Development Project: Context-Sensitive Assessment of Real-World Listening Situations via Integrated Smartphones and Hearing Aids (Project D2)

Hearing aids and smartphones are couples to transmit information about the current listening situation
Hearing aids and smartphones are coupled to transmit information about the current listening situation

Hearing loss has a negative impact on communication. It also can contribute to conditions such as depression, anxiety, isolation, paranoia, and, possibly, dementia. Despite this, less than 20% of people with hearing loss use hearing aids, and only half of hearing aid users report that they are satisfied with their devices. For better outcomes, it is critical to understand what problems and factors prevent or reduce the use of hearing aids. This requires audiologists and researchers to understand users’ experience with hearing aids in the real world. Gaining this understanding, however, is far from easy.

The traditional way to get information has been through self-reporting from users. Unfortunately, self-reporting questionnaires require people to recall and summarize their listening experiences across a long period of time. As a result, they can only characterize the broad experience of hearing aid users, rather than acquire specific information. This limits our ability to understand when hearing aids do not meet the users’ expectations.

Project Focus

This project aims to develop a new assessment system that gathers the needed information, based on integrating hearing aids with smartphones. It is context-sensitive and will be able to identify situations that are difficult for hearing aid users. In such situations, it will collect data on the user’s experience, the characteristics of the environment, and the current hearing aid configuration. Users will be able to report what they like and do not like about their listening experience in an environment while they are experiencing it. Researchers and audiologists will be able to use this information to develop better hearing technologies, and to fine tune the hearing aids. We expect this new system will become a powerful tool to collect individualized information needed to improve hearing aid outcomes. We also expect that it will lead toward patient-centered hearing care and tele-audiology.

Project Team

This project is led by the University of Iowa. Team members include:

  • Yu-Hsiang Wu, MD, PhD (Investigator), Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa
  • Octav Chipara, PhD (Investigator), Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Iowa
  • Jason Galster, PhD (Consultant), Senior Manager of Audiology Research, Starkey Hearing Technologies