The following two presentations were given at the 21st Annual Meeting of the German Audiological Society in Halle, Germany on February 28 – March 1:
From data-driven auditory profiling to scene-aware signal processing in hearing aids
Torsten Dau – Hearing Systems Group, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
Despite advances in acoustic technology, modern hearing aids have yet to solve the fundamental problem of restoring hearing in everyday sound environments. Finding the best compensation strategy for an individual hearing-impaired person represents a major challenge since the consequences of a typical hearing loss are much more complex than just a reduced sensitivity to sound as reflected in the pure-tone audiogram. In fact, characterizing the “auditory profile”, which would require many more measurements than are currently conducted in audiology clinics, seems essential for optimizing the amplification strategy in hearing-aid fitting for each individual. Furthermore, while normal-hearing listeners are able to focus attention on one particular sound source and ignore others, this ability is reduced in listeners with hearing impairment. The crucial problem of modern hearing aids is that they do not know which acoustical source an impaired listener would like to hear. To solve this problem, hearing aids need to evolve from sound processors to ‘brain processors’ collecting information from the listener to selectively amplify only the sounds that the listener is trying to focus on. Such a revolution requires significant breakthroughs in terms of our fundamental understanding of hearing. Specifically, we need models that bridge the fundamental gap between sound processing in the inner ear and processing in the brain. The ability of the auditory system to extract meaningful ‘auditory objects’, like speech or music, from a mixture of sound waves arriving at the ear involves multiple stages of processing. The goal of modern hearing research and technology is to develop functional models of hearing that integrate these levels of processing to investigate how the ‘listening brain’ actively modulates sound processing to serve behavioral goals.
The ‘Better Hearing Rehabilitation’ project: Research into improved diagnostics and hearing aid treatment made in Denmark
Tobias Neher – Department of Clinical Medicin, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
Around 20% of hearing aid owners do not regularly use their devices, apparently because they do not obtain sufficient benefit from them. As a result, hearing rehabilitation is not accomplished and clinical resources are wasted. In 2016, the ‘Better Hearing Rehabilitation’ (BEAR) project started in Denmark. The BEAR project is a multi-centric, interdisciplinary research project whose overall vision is to improve hearing rehabilitation through an evidence-based renewal of clinical practice. Although much research into better diagnostics and hearing aid treatment has already been conducted, promising findings have often not been translated into clinical practice because previous efforts lacked scale, structure and coordination. To overcome these limitations, the BEAR project includes key stakeholders from universities, hospitals and hearing aid companies. A large-scale investigation is carried out that comprises studies of current practice, the development and experimental application of new methods, and the clinical evaluation and implementation of the most promising renewals. It is hoped that the obtained results will guide future clinical practice by determining the best methods for characterizing patients into different subpopulations and for selecting the best treatment strategies (e.g. devices or fitting methods) for them. In this contribution, we provide an overview of the overall setup and present and discuss some of our results.