Hearing

Group co-ordinator(s)

Dr Chris Sumner
Nottingham Trent University

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Dr Robert MacKinnon

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Introduction

The principal function of the Special Interest Group for Hearing (SIG-HEARING) is to bring together researchers to provide a forum for researchers, engineers and policy makers to explore problems and identify research challenges, related to that area of acoustics related specifically to hearing.

Hearing research is a broad field, encompassing areas such as sound recognition, localisation, auditory scene analysis, speech perception and the problems of hearing impairment. It is a multidisciplinary field comprising psychologists, neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians, who study the system at all levels from individual cells to perception, and the associated health problems.

The aim of the SIG is to bring the community is to bring researchers in academia from within the field of hearing, together with the wider field of acoustics and in industry. We hope to foster links, establish priorities and encourage partnerships which enable us to tackle important problems in the field.

Challenges

One in six adults in the UK suffers from hearing loss, affecting on quality of life, mental health, and cognition. The true disability of hearing loss is communication difficulty in complex acoustic environments: solving “the cocktail party problem”. Current hearing prostheses (hearing aids, cochlear implants) address the loss of sensitivity to quiet sounds, but do not restore normal communication ability. It is not known why. The decline of cochlea function with age is accompanied by widespread changes to the brain, which may well also contribute to communication problems. The complexity and comorbidity of these changes makes them difficult to study.

Unpacking these issues and developing technologies to address them and to improve are the grand challenges facing the field if we are to improve human communication in old age, and the standard of living for those suffering.

Objectives

The objectives of the SIG are to: i. Foster joined-up thinking and discussion in the hearing research community in the UK; ii. To raise the profile of hearing research in the field of acoustics, and to highlight its strategic value to national funding agencies and UK government. iii. To provide a platform for two-way communication between experts within hearing, the larger acoustics community and industry. iv. To nurture broad collaboration and major bids for funding.

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