Experiments on the perception of complex listening scenarios of children using a real-time auralization environment for dynamic scenes



Exploratory Research Space (ERS) - RWTH Aachen University
RWTH Boost Fund Call 2014
Hörtechnik in der biomedizinischen Technik,
Auditorische Szenenanalyse


Competences in verbal speech and in literary language are vital to communicate in most of our social, educational, professional, and cultural contexts. These competences are crucial for life quality and individual career. To develop speech and language competences, it is a condition sine qua non to have an undisturbed hearing ability in early childhood combined with normal cognitive skills. However, the number of inborn hearing diseases, calculated for western countries in the last years, is so numerous (2 to 5 per 1000 newborns) that an overall newborn hearing assessment has been established by law. Following the strategy of active inclusion and full participation of disabled people in society, promoted by the EU, children with severe or profound hearing impairments have to be supported by individually fitted hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, respectively. In everyday life, the condition, complexity, and especially the temporal dynamics of the auditory environments in the various situations are of high importance for sound and speech recognition, identification, and localization. However, in contrast to these multiple environmental characteristics, the diagnostics of auditory competence and of hearing aid function are rather basic. There is an important lack of effective diagnostic methods to comparatively evaluate diverse types of hearing aids and different strategies of programming these devices in children and adults. The decisions underlying hearing aid selection and adjustment in children are primarily based on informal self-descriptions of the child and parental observations and cannot be proved sufficiently by current audiometric tests. That means that the individually experienced aural value of different hearing aid fittings in variable situative contexts often result in same or similar audiometric findings so that an appropriate patients' care is a real challenge. The main goal of the present proposal is to improve the auditory competence of children by developing DASA (= dynamic acoustical and scenic audiometry), a virtual reality system to carry out complex and innovative audiologic diagnostics in different scenic environments and contexts. Therefore, an interdisciplinary project group has been established consisting of A) acoustical engineers experienced in VR technology, hearing aid signal processing, and spatial auditory processing and perception, B) a pedaudiologist experienced in audiometry, auditory perception, modeling, and hearing aid fitting and C) a neuropsychologist competent in the assessment of diverse cognitive functions (e.g. learning, and attention), neural mechanism associated with attentional processing as well as, in questionnaire preparation and statistical evaluation.