The auditory profile
The outcome of the test battery will be the establishment of a hearing profile for each individual patient. This profile then is the basis of the rehabilitation actions that will be chosen for that particular patient. The profile contains results indicating the patients performance in the following fields:
- Loudness perception
- Frequency resolution and temporal acuity
- Speech perception in noise
- Spatial listening
- Questionnaires / subjective judgments and communication
- Listening effort
- Cognitive abilities
- Audibility will be established from the detection of tones in quiet resulting in an estimate of the absolute threshold of sounds (the audiogram).
- Dynamic range or loudness perception will be established from a loudness scaling test in which the loudness build-up is determined for sounds with a range of intensities (from low to high).
- Suprathreshold peripheral distortion will be estimated form the frequency resolution and temporal acuity of the ear. These determine a persons ability to detect the presence of a sound when it is presented in close proximity, either in frequency or in time, to another sound. This ability is essential for the detection and correct identification of sounds in the presence of noise.
- Speech perception in noise will primarily be tested by measuring a persons ability to understand sentences in a noisy environment. These tests are language dependent and the HearCom project is involved in making the standard tests for such purposes available in a number of European languages.
- Binaural interaction in spatial listening will be estimated using virtual spatial sound environments presented over head phones. These tests are currently under development in the HearCom project. As these test do not require specialized multi-dimensional setups, but instead use simple head phones to present the sounds, the resultant tests will be easy to apply in any clinic.
- Questionnaires will be used to investigate patients’ own subjective judgments of their listening and communication skills. The outcomes of these questionnaires will be one channel steering the path taken in the establishment of their auditory profile. The other paths being the knowledge and skill of the investigators and the knowledge and skill accumulated in the proposed setup of the auditory profile.
- The listening effort will be evaluated using a subjective rating for the ease or difficulty involved in listening to speech in the presence of varying amounts of noise.
- A small number of cognitive tests will be included in the auditory profile to assess the cognitive abilities of patients in relation to their abilities to understand speech under adverse conditions. For example, not speaking in ones mother language or suffering for memory problems will reduce speech perception scores for reasons that have little to do with the state of ones hearing. The cognitive tests are chosen to enlighten such aspects of communication problems.
The resultant tests of the auditory profile will be made available for clinics in Europe. In this process, the HearCom portal will play a vital role. It will be the gateway to provide both the tests and the corresponding information to professionals all over Europe.