A new generation of ear simulators
19 February 2019
In 2012 a consortium of European measurement institutes embarked on a project (EARS) to create a new approach to hearing assessment appropriate for all ages, focussing initially on a new set of ear simulators targeting specific age groups. We are now approaching the end of the second phase of this project (called EARSII) which has developed and further rationalised the concept.
Issues such as new calibration procedures, IEC standardization, determination of reference threshold data and guidance for implementing the new approach are all being covered, as well as the design and production of the new ear simulators themselves. The objective is to produce devices, data and procedures that are better fit-for-purpose, and ultimately improve the reliability of hearing test results, regardless of the patients’ age or of the assessment methods used.
Therefore, we hosted a workshop in Naerum, Denmark, on 19 February 2019 (details below), where these developments were presented by the project team. Invited speakers presented their perspective on the work and there was an opportunity to discuss how to get involved in future research to bring these technical developments into clinical practice. Specifically aimed was the workshop for General clinical and Research audiologists, Paediatric audiologist, Manufacturers of audiometric equipment, Audiometric calibration service providers as well as Formulators of policy, regulation and standardisation.
All the presentation slides from this workshop can be downloaded here
The following points were made during the discussions which followed on the presentations:
1. The possibility of making use of the new ear simulators despite their limitations in terms of representing real ear characteristics. It was noted that these devices are novel and no alternative currently exists. Therefore something, even with known limitations, is better than nothing.
2. The likelihood of the data from the proposed additional research being available in the foreseeable future is low. Therefore, the benefits of the EARS research will not reach users for a long time, if at all.
3. There now needs to be a dialogue with instrumentation manufacturers to gain their support. Changes to instrument designs are needed and this cannot be implemented without planning.
4. The model of acoustical impedance of the ear canal as a function of age, ethnicity and sex would be extremely valuable for other purposes, including hearing aid fitting.
The meeting generated fruitful discussions. The participants were extremely supportive of the initiative and project outcomes. They appreciated the issues raised and the progress that has been made. Indeed they fully supported the need for continued research and development towards the new approach to hearing assessment established by the established by the EARS and EARSII projects.
Salvador Barrera-Figueroa (DFM, Hørsholm), firstname.lastname@example.org