Hearing loss

Researchers want to phase out waiting time for hearing tests

Patients with hearing loss wait for months for a hearing test. This must end. Researchers are developing a new hearing test that will save time for both patients and hospitals.

By Birgitte Dalgaard, , 5/14/2020

– Our waiting time for getting a hearing test done is right now about 8 months, says Jesper Hvass Schmidt, Chief Physician at the Department of Audiology, Odense University Hospital (OUH), and Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

According to the Danish Health Authority, 500,000-800,000 Danes suffer from hearing loss and the goal of a new research project is that patients should completely avoid waiting for a hearing test.

– We want to change the whole approach. Do things smarter, so that patients and the system save time, says he.

We want to change the whole approach. Do things smarter, so that patients and the system save time.

Jesper Hvass Schmidt, Chief Physician and Associate Professor

Experts and researchers from SDU, OUH, the hearing aid manufacturer Oticon and the diagnostic company Interacoustics will jointly develop a new hearing test that can secure faster assistance to patients with hearing loss.

To carry out the task they have received DKK 11.5 million from the Innovation Fund and DKK 2.4 million from the William Demant Foundation.

– It is commonly said that it takes an average of seven years from the first time you experience hearing loss until you seek treatment, says Associate Professor Ellen Raben Pedersen from SDU Health Informatics and Technology and admits that it does takes time to recognize a hearing loss.

Take a hearing test at the library

– We want to develop an automatic hearing test that is easy to use for patients. It must be so easy to use that you should in theory be able to take the test at the library or wherever you go, says Ellen Raben Pedersen.

Today, the test is carried out in the hospital by specialized staff, but researchers expect that many patients will be able to perform the test reliably on their own in the future.

– By developing a new test, we can free resources in the hospital, and the patients get help faster. If we imagine that the patient is taking the test in his or her local health center, the test result is then sent to the hearing clinic at the hospital, explains Jesper Hvass Schmidt.

About the project

  • Title: User-operated audiometry, UAud
  • Partners: SDU, OUH, Interacoustics, Oticon
  • Grant: DKK 11.5 million from the Innovation Fund and DKK 2.4 million from the William Demant Foundation.

– The staff can prepare the treatment based on the test result, so everything is ready when the patient shows up. In this way, the patient only needs to attend the hospital once and won’t have to be on a waiting list for a hearing test, he says.

Time is crucial when remedying an ailing hearing. Recognizing that many people find it difficult to figure out where to go to have their hearing examined, the Danish Health Authority released a new information booklet in 2019.

– The sooner you get help, the better the chances are for the help to be effective. We know that the brain is quick to replace centers. If one does not use the space in the brain to listen with, the brain thinks: I’ll use the space for something else, explains Ellen Raben Pedersen.

New cutting-edge hearing test technology

Therefore, the researchers’ ambition is that it should be so easy to get your hearing checked that you can do it yourself. Jacob Nielsen from SDU Game Development and Learning Technology has been given the task of developing an interface that patients find easy to understand.

To ensure that the technology meets all medical needs and provides the best basis for assessing what assistance the patient needs, the researchers must find a method that provides feedback to both the healthcare professional and the patient on how useful the test is and whether further tests, possibly with the involvement of health professionals, are needed.

– Patients are to be tested both for the ability to hear different tones at different volumes and for speech recognition, says Jacob Nielsen.

One of the project’s work packages, led by the Interacoustics Research Unit, is developing a new rapid test based on generic speech sounds understandable in any language, making the test internationally applicable.

Graphics: Mikkel Larris, SDU

Meet the researcher

Jesper Hvass Schmidt, Chief Physician at the Head and Neck Surgery / Department of Audiology, OUH, and associate professor at the Department of Clinical Research, SDU.

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Meet the researcher

Associate Professor Ellen Raben Pedersen from SDU Health Informatics and Technology.

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Meet the researcher

Associate Professor Jacob Nielsen from SDU Game Development and Learning Technology.

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