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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R010722/1
Title: Physiologically inspired simulation of sensorineural hearing loss
Principal Investigator: Culling, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Meddis, Professor R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Psychology
Organisation: Cardiff University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 04 March 2018 Ends: 28 February 2022 Value (£): 298,016
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Sep 2017 HT Investigator-led Panel Meeting - September 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
With an ageing population, hearing impairment is becoming an increasingly common problem. The most common complaint of hearing impaired listeners is that it is difficult to understand speech in background noise, but, surprisingly, the degree to which listeners struggle with speech in noise is not predictable from their degree of hearing loss.

Hearing aids can help people to hear sound better in quiet environments, but, in the presence of background noise, they are of little use. Advances in hearing aids are limited by our lack of basic understanding of hearing impairment. The ear is a very complex organ, which we know can go wrong in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, no methods currently exist to determine what exactly is wrong with the inner ear of a given hearing-impaired person. People with hearing impairment seem to have a variety of symptoms, that are probably caused by different combinations of underlying inner-ear problems.

This project will construct sounds that simulate the auditory experience associated with different types of hearing impairment. These sounds will be presented to normally-hearing listeners to test performance in different auditory tasks. It will then be possible to determine which underlying physical problems give rise to the set of symptoms that each patient experiences, giving insights into their underlying condition. The main purpose of the present research, therefore, is to develop the simulation method and to demonstrate that it can reproduce the patterns of problems experienced by hearing impaired listeners.

Simulations of hearing loss would be useful in a number of ways.

First, the simulations will enable researchers to link underlying causes of hearing impairment with characteristic patterns of hearing difficulty. This will contribute to an ongoing major shift towards diagnosing hearing loss in terms of undelying pathologies rather than symptoms.

Second, using a simulation, it will be possible to test new hearing aid designs using listeners with normal hearing. The main benefit of this is that, for each test, listeners would all have exactly the same simulated hearing impairment rather than the unknown mixture of conditions that hearing impaired people might have. The effectiveness of the hearing aid in a particular task and for a particular condition can thus be established.

Third, simulations will be valuable to demonstrate to normally hearing listeners (relatives, audiology students etc.) the nature and experience of hearing impairment. Moore and colleagues (1995) have produced a CD, and Zurek and Desloge (2007) have produced a commercial simulator for the purpose of audiological demonstrations. These simulations were based on the phenomenology rather than the physiology of hearing impairment. The benefit of physiologically inspired simulations is that normally hearing listeners can appreciate the problems experienced by hearing-impaired individuals with particular hearing pathologies.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.cf.ac.uk