Technical Systems for ENT and Audiology
According to the World Health Organisation, over 5 % of the world population suffer from disabling hearing loss. Although most of these individuals are provided with rehabilitative interventions such as hearing aids, communication in everyday life is still tremendously more difficult in comparison to normal-hearing individuals. This becomes evident particularly in complex acoustic situations such as noisy restaurants, classrooms or during outdoor activities in urban environments. Current clinical practices, however, do not provide effective ways to diagnose hearing loss or verify hearing aid fittings by other means than oversimplified laboratory scenarios, which are not comparable to real-world listening scenarios with multiple stationary or moving sound sources and sometimes adverse room acoustics. While hearing aid fitting and other auditory rehabilitative procedures should still remain in a controlled clinical or laboratory setting, providing adequate logistics and healthcare conditions, application of virtual acoustic technology potentially increases their effectivity by integrating simulated complex acoustic environments including plausible room acoustics. Using this technology, the hearing aid candidate is tested and fitted under more plausible conditions in the clinic, thus potentially decreasing the gap between laboratory and real-world listening conditions to increase the hearing aid user’s satisfaction.
We are currently working on new testing paradigms and tools with the aim to improve diagnosis, treatment and auditory training for people with hearing loss.
Ear couplers for children
For the fitting and development of hearing aids for adults only very few standardized couplers or ear simulators exist which imitate the auditory canal with its acoustic properties and so allow an optimal adjustment of the hearing aid.
For children and infants such couplers and measuring devices do not exist or are not standardized. The narrower auditory canal in children results in enormous differences with regard to the acoustic properties compared to adults. The fitting of a hearing aid for infants using the measuring techniques for adults can easily lead to a mismatch of 20 dB (SPL).
We examine children's auditory canals and point out the differences to adults. Methodologically this is done with acoustic measuring as well as simulations (FEM). For simulations we revert back to geometric data from CT-scans and model the auditory canals.