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What goes inside Brains of Older Adults? Why they Struggle to Hear in Noisy Places?

For older listeners, even when there isn't any noise, the brain is already having trouble processing the speech

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An old woman, Youtube

New York, October 19, 2016: Something must be going on in the brains of older adults that causes them to struggle to follow speech amid background noise, even when their hearing would be considered normal, researchers from University of Maryland have determined.

Researchers Samira Anderson, Jonathan Z Simon and Alessandro Presacco found that adults aged 61-73 with normal hearing scored significantly worse on speech understanding in noisy environments than adults aged 18-30 with normal hearing.

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The researchers studied two areas of the brain. They looked at the more ‘ancestral’ midbrain area which does basic processing of all sounds.

They also looked at the cortex which is particularly large in humans and part of which specialises in speech processing.

In the young group, the mid-brain generated a signal that matched its task in each case – looking like speech in the quiet environment, and speech clearly discernable against a noisy background in the noise environment.

But in the older group, the quality of the response to the speech signal was degraded even when in the quiet environment, and the response was even worse in the noisy environment.

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“For older listeners, even when there isn’t any noise, the brain is already having trouble processing the speech,” said Simon.

Neural signals recorded from cortex showed that younger adults could process speech well in a relatively short amount of time.

But the auditory cortex of older test subjects took longer to represent the same amount of information.

“Part of the comprehension problems experienced by older adults in both quiet and noise conditions could be linked to age-related imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neural processes in the brain,” Mr Presacco added.

This imbalance could impair the brain’s ability to correctly process auditory stimuli and could be the main cause of the abnormally high cortical response observed in the study.

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“Older people need more time to figure out what a speaker is saying. They are dedicating more of their resources and exerting more effort than younger adults when they are listening to speech,” Mr Simon noted in a paper published by the Journal of Neurophysiology.

This eroding of brain function appears to be typical for older adults and a natural part of the ageing process.

The researchers are now looking into whether brain training techniques may be able to help older adults improve their speech comprehension. (IANS)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google comes up with a new feature

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?