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



Exploratory Research Space: Boost Fund
Auditorische Szenenanalyse,
Akustische Virtuelle Realität


Competences in verbal speech and in literary language are vital to communicate in most of our social, educational, professional, and cultural contexts. To develop speech and language competences, an undisturbed hearing ability in early childhood is crucial. 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. The main goal of this project is to improve the auditory competence of children by developing Dynamic Acoustical and Scenic Audiometry (DASA), 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 acoustical engineers, a pedaudiologist and a neuropsychologist. To investigate scenic room acoustics and dynamic actions such as head movements, body movements of listeners and moving sound sources, a hearing booth is equipped with a sophisticated sound reproduction and tracking system. A test battery consisting of various dynamic real-life situations (indoor and outdoor scenes) will be developed to research auditory and cognitive effects (recognition, identification, localization, attention etc.). Parametric scales are applied to evaluate the childrens' perception during the auditory examination by DASA. The impact of the DASA concept will be analyzed and interdisciplinarily discussed with the long-term aim to improve the rehabilitation process of hearing impaired persons.