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The University of Southampton
Engineering

Research project: A compact and inexpensive virtual acoustics system for clinical and research evaluation of spatial hearing in cochlear implant and hearing aid users

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Recently, there have been exciting developments in technology for linking hearing aid (HA) and cochlear implant (CI) signal processing across the two ears to improve spatial hearing outcomes. As a result, there has been an increased emphasis on assessment of the spatial hearing abilities of HA and CI users for clinical and research purposes. For information about this project please contact Dr Mark Fletcher (M.D.Fletcher@soton.ac.uk).

Mini VA system mock up

For information about this project please contact Dr Mark Fletcher (M.D.Fletcher@soton.ac.uk).

Currently, a large, acoustically-treated space and an expensive system with several loudspeakers in a ring around the listener is required for such assessment to be carried out. We have developed an alternative system, which recreates the physical characteristics of sounds at the ears created by a loudspeaker ring using just three loudspeakers. This virtual acoustics (VA) system can be used in a small space and offers far greater control of the perceived stimulus location than a loudspeaker ring, with fine-grain control of source elevation, azimuth and distance. As well as being able to reproduce sound fields produced by more simple tone or noise stimuli that are commonly used in clinic and research, our VA system can reproduce complex acoustic scenes, such as a busy café or a car journey, with outstanding levels of realism. The system therefore has huge potential to be used for delivering relevant tests of real-world performance. Another appealing feature of this new system is its low cost. Currently, the hardware being used for this system costs approximately £1,300, compared to around £13,000 for the standard Advanced Bionics "Crescent of Sound" clinical spatial-hearing evaluation system.

This project will comprise two phases. In phase one, the sound reproduction performance of the system will be evaluated and optimized using physical measurements. In phase two, the system will be optimized for clinical and research use by reducing the total cost and simplifying and automating the set-up procedure. This fully optimized system will then be evaluated with HA and CI users. For more information on our work please visit our Electrohaptics project page.

This project is supported by a grant from the Oticon Foundation.

Related research groups

Human Sciences Group
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