Our sense of hearing facilitates our socialising and helps us to stay emotionally well. However, over 11 million people in the UK now have some level of hearing loss, and current predictions suggest that 20% of the population will be thus affected by 2031 (Hill et al., 2015). With such high prevalence, hearing loss must be viewed through a societal lens, not simply as a healthcare problem to be fixed by medical means. It is imperative, also, to support technological advances in hardware and software with behavioural research that encourages people to make best use of the assistive listening devices available to them.
The presentation will briefly introduce the healthy human auditory system, and overview problems encountered with hearing losses through congenital deafness, disease, ageing or excessive sound exposure. Dr Beeston will discuss a range of assistive technologies which aim primarily to optimise their users’ speech-recognition scores (as a proxy for improving communication), and show the impact that these technologies can have on other types of every-day listening tasks. Examples are drawn from her experiences working with hearing impaired individuals to improve access to multi-party conversation using cochlear implants (Wells et al., 2014), and in listening to live and recorded music with hearing aids (Greasley et al., 2018). The presentation will then assess aspects of auditory function that are not yet well-supported by current technology (e.g., adaptation to real acoustic environments), and will reflect on whether a more joined-up approach to hearing support and hearing protection might be implemented in the future.
Hill, S., Holton, K., and Regan, C. (2015). Action Plan on Hearing Loss. Official document of the Department of Health and NHS England.
Greasley, A., Crook, H., and Beeston, A.V. (2018). Listening to music with hearing aids: benefits, challenges and strategies. The Listening Experience Database (LED) Project Conference, Milton Keynes, UK, 6-7 March.
Wells, B., Brown, G.J., Crook, H., Beeston, A.V., Kurtić, E., and Bradley, E. (2014). Meeting the challenge of simultaneous talk for cochlear implant users. 15th International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association Conference (ICPLA), Stockholm, Sweden, 11-13 June.
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