Open-Source Platform for Hearing Research

Authors: Matt Ueckermann1, Blaine Ayotte1, Véronique Archambault-Léger1, Brian Graybill1,, William Audette2, Odile Clavier1

1Creare LLC
2Benchtop Engineering LLC

Background: As researchers focus on improving the diagnosis of individual hearing deficits in diverse populations, they need to reliably and cost-effectively collect multiple measures on individuals to overcome variability, and to collect the same measures in coordinated cross-species studies for insight from animal studies. Also, data sharing is imperative to enable reproducibility and quantitative models that capture the relation between underlying pathophysiology and real-world speech intelligibility. We will present our development of a new open-source (OS) hearing research platform designed to meet these needs.

Methods: Open Hearing links multiple technologies of varying maturity. TabSINT is an OS mobile application that lets users administer customizable hearing tests and questionnaires. Since 2014, it has been used to collect data from thousands. Tympan is an audio processing platform designed for hearing aid research and has been available for a few years. Open Hearing combines TabSINT and Tympan with an open data science repository and a low-cost, OS ear probe (the “Auren”). The Auren prototype has a small electronic board with low noise MEMS mics, 2 speakers, a 3D printed case, 2 cables, and 3D printed calibration tubes. It connects to the Tympan for control through user-made firmware.

Results: Initial data centers around calibration of the Auren for wideband acoustic immittance measurements. The speakers and mics are calibrated using cavities and a probe mic, and rely on an acoustic model. We verify the calibration using additional tubes with ports for the probe mic. By combining measurements from all mics, we reconstruct the 1D plane wave in the cavities, allowing us to predict the pressure amplitude and phase anywhere in the system.

Conclusions: This platform has the potential to increase access to quality hearing research hardware and software for all researchers, and to improve reproducibility and clinical transition in hearing research.