Smartphone app to test real-world hearing conditions


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Researchers at the University of Iowa (UI, Iowa City) are hoping to use a smartphone application to improve hearing loss technology.

The UI researchers have developed a specific app for smartphones that will be used to test hearing aids. They have set up a local study conducted by the UI Center on Aging in which participants will provide feedback on the effectiveness of their hearing aids. UI began a 3-year pilot study in 2012 with funding from a National Institutes of Health grant. The new trial will begin in late August or early September and is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

The app includes a combination of user-initiated surveys, periodic prompts, and automatically recorded environmental sound, to provide data about real-time hearing aids use. The team of researchers hopes that this data will help to adjust future hearing aids technology to real-world conditions.

According to Octav Chipara, a computer science professor who is one of the lead researchers involved in the study, audiologists have developed innovative methods for monitoring hearing in laboratory settings in recent years. “But unfortunately, when you take one of those hearing aids and actually use it in the real world, it’s not going to provide you with the same kind of performance,” he said.

Some of the factors that were cited as difficult to manipulate in a controlled environment were the patient’s relationship with the person talking and their ability to interpret visual cues from the speaker. “Capturing all these complexities in a laboratory environment is very, very complicated,” he adds. “So what we came up with is the idea of taking the evaluation out of the laboratory and doing it in the real world.”

Source: Iowa City Press-Citizen