New software hearing dummies, part of cutting-edge research by University of Essex researchers is set to revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of hearing impairments.
These "hearing dummies" could also be used in the long-term to develop a radical new type of hearing aid that can be customised using the hearing dummy to meet the different needs of individual patients. If the procedures gain clinical acceptance, a device could reach the market within 4 years.
The first key advance has been the development of unique computer models (or 'hearing dummies') that can use the information collected during the tests to simulate the precise details of an individual patient's hearing.
By altering individual mathematical algorithms within the computer models, the dummy's hearing capabilities can be adjusted until they perfectly match the hearing characteristics of the patient (e.g. where there is damage to different parts of the ear). This will then indicate the likely cause of the patient's hearing impairment.
"In the same way that a tailor's dummy is used to measure and fit a garment for a particular person, our software dummy is used to gauge a patient's hearing requirements so that their hearing aid can then be programmed to suit their needs right at the beginning of the process without the need to come back for further time consuming adjustments to their device," said Professor Ray Meddis, of the University's Department of Psychology, who has led the work.
The second key advance achieved by Professor Meddis and his team has been in the design of new hearing tests. The third advance involves the early stages of developing a new kind of hearing aid that simulates how a normal ear works. The aim of this new aid is to restore the particular aspects of hearing that are faulty and to do this as naturally as possible.