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Understanding Hearing Loss With Virtual Reality

Understanding hearing loss with virtual reality

Virtual worlds that people live in have long been a product of Hollywood. Science fiction films depicting people who spend their lives working and playing in digital environments are great entertainment. Video games are now able to put gamers into fantastic worlds to interact with other players. Now, thanks to technology, we are getting closer to making virtual reality a reality. Virtual technology is playing a role in helping people function in the world in which they live. How is this new technological world going to affect people with hearing loss?

Virtual Technology For Everyone

The people who create these virtual worlds are including those who are hearing impaired. Because virtual reality includes sound and sight, real-time speech captions allow hearing-impaired users to interact with others in a virtual environment. Developers of this technology are also working with the sense of touch and the use of vibrations to allow people with hearing loss to enjoy the full benefits of the multi-sensory experience that is virtual reality. There are even special gloves that mimic the movements of sign language as well as virtual sign language interpreters.

Virtual Reality And Hearing Loss Research

Virtual reality may benefit hearing loss research. Researchers at the Boys Town National Research Hospital are studying hearing loss and its impact on children in school. Researching in a real classroom does not allow experimental control, so the investigators are using virtual reality. The virtual class immerses students in a real classroom setting without making them feel uncomfortable. The result is accurate testing of the students hearing in noisy situations.

Experiencing Hearing Loss As A Child

The isolation that accompanies hearing loss is difficult to comprehend. However, virtual reality is now making it possible to experience life as a child with a hearing problem. The project intends to simulate what the world sounds like to a child with and without hearing aids. The virtual reality simulation begins on the playground, where the user experiences muffled environmental sounds. The user then moves to the classroom where a teacher asks a question that can’t be understood.

Better Understanding Through Virtual Simulation

The goal is to support parents in the understanding of their child’s hearing loss and to realize better the importance of early intervention for hearing loss. The group hopes that the simulator will find use with other schools and government agencies. Virtual reality allows the researchers to have a level of experimental control that is not possible in a clinical environment. The research helps to identify why children with mild hearing loss react the way they do in noisy environments and hopefully help the team understand what accommodations will benefit their learning environment.

Simulating A Better Future For Children With Hearing Loss

Virtual reality technology is impacting the way educators view their strategies for educating children with hearing loss. The researchers believe that this technology will go beyond simulating hearing research and include balance and visual studies in the years to come. Virtual reality is simulating a bright future for those who are hearing impaired.