Virtual Reality Games Aid UK’s Deaf Children in Speech Comprehension

Virtual Reality Games Aid UK’s Deaf Children in Speech Comprehension
credit: theguardian

London (Parliament News) – Scientists have found that immersing kids in computer games can train their brains to localise sounds better

Scientists have recruited an unusual partner in their efforts to support children in overcoming profound deafness. They are utilising computer games to encourage the children’s ability to localise sounds and understand speech.

How Does the Bears Scheme Assist Profoundly Deaf Children?

The scheme is known as Bears – for Both Ears – and it is desired by youngsters who have been given twin cochlea implants because they were endured with little or no hearing. “These are children who are profoundly deaf,” said audio engineer Lorenzo Picinali, a scientist on the task from Imperial College London. They require significant interventions to restore their hearing and we have discovered that computer games can make these much more effective.”

In one game, a player – sporting a virtual reality headset – operates a food stall and beats points for each order that is completed. The tempo hots up and the partaker receives increasingly complicated requests from cartoon characters. These are fired at them faster and faster from different approaches. At the same time, background rackets become louder and more confusing. It’s very difficult but the game improves a child’s capacity to localise sound and that, in turn, helps them understand speech,” added Picinali.

Can Virtual Reality Games Improve Speech Comprehension?

“Our research has revealed that the better you are at localising a sound – in identifying the location of a noise – then you also get a better understanding of what someone is speaking to you. Their speech becomes clearer in noisy situations. By using computer games we can help the person to boost their capacity to localise sound and in the process to comprehend speech.”

All sorts of elements affect how a person picks up sounds, added Picinali, including the size of their head or the constitution of their ears. Other innovations designed at Imperial include a computer game in which children seek targets that become fainter and fainter until they can only be identified by acoustic cues. Others require players to use differences in pitch to aim at sound-emitting targets.

“The crucial point is that children with implants were involved in designing the games,” stated Picinali. “They have played a key role in the development of the project from the start.”

What Innovations Aid Deaf Children in Sound Recognition?

Unlike hearing resources, which merely amplify sounds and are thus of little use to profoundly deaf children, cochlea implants – which are provided to the skull behind the ears – turn vibrations in the air into electrical signs that can be transmitted to the brainiac where they are experienced as sound.

However, these signals are often illogical and disorienting and can result in users receiving highly distorted sounds. Localising sounds and attending to conversations in noisy places is still very difficult to understand using a cochlea implant, and some wearers discover they simply cannot adjust to the sounds they produce.

“An implant is a lifeline for profoundly deaf children but they are not easy to get used to,” statedPicinali. “We needed to find methods to make it easier to understand the signals being transmitted to their brains – and training with computer games should make a critical difference. What we are doing is helping them remap their hearing systems.”

Massimiliano  Verde

Massimiliano Verde is a journalist at Parliament News, He is covering Society and Culture News. Boasting a Master's Degree in Political Science, stands as a prominent figure in the Italian cultural landscape. His presidency of the Neapolitan Academy, a scientifically and sociolinguistically renowned group, attests to his relentless dedication to safeguarding and promoting Neapolitan language and culture. His activism and profound expertise have propelled him into the role of interlocutor for UNESCO as part of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), a prestigious acknowledgment highlighting the significance of his efforts in preserving the linguistic and cultural diversity of our planet.

Verde's fervent passion for the history and culture of Southern Italy has driven him to immerse himself in research, resulting in numerous essays and articles that delve into the peculiarities and beauties of the region. His commitment extends beyond academia, manifesting in ongoing dissemination activities aimed at acquainting the general public with the rich cultural heritage of the South. His endeavors transcend national boundaries, as evidenced by his participation in international conferences and collaboration with various foreign institutions, rendering him an ambassador of Southern culture on the global stage and fostering intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding.