Hearing is not only important for communication and in order to maintain social contacts, but also to help to localize potential sources of danger. The prevalence of hearing impairments in the general population is high. A hearing impairment may concern one ear only or both ears, and the degree of hearing loss may be situated anywhere between a relatively mild loss (which nevertheless often causes substantial problems when communicating in noisy environments) to a profound hearing loss.
For many patients, the most promising therapy is the fitting and the use of a suitable hearing aids. Such hearing aids are often conventional behind-the-ear or in-the ear hearing aids, or may be bone-anchored or semi-implantable hearing aids, or even cochlear implants in the case of a bilateral profound hearing loss. Cochlear implants directly stimulate the cochlear nerve electrically and can restore hearing and speech understanding even in ears which are totally deaf.
Unfortunately, all these different types of hearing aids have their drawbacks, which limit their practical usefulness. For instance, speech intelligibility in noise if often considerably reduced. The audiological research at the Inselspital, University of Berne addresses different issues from new algorithms and optimized fitting procedures for hearing aids and cochlear implants to new or improved diagnostic tools and procedures for the hard of hearing.