Evaluation of a new VR-based hearing device fine-tuning procedure

Authors: Maartje M. E. Hendrikse1, Gertjan Dingemanse1, André Goedegebure1

1Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Background When providing hearing devices to individuals, it is important to adjust the settings to fit their specific needs. This process, known as fitting, is typically done in a quiet consultation room. However, this is not always reflective of the real-world situations that hearing-impaired individuals may encounter. To address this issue, a new additional fine-tuning procedure has been developed using virtual reality (VR) environments (see figures), which allows hearing care professionals to test different settings with hearing-device users in various real-world scenarios. This procedure makes it easier and faster for users to compare different settings and for hearing care professionals to ensure that the settings are adequate for the individual.

Methods The effectiveness of this new VR-based fine-tuning procedure was evaluated through a study involving both hearing-aid and cochlear-implant users. Participants compared the fitting results of the standard clinical procedure and VR-based procedure over a trial period of two times two weeks and provided feedback through questionnaires and listening tests. Participants completed the Speech, Spatial, and Qualities of hearing questionnaire at the end of each two-week trial period. Moreover, paired comparisons between the clinical fit and VR-fit were done in the VR environments and the 50% speech reception threshold in noise was measured with both fits.

Results Preliminary results of the cochlear-implant users show a significant improvement in speech recognition in noise with the VR-fit in three out of the ten participants. Eight out of ten participants rated the VR-fit positively or neutrally in the paired comparisons, and all participants were positive about the VR-based fine-tuning procedure.

Conclusions These preliminary results suggest that the new VR-based fine-tuning procedure has the potential to provide a better fit, but more data is needed to be able to draw conclusions on group level.