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The University of Southampton
Virtual Acoustics and Audio Engineering

Research project: Virtual Acoustics in Hearing Aid Research

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Development of a low-cost and small-footprint virtual acoustics system for evaluating spatial hearing outcomes for hearing aid and cochlear implant users in clinic.

VA system used in conjunction with Oticon hearing aids
VA system used in conjunction with Oticon hearing aids

There have been exciting recent developments in technology to improve spatial hearing outcomes for hearing aids (HAs) and cochlear implants (CIs). 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. 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 that recreates the physical characteristics of sounds at the ears created by a loudspeaker ring, using just two or three loudspeakers. This virtual acoustics (VA) system, built upon the principles of crosstalk cancellation (CTC), can be used in a small space and offers far greater control of the perceived sound location than the current loudspeaker ring approach.

As well as being able to reproduce sound fields produced by the more simple sounds 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 (or less), compared to around the £13,000 for technology currently used in clinic.

This project is supported by a grant from the Oticon Foundation. Please visit the Electro-haptics Research project page for more information.

Related research groups

Signal Processing, Audio and Hearing Group
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