The benefit of hearing devices in everyday listening situations is often smaller than the benefit found under established standard laboratory conditions. This suggests applying virtual acoustics technology to reproduce the properties of real-life environments in the lab and to provide a more ecologically valid assessment of hearing-device benefit.
Major requirements for the application of virtual acoustic technology to hearing-device evaluation are a scalable complexity of the simulated acoustic environment and motion of sound sources and listeners to allow for listener-in-the-loop interactive testing. Since conventional methods of generating virtual acoustic environments do not provide these features or lack the spatial resolution required for the proper function of advanced hearing-aid signal processing, a dedicated simulation tool for application in audiology has been developed.
In the first funding period the validity of this tool was assessed on different levels - limitations of multi-channel loudspeaker reproduction, room-acoustic simulation, prediction of real-life benefit. In future works this tool will be used to analyze the interaction between hearing device users, hearing devices and their acoustic surrounding, to assess the benefit of space-aware hearing aids in a systematic and ecologically valid way.