, considered healthy, and had normal hearing levels. The sexual function of each man in each group was assessed using the International Index of Erectile Functions questionnaire. Their quality of life was determined using the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey.

Apparently, these are well known assessment tools within the medical and/or research arena.

Their results showed “a statistically significant difference between the groups”. The findings were based on the results of the International Index of Erectile Functions questionnaire both for the individual answers and the total score. No mention was made of the results of the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey.

Apparently, ‘quality of life’ was not that big an issue in this study.

The conclusion was that “men with mild or moderate sensorineural hearing loss have poorer sexual health”.

Apparently, hearing loss can be a buzz-kill for your mojo.

To make matters worse, using drugs (such as Viagra, Levitra, Staxyn, Cialis, or Stendra) for erectile dysfunction has been shown to cause sudden hearing loss in one ear, accompanied by ringing in the ear and dizziness. This has only been reported in a small number of men, but what does that really mean? Small compared to what?

So, what’s a passionate man to do? Well, for one, take care to protect your hearing (read more about that here). Also, don’t wait until it’s too late to to have your hearing evaluated, especially if you work (or play) in an environment that can be hazardous to your hearing. In fact, you can take our hearing screening in a few short moments. Isn’t your libido worth it? We think so…and so does your wife/partner/mate/friend with benefits (the list goes on).

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