20 July 2010

What does your hearing aid sound like?

Sound is measured in decibels, but it can be difficult to describe what the sound in a hearing aid actually sounds like. The perception of sound cannot be measured, it is subjective and can be difficult to describe.

Some describe the sound in their hearing aid as metallic, while others describe the very same sound as clinical. Some find one sound pleasant, while others find it to be unpleasant.

It is difficult to find words for describing the perception of sounds, as sound perception is very subjective. It is also difficult because we lack some common terms for sounds which we all understand and perceive as the same. It is the same as the way in which we have trouble describing the colour purple. In the perfume industry there are more than 150 defined traits which are used to describe scents. Such an apparatus of concepts is needed in the field of hearing.

Describing hearing
At SenseLab in Denmark, which works with the evaluation of senses, they study among other things sound and the description of sounds. In a pilot project, eight chosen listeners, who were especially good at describing the sounds they heard, were exposed to a “sound robot” which generates sound pictures, which they listened to through six different hearing aids. The listeners described the sounds and their characteristics. The conclusion of the project was that it is possible to describe the characteristics of sounds.

In the production of hearing aids
Hearing aid manufacturers can, through SenseLab, get the test subjects to act as a panel of listeners and give their opinion of the sound in their products. In the hearing aid industry, a lot of work is done to improve and develop the sound in hearing aids, so that it is possible to filter one sound from another, tune out background sound and give a clear, but also pleasant, sound.

What is sensory evaluation?
Sensory evaluation is when test subjects define what is optimal in a certain product from its sound, smell, touch etc. Sensory evaluation is nothing new in the world of science. For example, many large car manufacturers have used this method to find the best sound for their car motors and doors, as well as the right smell a new car should have. The food stuffs industry has also used sensory evaluation when it comes to the taste, smell and appearance of their products.

Source: Hørelsen, februar 2010.

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