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AHESS Heiderscheit: Exploring contemporary listening tests in a virtual environment: advancing practice

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences / Health, Medicine and Social Care

Supervisors: Prof Annie Heiderscheit; Dr William Campbell; Dr Lee Cheng

Location: Cambridge

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Tuesday 23 April.

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Headphones are widely used as the primary listening device in subjective listening tests because they create a controlled listening environment by blocking out external noise.

Headphones are also used in critical and intensive care environments to facilitate effective music-based interventions, minimize disturbances, and enhance patient care.

Choosing headphones with a neutral frequency response and high fidelity is crucial, ensuring that the audio being tested is accurately represented.

However, certain limitations are associated with using headphones, such as the inability to replicate specific aspects of psychoacoustics, including head-related transfer functions (HRTFs). In these scenarios, loudspeakers are preferred over headphones for conducting listening tests.

The widespread availability of immersive technology has provided an opportunity to explore new avenues for conducting listening tests in a more accessible and immersive manner.

To enhance the accuracy, breadth, and realism of listening tests while also increasing their accessibility and engagement for participants, the proposed research aims to develop listening tests that utilise commercially available immersive technology.

Listening tests have various academic and clinical applications. In academic settings, conducting listening tests allows researchers to evaluate and analyse various aspects of human auditory perception and cognition.

These tests can be used to study the effects of different variables on listening abilities, such as age, language proficiency, and hearing or learning impairments. They also help in developing and validating new models and theories related to auditory processing.

The research conducted in this project has the potential to offer several benefits beyond what has been previously described. Immersive technology offers unique benefits to academics, practitioners, and patients in critical and intensive care environments.

Researchers can simulate complex procedures and interventions in a safe environment, while practitioners can improve their skills through realistic virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) simulations.

Patients benefit from calming VR and AR experiences, improving their comfort and well-being. Immersive technology also facilitates remote consultations and telemedicine for timely decision-making.

Research objectives

  1. To assess the feasibility and effectiveness of listening tests that utilise immersive technology.
  2. To explore the potential benefits of incorporating immersive technology through the use of listening tests to enhance participant engagement and motivation.
  3. To investigate the impact of immersive technology on measuring individual differences in auditory perception and cognition.
  4. To propose guidelines and best practices for developing, implementing, and evaluating listening tests using immersive technology.
  5. To compare the results of listening tests conducted with immersive technology to traditional listening tests to determine any differences in accuracy and reliability.
  6. To examine the user experience and satisfaction levels of participants engaging in listening tests with immersive technology.
  7. To identify any potential limitations or challenges associated with using immersive technology in listening tests and propose strategies to mitigate them.
  8. To investigate the potential for immersive technology to improve the ecological validity of listening tests by simulating real-world listening environments.
  9. To assess the cost-effectiveness of implementing immersive technology in listening tests compared to traditional methods.

Research questions

  1. What is the feasibility and effectiveness of using immersive technology in listening tests?
  2. How does incorporating immersive technology in listening tests enhance participant engagement and motivation?
  3. What is the impact of immersive technology on measuring individual differences in auditory perception and cognition?
  4. What are the guidelines and best practices for developing, implementing, and evaluating listening tests using immersive technology?
  5. How do the results of listening tests conducted with immersive technology compare to traditional listening tests in terms of accuracy and reliability?

Expected outcomes and impact

Our research, innovation, and impact efforts focus on strategically improving health, performance, and well-being. Specifically, we aim to enhance listening test development by gaining insights into the feasibility, benefits, and limitations of using immersive technology to evaluate individual differences in auditory perception.

We will investigate various aspects of auditory perception, such as frequency discrimination, sound localisation, looming bias, azimuth, and mental cognition (including attention, working memory, and listening-related fatigue). We hope to develop more accurate, comprehensive, and realistic listening tests by examining these factors.

In addition to improving the realism of the tests, our research aims to make them more accessible and engaging for participants. By doing so, we can encourage broader involvement and increase the overall impact of our work.

Furthermore, the guidelines and best practices we derive from this study will be valuable resources for researchers and practitioners in various domains requiring auditory assessment. Specifically, our findings will make it easier for them to implement gaming-based listening tests in their research and practice.

If you would like to discuss this research project please contact Annie Heiderscheit: [email protected]

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Funding notes

The successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers the tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2023/4 this was £18,622 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.