An early Friday afternoon on 27 January 2023, researcher Abigail Anne Kressner stands among her fellow researchers, doctors, and audiologists for the Spatial Hearing Lab inauguration at Rigshospitalet’s Copenhagen Hearing and Balance Centre.
At first glance, the Spatial Hearing Lab, which is part of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery & Audiology, looks like an ordinary examination room, but the lab is equipped with 41 individual and advanced loudspeakers, embedded in both walls and ceiling. The Spatial Hearing Lab has been built as a smaller scale copy of DTU’s Audiovisual Immersion Lab test facility, and Abigail has been responsible for its design and furnishing.
Abigail speaks in a loud voice to make herself heard above the sound of happy children’s voices in a playground, which is soon replaced by the sound of a busy shopping centre pouring out of the speakers. She tells the centre staff how the Spatial Hearing Lab can measure hearing impaired people’s directional hearing ability and their ability to distinguish between sounds, especially in a crowd and with background noise. This is important to your quality of life as a hearing aid or hearing implant user. Simulating different realistic sound scenarios-such as sounds from a shopping centre-makes the customization of hearing technology more realistic while the patient is still in the clinic.
Up to 800,000 Danes-or about 16 per cent of the population-have some degree of hearing problems, making this the most common functional impairment in Denmark. People with hearing impairment are nevertheless often an overlooked group, as their disability is invisible.
Being able to hear with both ears is important for the ability to hear where the sound is coming from-also known as spatial hearing. Our brain needs the full input in order to process and understand the sounds fully. This is the story of a researcher with only one good ear who is committed to solving the mystery of spatial hearing.