Audio Experience Design
Imperial College London

Virtual Audio:
Adapting People to Technology

How people can adapt to technology to enhance
virtual and physical interactions

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It has been shown that people can train themselves to hear differently.

If you modify the sounds your ears receive through, for example, a hearing aid, things will sound different to what you are used to. You might also have more difficulty in pinpointing the direction that sounds come from.

However, given some time and practice, your brain is able to adapt to these new conditions and hear just as well as through your usual ears.

The same is true for using 'virtual ears' - listening to audio that is created as if it is being filtered through a hearing aid or through someone else's ear shape.

In some situations, where it might be difficult or expensive to personalise technology, being able to train yourself to use a different set of 'virtual ears' can be another way to making audio sound as realistic as possible.

Read on to find out how this training process could be used to help young people with hearing loss.

Helping young people with cochlear implants

People who use cochlear implants - a type of medical device that help deaf people to hear - can have trouble differentiating sounds in noisy environments, or pinpointing where sounds are coming from.

This can make everyday communication and socialising difficult.

The BEARS project has developed a series of virtual reality games designed to help young people with two cochlear implants to hear, communicate, and socialise in noisy environments by training their sound localisation and speech-in-noise perception skills.

The team are now recruiting participants for a clinical trial to test the games, with the hope that they are proved to be effective and can be rolled out on the NHS.

Learn more about BEARS

What is it like to hear through cochlear implants?

Using cochlear implants can severely distort the sounds you can hear.

Watch the video below to experience what it's like to hear through cochlear implants, and discover how training to interpret these altered sounds (known as perceptual hearing training) can help people who use cochlear implants to understand speech and enjoy listening to music.

Learn more about how the games were developed

Teenagers and young adults with cochlear implants were heavily involved in the development of the BEARS virtual reality games to make them as fun and relevant as possible.

Watch the video below to hear from these young people and their experiences in being involved with the BEARS project.