Grants boosts hearing research

Researchers at Essex University have been awarded grants totalling nearly half a million pounds to develop a computerised hearing dummy.

Prof Ray Meddis of the Department of Psychology and his colleagues Wendy Lecluyse and Robert Ferry are investigating ways of helping people with hearing impairments. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) awarded them £447,000 to develop a computerised hearing dummy. In addition, the Deafness Research Council has given them £50,000.

Meddis said: ‘The project allows us to make more extensive measurements of people’s hearing to get a more detailed understanding of what is wrong when people are not hearing well.

‘Then we will have a better idea of what remedies can be applied and improved diagnosis will help audiologists take better advantage of recent technological developments.’

The team is keen to hear from anyone with hearing impairments who would like to take part in their research, which initially involves a short hearing test.

The hearing dummy consists of a computer programme that simulates individual people’s hearing ability and disability. The computer can then take the place of the person during testing, so that the appropriate hearing aid can be created. Currently people are given hearing aids and then return for adjustments until it is deemed to be working appropriately.

Meddis has been examining how the ear works for over 20 years. During this time he has created an effective computer model for normal hearing. The planned research will be used to adapt the computer model to simulate hearing difficulties.