What is your primary work area within Eriksholm Research Centre?
“My focus is to make audiological discoveries from data collected by people while in everyday situations. This can produce new insights into how people with hearing loss use their hearing aids “in the wild” and help us understand what helps them and what does not. It can also indicate how their physiological response (e.g., change in heart rate) to listening in adverse conditions differ from people without hearing loss is, and which real-life benefits new hearing aids can bring.
To do this, I am finding out both which sensors and methodology we can apply to produce reliable data from real-life behavior and which statistical models we can then use to extract insights from complex multivariate and longitudinal data.
If we can identify unmet needs through our research, we can support a change to help improve the user’s life. Or maybe, we can improve the technology to adapt to their behavior and make the hearing aid experience much more personalized.”
What made you interested in the hearing care field?
“I am a Biomedical Engineer and have a PhD in Cognitive Psychology. I have always been interested in how our senses and brain translate extrinsic signals into both conscious and unconscious behavior. For example, loud music can be either pleasant or unpleasant depending on context and mental state of the listener – and how can we tell the difference between the two from data collected passively without input from the users? Previously I worked a lot with how the brain processes visual impressions.
The change from eyesight to hearing wasn’t too difficult. It just became more exciting because there is such great potential for augmented hearing to help many people suffering from hearing loss.”
What brought you to Eriksholm?
“My earlier work and my postdoc at Copenhagen University were very theoretical, while at Eriksholm, I saw an opportunity to do more applicable work with a very meaningful impact. That was a unique opportunity for me.
In traditional academic research you start with a hypothesis, collect data in a highly controlled environment, and examine whether the data provide evidence for the hypothesis. In the industry, you often collect big amounts of data not necessarily with a hypothesis, and it is really exciting to see if we can still do basic scientific research that is then ecologically true. That is definitely a big change for me - from the controlled laboratory-oriented work to the more application- and real-world oriented research, which relies on complex data obtained from real life.”
What is the most interesting experience you have been part of during your time here?
“We went to the People’s Democratic Festival (Folkemødet) to communicate our big data research project EVOTION. In its essence, EVOTION is about having people with hearing loss collect large amounts of data (ambient acoustics and behavior) from their everyday lives, using their hearing aids. These data can then be used to improve hearing loss treatments and hearing healthcare in general. We invited citizens to collect such data using a handed-out hearing aid. They walked around the People’s Democratic Festival, and when they returned we could show them their data right there on the spot. This way we could show people what personally collected data look like and what they can be used for. Having to communicate your work to people who don’t have the same background is very rewarding. It was interesting to see that the general public really wanted to understand the abstract research, and had suggestions for questions we could be asking.”
What motivates you in your job?
“I enjoy challenges, such as those encountered when we are trying to apply new methods, translate results, or document and disseminate insights that has a potential to make something previously impossible, possible.
It also motivates me that what we do here might be used for people in the real world within a reasonable timeframe. At the same time, I like that we at Eriksholm also have the possibility to work with projects which have a longer time horizon and a high degree of theoretically oriented work. A great thing about working at Eriksholm is that it is a very international and diverse workplace. It would be difficult for me to have a job without that kind of diversity. When people are too much alike, they also think too much alike.”
What do you hope to achieve in the long run?
“I hope that work in the industry sector will get more evidence based, and I believe that a place like Eriksholm is pushing in that direction. It is important for both industry and public decision-makers to listen to experts, read through literature, and do hypothesis testing and scientific validation. I think Oticon does this well, but there will always be room for improvement.
Related to my own research, I hope that one day we will have the technology and knowledge to make 100% personalized hearing aids.”
What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not working at Eriksholm?
“I don’t really have one hobby – and it changes quite often what I do in my spare time. One month I might be kayaking, the next month it may be another kind of outdoor sport. The constant is my family life. Travelling (especially to nature) and family takes up most of my spare time. But I also consider work as a “hobby”. It is important for me to regularly seek out nature. It may be because I grew up in the countryside - after having lived in Copenhagen for years, I have started longing for nature. In the long run I think I will find a more permanent hobby connected to nature.”
What are the three most important values in your life and why?
“I appreciate honesty, kindness, and dedication. I value these both in a work setting and in my private life.
Honesty: The more open the conversation is, the more open our society can be and taboos can be broken. You need to be able to show your vulnerable side and allow others to do the same. I believe it improves your work life if you can show vulnerability and create close relations to your colleagues. You can avoid misunderstandings if you are open and honest from the beginning.
Kindness: It is about being approachable and not being biased until you get to know someone. A friendly tone both in meetings and in public makes everyone feel more comfortable.
Dedication: This one is mainly work related. To me it is important to go all in when you do things and avoid sloppiness. Sometimes you need to search for motivation to be dedicated, but I believe it is possible to find when thinking about the big picture. Being dedicated will also influence others in a positive manner.”
What is the most exciting scientific breakthrough or invention in your time?
“In science, a slow progress is going on which makes it difficult to choose or even identify just one breakthrough. It is a process of continuously accumulating scientific knowledge that gradually changes our society. That includes many things, but scientifically, I would emphasize neuroimaging, whether it is about measuring brain cells, brain waves, or other ways to look into the brain. These techniques are constantly leading to interesting new discoveries about how the brain shapes human behavior, which I am sure will have great impact on healthcare in the future. Furthermore, many useful scientific spin-offs follow from neuroimaging – for example, advanced computer algorithms inspired by what we know about the brain.“
What do you hope will happen in future science?
“Much of my work relies on our understanding of the human senses. I fear that we will never fully understand these processes just as we will probably never fully understand how the human brain works, but my hope for the future is that we will be able to create seamless sense augmentation. That means replacing a sense completely with technology – that accounts for all senses, not only hearing. It is far into the future, but that would really have a great impact on many people’s lives.”