Hearing loss is very common, with many people having some degree of hearing loss. One of the most common types of hearing loss occurs gradually with age. Because of this gradual onset, those affected are often unaware that they have any hearing difficulties or what can be done to help them. With this type of hearing loss, people often experience difficulties listening to conversations in noisy environments (e.g. restaurants or parties) and may believe that other people are mumbling when talking. Attending meetings may become difficult and tiring because of having to concentrate on listening to different people talking from various locations. It is common for people to wait many years before seeking help and getting a hearing aid.
HearCom has developed an Internet platform, on which people can test their own hearing (in the form of screening tests) in the privacy of their home or other private venue. This particular part of HearCom was involved with implementing these tests on the Internet. It is hoped that such a facility will educate the public about hearing loss and its consequences and encourage people to seek help earlier.
In addition, this part of the project has implemented (on the Internet) a series of tests for diagnosing and screening hearing loss for use by professionals involved in diagnostic audiology. These professionals can be divided into two groups; (1) those involved in the early stages of diagnosing hearing loss such as general practitioners who then refer people to the second group of professionals involved in diagnostics (2), such as hearing aid dispensers, hearing therapists, audiologists, ENT-physicians.
The platform contains objective tests such as speech intelligibility and localisation performance measures (the main parameters affected by hearing impairment) and subjective measurements such as questionnaires. The work carried out in this part of the project is summarised below.
Testing the usability of localization tests.
Development of a website that contains the tests produced in HearCom for different languages. This site will enable both members of the public and professionals to access the tools and information they need for the effective diagnosis of hearing loss.
Testing the usability of the website and the hearing tests developed in other parts of HearCom.